Editor’s Note: Eugene Raikhel and William Garriott, editors of a just-out collection of ethnographic essays titled Addiction Trajectories (Duke University Press, 2013), share their views in response to the Points’ interview’s probes.
1. Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.
William Garriott (WG) and Eugene Raikhel (ER): In Addiction Trajectories we wanted to introduce readers to current anthropological work on addiction, and to propose a conceptual theme which we think unifies much of this new research. So the book does both of these things. First, it presents several ethnographic case studies of addiction in contemporary settings ranging from Puerto Rico to Russia, to southern France, to West Virginia, to Las Vegas. Second, it proposes the concept of addiction trajectories as a framework for understanding these particular cases. We highlight three particular addiction trajectories: epistemic or knowledge trajectories, therapeutic trajectories, and experiential and experimental trajectories. These terms capture three key elements of addiction: the ongoing debate over what, exactly, addiction is; the myriad treatments available for addiction; and the experience of addiction. The term “trajectories” is meant to draw attention both to the different kinds of movement we see taking place in each of these dimensions (change over time, but also movement across social and geographic space) as well as the open-endedness of this movement.
2. What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?
WG: I hope they will appreciate the authors’ efforts to show, through ethnography, how history is lived. Each chapter in its own way shows how the past is embodied in the present. This may be, in the case of Angela Garcia’s chapter, how a history of land dispossession in New Mexico is implicated in contemporary experiences of heroin addiction, or, in Eugene’s chapter, how the legacy of Soviet-era addiction therapeutics continues to shape treatment of addiction today.