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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Jesse Proudfoot, PhD (Simon Fraser University)

Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology

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I am an interdisciplinary health researcher concerned with the intersections of structural violence, illness, and subjectivity. 

My research looks specifically at drug use and addiction, phenomena that I approach as modes of relation to the problems of life and living. Rather than treating addiction as a neurochemical imbalance, an individual pathology, or a moral failing, my work approaches addiction as an embodied symptom that serves social and psychical purposes for the user—whether that is managing the affects produced by violent, uncertain, or precarious environments, self-medication against experiences of trauma, or the thorny issue of pleasure. I explore these motivations through ethnography and life-history interviews with drug users in order to understand the roles that substances play in people’s lives, the social and political valences of addictions treatment, and the ways that drug use and users are governed. 

I’ve written on questions of how place produces and shapes compulsive drug use (Proudfoot, ‘Traumatic landscapes’); the role of unconscious fantasy in maintaining punitive social policy (Proudfoot, ‘Libidinal economy’); and the challenges posed by psychoanalysis to the question of producing genuinely reflexive knowledge (Proudfoot, ‘Anxiety and phantasy’). My current work examines the ways that addictions can be understood as ways that poor and racialised people make sense of, and derive enjoyment within, the intersecting forms of structural violence they face. 

I joined the Sociology department in Autumn 2020, having worked previously in Durham’s Department of Geography and prior to that, at DePaul University in Chicago. At Durham, I co-convene the first year Classical Sociological Theory module and I convene the third-year module Health and Place. In addition to teaching, I serve on the academic management group of Durham’s Institute for Medical Humanities and am a member of the Sociology Department’s Health and Social Theory research cluster.

Research Interests

  • Drug use and addiction
  • Structural violence and illness
  • Ethnography
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Mental health

Teaching Areas

  • Classical Sociological Theory
  • Drugs and Society
  • Health and Place

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Print)

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