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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Jesse Proudfoot

Proudfoot, J. Drugs, Addiction, and the Social Bond. Geography Compass. 2017;11:e12320.

Author(s) from Durham


This article contributes towards the project of critically theorizing drug addiction by drawing on insights from psychoanalysis, anthropology, and geography. I argue that social bonds—that is, people's relationships to other people and to society—are central to the phenomenon of drug addiction, and I present three accounts of drug addiction and the social bond. The first is the classical psychoanalytic account of addiction, which holds that drug use is essentially masturbatory: a solitary pleasure that involves a turning away from the pleasure of being with others towards the pleasure of the drug. The second, which is associated with ethnographies of drug users, insists on the enduring sociality of drug use, demonstrating how even the most marginalized of drug addicts inhabits a social world of mores, obligations, and kinship relations. Third, I present an alternative psychoanalytic account of addiction, one which views addiction as a symptom that is meaningful—as an act or message that is addressed to the other. Each of these readings provides a different way of understanding the relationship between drug use, the social bond, and their respective geographies. I conclude by reviewing recent post-structuralist work on drug use by geographers and argue that the psychoanalytic concept of the symptom provides a productive way forward in thinking about addiction—one that maintains a relational account of drug use while also providing us with a language for examining the place of drug-using subject and the meanings that addiction plays for them.