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Forthcoming: Special Journal Issues on Gender and Drugs

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Editor’s Note: The next editions of the journals Contemporary Drug Problems and The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs will be conjoined on the topic of drugs and gender. Below are the shared titles and abstracts. Make sure to check out the full articles upon publication next month!

Nancy D. Campbell, David Herzberg

This introduction to conjoined special issues of Contemporary Drug Problemsand the journal of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, began with a 2015 symposium at the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), organized by co-editors Nancy D. Campbell and David Herzberg. The symposium called for incorporating gender analysis into the rapidly developing scholarship on drug use, drug trade, drug science, drug treatment, and drug policy in the United States. The special issues showcase articles that are part of a vibrant body of historical, sociological, and anthropological scholarship that explores the differential effects of drug policy, focusing on how gender—in dynamic relationship to race, class, and sexuality—is integral to virtually every aspect of drug crises including (but not limited to) the relationship between drug policy, drug treatment, and the development of mass incarceration. Gender matters at every level from the intimate and highly personalized to the broad cultural and political forces that disparately apportion vulnerability within drug commerce and the U.S. prison–industrial complex.

Trysh Travis

The WOMAN Center was a women’s drug treatment program focused on heroin that existed in Detroit’s Cass Corridor neighborhood between 1971 and 1985. During this period, successful advocacy by the Modern Alcoholism Movement was establishing the “disease model” as the norm in the expanding alcoholism treatment realm; therapeutic communities and methadone maintenance vied for similar prominence in the world of drug treatment. The WOMAN Center approached drug dependence quite differently. Its founders’ allegiance to ideas about grassroots organizing led them to see drug use and related problems as predictable responses to community chaos and blight. Their treatment program hinged on linking individual and community empowerment, achieved through drug cessation but also through consciousness-raising and leadership training. This theory was difficult to operationalize and the WOMAN Center’s tenure was short-lived. This article argues that it is nevertheless an important moment in the theorization of women’s alcohol and other drug problems: WOMAN’s intersectional analysis of gender, which drew special attention to the ways that capitalism and racism affect women’s decisions to use drugs, is a road not taken for women’s treatment. Attention to such a politicized vision of recovery is important as the U.S. grapples with the present wave of narcotics use in rural and rust-belt communities.

Elizabeth Ettorre

This article explores autoethnography as one way of doing feminist research in the drugs field. By telling my story during my 40 years experience as a feminist researcher in the drugs field, I aim to help those practicing critical drug scholarship to become familiar with this methodology as a viable way of employing a gender analysis, an employment that is the focus of this special issue. This paper is divided into five related discussions. First, I explain what feminist autoethnography is. Second, I look at how doing feminist “drugs” autoethnography helps to develop empathy. Third, I describe the methods and use of data employed in this paper. Fourth, I tell my story chronologically from 1972 to the present time. Lastly, as with many autoethnographies, my analysis of my “story as data” is left to last and I discuss the political implications of my experiences, while “feeling about” empathy as resonance with the other.

Tammy L. Anderson, Philip R. Kavanaugh

Drugs and crime research and theory in the United States originated after President Nixon declared the first War on Drugs in 1971. This research agenda promised to reveal the scope, dynamics, and impact of the drugs–crime relationship, thus promising solutions for the country’s drug problems. The initial focus was on drug trade violence and, as a result, produced scholarship mostly on men’s involvement in drug distribution, purchasing, and related crimes. It paid little attention to women’s involvement and failed to consider how gender might shape the drugs–crime relationship. By the early 1980s, however, studies began to appear on women’s experiences and addressed the role of gender in U.S. street-based illegal markets for crack cocaine and heroin. These studies revealed women’s relative powerlessness or supporting roles to domineering males in illegal, street-based drug markets. Today, drugs of concern in the U.S. originate and are sold and purchased through both legal and illegal channels that often work in tandem. This interplay requires us to rethink the drugs–crime relationship. Our article seeks to provoke new thinking and research on how 21st-century drug trends might reshape the gendered nature of drug selling across both legal and illegal markets and the gray area in between. In specific terms, we review the nature of women’s involvement in newer drug markets and consider how their involvement differs from that of men and how theory and research might move forward in addressing these changes. Our conclusions, and those reached by others in this issue, speak to the centrality of gender scholarship in research and policy on drugs and crime currently and into the future.

Jill McCorkel

Over the course of the last two decades, drug treatment programming has become increasingly privatized in the U.S. correctional system. Drug treatment and related rehabilitative and reentry services are a multibillion dollar (USD) a year industry. In this article, I trace the origin of this transformation to an unlikely source: women’s prisons during the War on Drugs. Correctional facilities for women provided a useful testing ground for new models of carceral drug treatment at a time when rehabilitation was otherwise rejected by policy makers as too “soft” a response to crime and drug use. Gendered assumptions about punishment, rehabilitation, and addiction coupled with racial hierarchies governing punishment policies paved the way for private vendors to develop, market, and ultimately expand carceral drug treatment to a broad array of correctional venues and populations. To make this case, I analyze ethnographic data collected from one such private vendor and demonstrate how they utilized assumptions about gender and race to upend more traditional models of prison profiteering and pioneered the means through which rehabilitation could operate in service of profit.

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