Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Social Workings of Drug Addiction: Experiments in Person Making and Social Ordering in Urban China

This project investigates how the changing schemes of drug addiction intervention are making new persons and new social orders in contemporary urban China. I approach this question primarily by examining on-the-ground experiments in "social work"—that is, to study the practices and materialities through which these experiments form working alliances across institutions to carry out various imported/invented drug addiction intervention models. As a recent Western import and a profession-in-the-making, social work in China has become a pragmatic space and a common rhetoric through which divergent institutions coordinate in reaction to emerging social problems. Considering the ongoing changes in China's anti-drug interventions that new discourses and actors are complicating the field's long-lasting punitive and coercive orientation, social work serves as a rich site to examine how pragmatic modes of action are entangled with inertial Socialist infrastructures of power. Focusing ethnographically on one social work organization's experimental drug addiction services, this project asks: 1) How do various institutions experimentally coordinate under the name of "social work" to carry out new addiction intervention models? 2) How do various objects, infrastructures, and technologies enable and/or impede these experiments? 3) How do the new working alliances and changing intervention schemes reconstruct personhood and reconfigure social orders in post-Mao China? 4) How do the involved actors negotiate criteria to valuate and evaluate these changes? Located in Shenzhen, a frontier city of China's socioeconomic reform and globalization, this project connects issues of drug addiction intervention with questions of state-building and transnational engagement in post-Mao China, as well as speaks to broad questions of sociopolitical transformations in the post-Socialist world.