A Subject of Anxiety: Choice, Will, and Growth through the Lens of Addiction
My research focuses on the ways that addicts and treatment for addiction are understood at the current moment across a variety of discourses and global spaces. I trace the history of addict and addiction, following (and building on) the work of earlier scholars. I also track their current manifestations in several social cultural, philosophical, psychological, and biological discourses, while weaving in my own ethnographic work amongst drug addicts and treatment services in Ireland over the past decade. My basic hypothesis is that the proliferation of addictions and much of the current social anxiety around addicts (as well as how to contain the individual and social disorder perceived in their wake) is part of the slow-motion crisis of the grand-récits of the Enlightenment, especially the understanding of the Humanistic Subject (whose discursive emergence and potential dissolution was so brilliantly developed by Michel Foucault in "Les mots et les choses"). At this moment, the addict has emerged as a privileged site for reflecting on everything from the biological basis of rationality to the possibility of the social contract to forms of global disorder, and, perhaps, the understandings of the treatment of this state can at least outline what might be called a post-Humanist Subject.
A. Jamie Saris is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, NUI Maynooth. He holds advanced degrees in Social-Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago, and he has completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Clinically-Relevant Medical Anthropology in the Depart¬ment of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School. He has been working for more than fifteen years in medical and psychological anthropology in Ireland, North America, and parts of Africa.
Selected publications: Committed to Will: What’s at Stake for Anthropology in Addiction, in: Eugene Raikhel and William Garriot (ed.), Addiction Trajectories, Durham 2013, p. 263–283; with Thomas Fillitz (ed.), Debating Authenticity: Concepts of Modernity in Anthropological Perspective, New York 2013; The Addicted Self and the Pharmaceutical Self: Ecologies of Will, Information, and Power in Junkies, Addicts, and Patients, in: Janice H. Jenkins (ed.), The Pharmaceutical Self: The Global Shaping of Experience in an Age of Psychopharmacology, Santa Fe 2011, p. 209–229.
In this lecture, A. Jamie Saries explores the issues of choice and need satisfaction through the lens of “addiction”. Beginning with a brief description of the treatment of a self-described “addict”, he examines the role of “appetites” in Western Social Theory. As growth and complexity have emerged as objects of anxiety, even apocalyptic fear, in the last few decades, the terms “addict” and “addiction” have seemed ever apt for modelling these concerns. But other entities also serve this purpose, fictional entities, such vampires and zombies. Jamie Saris argues that these ways of thinking through unchecked and damaging consumption are mutually enlightening.