Oral Presentation Session - Executive Session Status Awarded
Sponsored by: AAA Executive Program Committee
Primary Theme: Health
Secondary Theme: Policy
Opioid overdose has become the leading cause of death for Americans less than 50 years old, amounting to nearly 90 fatalities across the nation each and every day. Similar to the HIV crisis that gripped the U.S. several decades ago, today’s epidemic has generated new a wave of moralizing discourses about mental health, social obligation, and the nature of the human body. Yet, even as the opioid crisis generates new and contradictory ways of knowing, disparate state agencies are more and more often attempting to coordinate their overdose prevention efforts, forcing previously flexible concepts and narratives to become “settled” in the process. In this rapidly shifting ideological terrain, much remains to be understood about the role that human cultures are playing in the shaping of the crisis and the many public and institutional responses that have blossomed in its wake. How is public discourse shaping the opioid crisis as a moral phenomenon? How are concurrent efforts to reduce the harms of opioid use and to police the consumption of opioids shaping how the crisis can be seen or spoken about? What slippage points exist between various biomedical and ethopolitical models of opioid use disorder, and how do such gaps affect those who are living with the disease? The papers presented in this panel will speak to these prescient insights that ethnographic work can provide about this pressing social issue, pursuing not only what anthropological inquiry can teach us about the opioid crisis, but also what the opioid crisis can teach us about ourselves.