DruGS team to present research in Sweden and Portugal

November sees members of the DruGS Program travel to Europe to present a range of conference and seminar papers. DruGS Program Lead Professor Suzanne Fraser will present at a seminar hosted by Professor Mats Ekendahl (a DruGS Program collaborator) at the Department of Social Work, Stockholm University (8 November), and at the European Conference on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies being held in Lisbon (23-25 November). Both presentations will draw on an analysis conducted for the Australian Research Council-Funded project, ‘Lived experiences of treatment for hepatitis C’.

Professor David Moore will give three presentations: one at Stockholm University (8 November), the second at a symposium on ‘Gender and drugs’ (22 November) and the third at the European Conference on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (23-25 November), the latter two both in Lisbon. His presentations will draw on material from a second Australian Research Council-funded project, ‘Analysing gender in research and policy on alcohol-related violence among young people’.

As Professor Fraser explained,

This is the first overseas travel the program team members have been able to plan since COVID-19 struck, and we’re very excited to be able to bring the research we’ve been doing over the last few years to international research audiences.

The titles and abstracts appear below in order of presentation date. Please feel free to contact program members for information about the presentations.

Suzanne Fraser: Exhausted practical sovereignty and lateral agency: Non-uptake of treatment for hepatitis C in the antiviral era

With the advent of highly effective antiviral treatment for hepatitis C, many people have undergone treatment and been cured. Others, however, have not had treatment, even where it is free and readily available. Australia’s aim of eliminating the disease by 2030 means this group are of concern to researchers, health professionals and policymakers. In this presentation I draw on 50 interviews conducted for a research project on treatment experiences to examine treatment non-uptake in Australia. Informed by Lauren Berlant’s (2007) work on ‘slow death’, I analyse experiences of non-uptake to explain the dynamics at work in such outcomes. The analysis is divided into three parts. First, participant Cal describes a lifetime in which hepatitis C, homelessness and prison have shaped his outlook and opportunities. Second, Evan describes intergenerational drug consumption, family contact with the prison system, and an equally long history with hepatitis C. Finally, Rose also describes a long history of hepatitis C, complex struggles to improve life, and contact with the prison system. All three accounts illuminate the dynamics shaping treatment decisions, calling to mind Berlant’s slow death as a process of being ‘worn out by the activity of reproducing life’ under conditions that both demand self-management, and work against it. In concluding, the presentation will reflect on Berlant’s distinction between ‘epidemics’ and ‘endemics’, arguing that its politics apply directly to hepatitis C. In doing so, it highlights the need to address the criminalising, pathologising capitalist context of ‘attrition’ (Berlant) that wears out lives even as it fetishises autonomy, responsibility and choice.

David Moore: Accounting for gender, alcohol and violence: An analysis of interviews with quantitative researchers in Australia, Canada and Sweden

This presentation draws on findings from a comparative project on the handling of gender in research and policy on alcohol and violence in Australia, Canada and Sweden. In earlier analyses, the research team argued that published quantitative research on alcohol and violence among young people in all three countries tends to overlook the stark gendering of violence in its analyses and policy recommendations. It does this via a series of ‘gendering practices’ (Bacchi, 2017): omitting gender from consideration; overlooking clearly gendered data when making gender-neutral policy recommendations; rendering gender invisible via methodological considerations; displacing men and masculinities via a focus on environmental, geographical and temporal factors; and addressing gender in limited ways. In this presentation, we draw on in-depth interviews with Australian, Canadian and Swedish researchers who study alcohol-related violence, in which we sought to understand some of the processes that lead to the displacement of men and masculinities in quantitative research on violence. The presentation identifies three themes that contribute to this displacement: (1) an unsustainable binary in which scientific method is prioritised over ‘values’ or ‘ideology’, (2) misplaced assumptions about causality and (3) a focus on female victims of violence that emphasises culpability or vulnerability. The presentation concludes with recommendations for future research practice.

David Moore: Making gender more visible in research and policy on drugs and violence

Drug-related violence, particularly that associated with the use of two very different drugs, methamphetamine and alcohol, has received considerable attention in research and policy. Research tends to emphasise pharmacology in explanations for this violence, and policy responses often adopt generic measures to address it. Largely overlooked in such research and policy is the role of gender, in particular, men and masculinities, in the perpetration of drug-related violence. Informed by Carol Bacchi’s (2017) work on ‘gendering practices’, the presentation critically analyses two datasets: (1) highly-cited Australian research on methamphetamine and violence, and (2) Australian, Canadian and Swedish research on alcohol and violence. The methamphetamine research texts overstate the relationship between methamphetamine use and violence. In doing so, they ignore key elements of the setting – in particular, male gender, treating it as a stable and background feature of violence, but also high levels of policing and stigmatising public discourse about people who use methamphetamine. The alcohol research texts similarly naturalise men and masculinities as a stable and background feature of alcohol-related violence. These research practices and the policy recommendations that flow from them reproduce narrow normative understandings of drug effects, ignore context and lend support to gendered forms of power. Simplistic accounts that avoid attending to the complexity of drug effects can lead to inequitable policy responses. In the case of methamphetamine, they facilitate the continued demonisation of methamphetamine users as invariably violent rather than seeking more nuanced understandings of how drugs and gender (as well as class, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.) are implicated in harm. In the case of alcohol, such accounts are used to advocate generic restrictions, such as early closing times and lockout laws, which affect all drinkers irrespective of their involvement in the perpetration of violence and which ignore the stark gendering of violence.

David Moore: Noticed and then forgotten: Gender in alcohol policy stakeholder responses to alcohol and violence

Research on assault and injury related to alcohol consumption in night-time entertainment and drinking environments routinely identifies men as key perpetrators and victims. Although such a clear gender dynamic would suggest the need for a policy focus on men and violence, a consideration of men and masculinities is rare in alcohol policy. This presentation analyses how alcohol policy stakeholders in Australia, Canada and Sweden articulate the relationship between men, masculinities, alcohol and public violence, and how these understandings inform perceptions of viable responses. The analysis is based on research conducted for a project on the comparative treatment of gender in research and policy on alcohol and violence in Australia, Canada and Sweden. Thirty-five in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 42 alcohol policy stakeholders across the three countries. Although the interviewed stakeholders view men’s violence as a key issue for intervention, masculinities are backgrounded in proposed responses and men are positioned as unamenable to intervention. Instead, policy stakeholders prioritise generic interventions understood to protect all from the harms of men’s drinking and violence without marking men for special attention. These interventions focus on curbing the harms of men’s drinking but apply equally to all people and, as such, avoid naming men and masculinities as central to alcohol-related violence. The analysis suggests that alcohol policy stakeholders in Australia, Canada and Sweden readily ‘notice’ men’s role in violence and, to some extent, masculinities as central problems for alcohol interventions. However, beyond the use of social marketing campaigns, they struggle to apply such knowledge to alcohol policy addressing violence. The research highlights a critical need for the development and evaluation of feasible interventions that directly address the contribution of masculinities to violence in drinking settings.