‘It’s good being part of the community and doing the right thing’: (Re)problematising ‘community’ in new recovery-oriented policy and consumer accounts Academic Article uri icon


  • The renewed focus on 'recovery' in alcohol and other drug policy over the last decade has been subject to sustained international attention and academic critique. However, little scholarly work has addressed how new recovery discourse has harnessed the ideals of community participation and cohesion and how people who use drugs, the targets of such proposals, experience these injunctions. Analysing the two most recent Australian National Drug Strategies - in which new recovery has featured - and interviews with people who inject drugs, I draw on Bacchi's problematisation approach to make visible the politics of community in new recovery. My analysis demonstrates that there has been a shift in the way new recovery is framed from recovery through community reintegration and reconnection to recovery through 'evidence-based' treatment. However, community endures as an important dividing practice that targets people who regularly use drugs as dependent, unproductive and marginal to social life, while also claiming to be the solution to the disorder attributed to alcohol and other drug use. In the second half of this article, I draw on people's accounts of regular drug use and recovery to explore the 'lived effects' of these problematisations and to pursue a critical practice of thinking otherwise. I argue that these accounts disrupt and contest the problematisations and promises underpinning recovery through community reintegration by: 1) drawing attention to the way in which the boundaries of community exclude inclusion for people who use drugs, and emphasising people's already existing social relationships; 2) making present hitherto silenced and unproblematised barriers to social connection; and 3) critiquing the normative fantasies of healthy society and citizenship that underpin recovery. In concluding I consider the politics of appeals to community in new recovery-oriented policy, and suggest the need to foreground consumer accounts in problematisation-oriented analyses in order to better contest authoritative enactments of drug 'problems' that bear little resemblance to the challenges people face.

publication date

  • 2019