Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Tendencies and Trajectories: The Production of Subjectivity in an Event of Drug Consumption

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Tendencies and Trajectories: The Production of Subjectivity in an Event of Drug Consumption

Article excerpt

Abstract

Posthumanist ontologies have been employed in theoretical and empirical research in human geography to explore the production of subjectivity in processes, events and relations. Similar approaches have been adopted in critical drug research to emphasise the production of subjectivity in events of drug consumption. Within each body of work questions remain regarding the durations and becomings of subjectivity. Responding to these questions, we introduce the notions of tendencies and trajectories as a way of theorising the emergent and enduring aspects of subjectivity. We ground this discussion in a select review of posthumanist geographies, geographies of habit and post-phenomenological approaches, along with vignettes drawn from an ethnographic study of young people's recreational drug use conducted in Melbourne, Australia. We use these sources to indicate how the notions of tendencies and trajectories may help to account for the emergent and enduring aspects of processes of subjectivation in events of drug consumption.

Keywords

Subjectivity, tendencies, trajectories, event, drug use, posthumanism

Introduction

   Liam steps out of a bar into the darkness of an alley, chatting
   with a few friends. They each lick a finger and dip it into a small
   package of off-white powder, swallowing what they can. An acrid
   taste, a laugh, a few drops of rain, and they return to the bar to
   dilute the bitterness on the tongue with a sip of beer.

This snapshot introduces an event of drug consumption that we will unfold over the course of our paper. This event involves the movement of MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or 'ecstasy') powder from packet to the tongue, dissolving into bodies gathered in a Melbourne alley. This brief encounter may yet alter the capacities of these bodies to affect and be affected by one another. And yet the brevity of this account obscures how this moment of consumption came about, and its effects on the assembled bodies remain to be seen. Foregrounding these effects, our aim in this paper is to explore the emergence and endurance of one particular body in this event--the one entering as and becoming Liam--in order to reassess processes of subjectivation in events of drug consumption involving myriad bodies and forces. Through a sympathetic critique of broadly posthumanist accounts of subjectivation, we focus on a wider temporality of event relations to explore, firstly, how an emergent subjectivity can endure; and secondly, how subjectivities are involved in making, but not determining, events to come.

Events and encounters have become key points of interest for researchers adopting posthumanist and new materialist approaches in human geography, critical drug studies, and across the social sciences more broadly (see Anderson and Harrison, 2010; Duff, 2014b; Coole and Frost, 2010; Wilson, 2016). Within these fields, a focus on events and encounters has helped drive analytical interest in the nonhuman (or more-than-human) actors and forces involved in the collective generation of situations and 'social' phenomena (Duff, 2013; Latour, 2005). While posthumanist approaches aim to decentre the human by working against any arbitrary division between the subject and the nonhuman object, there has also been increasing acknowledgement of the need to return to the problem of subjectivity in order to realise the posthumanist project of accounting for human and nonhuman forces within the same ontological frameworks (Krarup and Blok, 2011: 44-48). If the challenge inaugurated in posthumanism is, as Hynes (2016: 24) puts it, to '[refigure] classically humanist problems in other than human terms', the question remains of how the problem of subjectivity may itself be refigured in this way.

This question grows out of broader attempts across human geography to account for processes of subjectivation by way of emergent and relational ontologies (Anderson and Harrison, 2010; Bissell, 2011; Dewsbury, 2012; Hynes and Sharpe, 2015; Lapworth, 2015; Roberts, 2012; Wylie, 2010). …

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