Making Problems: The Inventive Potential of the Arts for Alcohol and Other Drug Research

Dennis, Fay. 2019. Making Problems: The Inventive Potential of the Arts for Alcohol and Other Drug Research. Contemporary Drug Problems, 46(2), pp. 127-138. ISSN 0091-4509 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The arts and arts-based methods are rarely visible in critical studies of alcohol and other drugs. This article explores the potential role of the arts for allowing research on alcohol and other drug problems to develop in more collaborative (with participants, broadly conceived) and thus more generative ways. Following turns in the field toward the performativity of alcohol and other drug realities, this article instead asks: What happens if we take the “experimentality of social life” as our starting point for research rather than our object? That is to say, how can we work with our already inventive alcohol and other drug worlds to know and intervene with them in closer, more intimate ways? Through ethnographic engagement with a community theater group for people who identify as having experiences of dependency or addiction, the article looks at how they “set up” and “stage” the problem they seek to research and enact through embodied, sensorial, and relational modes of knowing that are created speculatively together and with the audience and environment. As we now accept that our methods in critical drug studies are entwined with the realities they make, this article intends to awaken our methodological imagination and attentiveness to the arts as the discipline that has always made things to know things in order to enable problems to not only be known in new ways but to emerge in new ways.

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Additional Information:

This work was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness, and the Wellcome Trust (209912/Z/17/Z).


the arts, embodiment, inventive methods, problem-making

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Invention and Social Process (CISP) [2016-]


28 March 2019Accepted
28 April 2019Published Online
1 June 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

03 May 2019 08:36

Last Modified:

11 Jun 2021 23:58

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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