Doing ontopolitically oriented research

Suzanne Fraser

Addiction has long attracted intense scholarly, policy and media attention. Despite this, little systematically collected knowledge exists on the experiences of people who consider themselves affected by it. This presentation will discuss a research project that set out to generate new knowledge on these lived experiences. The aim of this presentation will not be to report on these findings per se, however. Instead it will examine the project from the point of view of its ontological politics. As I will argue, the project and its outcomes were inspired by the insight that research not only explores and describes realities, it actively constitutes the realities it explores. Adopting the term ‘ontopolitically oriented research’ to describe my approach, I will focus on the project’s methods, specific areas of consideration being: the methodological performativity of naming, the ontological implications of recruitment, and the liabilities and limits of ‘experience’ and ‘representation’. The presentation will also draw on a second example, the CUPID project, which was the basis for a new fitpack design and new approach to couples who inject together. In concluding, the presentation will propose a set of features of ontopolitically oriented research.

Professor Suzanne Fraser is head of the Social Studies of Addiction Concepts research program, based at the National Drug Research Institute, Australia. Her work over the last few years has included studies on the meanings given to addiction by policymakers, service providers and advocates; personal experiences of addiction; hepatitis C prevention in couples who inject together; and addiction concepts on social media. New projects address take-home naloxone uptake and the use of performance and image enhancing drugs. Suzanne has published widely in drug use and broader health and social issues, and her most recent book is Habits: Remaking addiction.

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