Professor Helen Keane - Australian National University
The starting point of this presentation is narcofeminism, an activist movement that insists on the right of women to use psychoactive substances and is invested in the political potential of drug consumption as a mode of resistance (Chang, 2021). Narcofeminism has focused on illicit drugs and the repressive drug policies that criminalise users and exacerbate harm especially for the most marginalised. But is it possible to think about women’s drinking from this perspective? In contrast to most other forms of drug use, drinking is not only socially acceptable, it is part of the performance of successful empowered femininity (at least in many cultural contexts and within certain boundaries). What does a narcofeminist politics look like in relation to a form of psychoactive consumption which profits a trillion-dollar global industry? Can we develop an account of women’s drinking that recognises its generative potential while also remaining aware of its potential harms? I explore these questions through a case study of the ‘drinking at home woman’, a feminised problem subject who appeared in the Australian media in stories about lockdown drinking. My discussion is inspired in part by the research on sexualised drug use and experimentation which highlights the transformative role of drugs in queer cultures (Pienaar et al. 2020; Race et al. in press). Can more mundane and normalised forms of consumption also be considered transformative technologies of the self?
Helen Keane is Professor of Sociology at the Australian National University. Her research focuses on social and cultural aspects of drug and alcohol use and she has a particular interest in addiction studies. Most recently, she has worked on a project investigating gender, violence and alcohol policy led from ARCSHS by David Moore. She is the co-author of Habits: Remaking Addiction with Suzanne Fraser and David Moore (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).