Undoing Addiction: The Biopolitics of Social Suffering in Contemporary Canadian Fiction

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Fabre, Cara
Canadian Literature , Addiction
Biomedical and popular discourses for understanding addiction persistently essentialize behaviors labelled “addictive” as signifying individual dysfunction and aberrance; the Canadian novels examined in this study expose how such dominant interpretive discourses strategically obfuscate the role of systemic inequalities in producing and replicating social suffering, which becomes stigmatized as “addiction.” By evoking and subverting dominant tropes of addiction narratives, these novels attest to the ways that such tropes work to sustain class, gender, and racial inequalities through a sacrificial disavowal of those who call attention to the inevitable human costs of disciplinary power. This study therefore tracks the ways in which selected Canadian addiction narratives challenge the pathologizing nature of dominant literary and cultural discourses of addiction, foreground the logic of sacrifice those discourses demand, and denaturalize the biopolitical circuitry in which those discourses appear. Undoing Addiction ultimately proposes that an emergent genre of Canadian writing about addiction conditions a new cultural literacy—one that fosters alternative interpretations of addiction that account for and struggle against the systemic inequalities by which addiction is engendered and sustained.
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