Contemporary Drug Problems Conference

Paris, September 2023

Embracing trouble: New ways of doing, being and knowing

In recent years, critical alcohol and other drugs scholars have been seeking to trouble foundational ideas and claims about alcohol and other drugs, including taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature, effects and harms associated with drug use. Importantly, this critical scholarship also calls for accountability in our own roles as researchers in producing and reproducing ideas about and depictions of alcohol and other drugs and troubling our concepts and methods. As Suzanne Fraser argued at the 2017 Contemporary Drug Problems conference in Helsinki, Finland, all research projects are intrinsically performative: ‘They are as intimately involved in the making of everyday material realities as they are in reflecting them. As such, researchers have the obligation not only to track the realities being made by their research, but to approach the design and conduct of the research with this action in mind’.

These developments in drug research are inspired by insights from several fields, including feminist theory, narcofeminism, queer theory, Science and Technology Studies, new materialism, Indigenous knowledges and decolonising methodologies. When we trouble methods, we reflect on our own role in the production of realities, the ethics and politics of different ways of knowing and doing, the positionality of researchers, and the relationship between all of these practices and the production of realities. In the contested fields of drug policy, biomedical research, and harm reduction, this troubling also generates ethical, epistemological, and empirical questions: what does this mean for political claims-making and advocacy in research? How can we embrace trouble in politically productive ways? In troubled times that seem to be eroding trust and solidarity, how do we ensure our claims to knowledge, authority and rigour are useful?

What would it mean to embrace trouble in the ways we do and make research methods and knowledge? What responsibilities and obligations might this confer on researchers, policy practitioners, and institutions? What new knowledges and paths of inquiries could this open? What changes might be necessary in the assumptions informing policy and other forms of social and political action? How might we think about identity, reflexivity, power and positionality in research collaborations, including understandings of lived experience and expertise? How might diagnostic instruments, treatment systems, legal processes, health promotion and popular culture be changed to benefit people who consume drugs, and, in turn, all of us?

Building on CDP’s previous conferences, which have opened up questions of how drugs are problematised; how the complexity of drug use can be attended to; how drug use might be understood as event, assemblage or phenomenon; how drugs and their effects are constituted in various forms of practice and interactions/intra-actions, and how we might rethink change, the 2023 conference seeks submissions for presentations that engage with and trouble our own methods, tools and practices in alcohol and other drug research.

We welcome research from those working in anthropology, cultural studies, law, epidemiology, social epidemiology, history, public policy, gender studies, sociology and related disciplines, and encourage the innovative use of methods, concepts and theoretical tools. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) critical considerations of method in relation to:

  • Alcohol and other drug policy
  • Risk
  • Prohibition and international drug conventions
  • Mandated treatment
  • Co-production and/or consumer participation in policy, service design/delivery and research
  • Drug courts
  • Education/health promotion in schools and universities
  • Harm reduction services and measures
  • Neuroscientific approaches to drug effects and addiction
  • Monitoring/surveillance systems
  • Research on drug trends
  • Quantitative measures of alcohol and other drug use and harms
  • Qualitative concepts of subjectivity, agency, affect and identity
  • Consumer accounts and narratives of drug use, addiction and recovery
  • Reflexivity and research identities, including processes of categorisation (‘lived experience’, ‘expertise’)
  • Power and positionality in collaborations between/with researchers and people who use drugs
  • Medical and other forms of diagnosis/assessment
  • Treatment models and practices
  • Youth and other drug services
  • Social media websites and apps
  • Popular culture enactments of drug use

Other relevant topics are also welcome.

Call for papers

Online abstract submission closes on 1 March, 2023. Please submit your abstract by email to, including: submitting author/presenter name, organisation (including country), presentation type, abstract title, abstract (max 500 words) and presenter bio (max 300 words).

Conference convenors

Hosted by Contemporary Drug Problems, the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University (Australia); the Social Research Policy Centre, University of New South Wales (Australia); the Advanced School for Social Sciences (EHESS) (France); the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research, Aarhus University (Denmark); the Behaviours and Health Risks Program, Burnet Institute (Australia); Turning Point, Monash University (Australia); the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (USA), the Department of Social Work, Stockholm University (Sweden), this conference will bring together leading international researchers in drug use and addiction studies from a range of research disciplines and methods – both qualitative and quantitative. The conference committee comprises:

Conference format

The conference will run over three days. The program will feature a mix of keynote presentations and concurrent streams. Presentations will run for 20 minutes to be followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion.