Aaron Goodfellow, 'Pharmaceutical Intimacy: Sex, Death, and Methaphetamine'

Sophie Bennet

Abstract


In 2008, Aaron Goodfellow challenged boundaries in sociology, anthropology and material culture studies with his article on sex, death and methamphetamine – an article which refuses to view drug (ab)use from a moral perspective. The result is a fascinating analysis of Mathew’s life. Mathew is a 24-year-old, white, HIV-positive crystal methamphetamine user, in a Baltimore rehabilitation institute on state parole, and receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). In Mathew’s own words, he is ‘a public health threat number one, huh? (I’m) a gay crystal using, HIV positive convict’ (quoted in Goodfellow 2008, 280). Through his interactions with Mathew, Goodfellow explores the anthropological issue of the contingency of specific substances and of personhood within a modern, urban context, on the edge of ‘normative society’. The article supports the validity of Tilley’s work on objectification (2006); people and things (in this case, substances) are indivisible. The author encourages us to view Mathew’s situation not as an addiction, but as a partnership between Mathew and substances: Mathew often responds creatively to the substance’s agency with his own agency. In this review, I will briefly discuss the thought-provoking aspects of Goodfellow’s account, which will hopefully encourage you to read the article in full.

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