Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationCalifornia, Berkeley, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9482
Approve DateApril 25, 2017
Project TitleWaterman, Maxfield A., U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on 'The Therapeutic Void: Addiction, Substitution, and the Timescapes of Precarity,' supervised by Dr. Lawrence Cohen
MAXFIELD A. WATERMAN, then a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley, California, received a grant in April 2017 to aid research on “The Therapeutic Void: Addiction, Substitution, and the Timescapes of Precarity,” supervised by Dr. Lawrence Cohen. This project was conceived as a study of the relationship between opioid addiction treatment and social precarity in the UK: how do state-funded substance misuse services attempt to manage clients whose lives are conditioned by intense precarity in regard to health, housing, and work? Over the course of fieldwork, the scope of the project was expanded to also include homeless services. The researcher found that staff in these various state-funded services understand their clients through the epidemiological concept of “complex needs,” the psychological concept of “complex trauma,” and the clinical figure of the “complex patient.” However, staff sometimes used this multivalent concept of complexity as a way to critique what they called the “system” (“It’s not the clients who are complex; it’s the system,” said one interlocutor). Clients, in contrast, understood complexity as a concept that had a material impact on their interactions with services, but declined to make use of the concept when narrating their own experiences. By investigating the emergence of complexity as a heuristic through which service staff understand their jobs, their workplaces, and the people they care for, this research throws light on how the late-liberal welfare state attempts to understand its most precarious subjects.