Analyzing identity navigation between diverse selves in addiction stories by drawing on actor-network theory and narrative positioning analysis
In life stories on addiction that describe addiction as a problem, agency manifests as enigmatic. As narrators in them typically describe the process of how they lost their agency to a substance, we may ask who then takes over the agency and is the actor. Can material things act and drive action toward undesirable goals? By drawing on actor-network theory (ANT), the paper proposes that addiction stories should be approached with an ontology that allows agency also to non-human actors and conceptualizes both human and non-human agencies as relational. Moreover, the paper argues that addiction stories perform complex identity navigation that can be captured by analyzing them from the dimensions of ‘story,’ ‘interaction,’ and ‘identity claim’. As addiction stories describe what kinds of unique human and non-human elements and assemblages have contributed to the development of addiction, they provide expressive material to analyze how their narrators reassemble their addictive past (story), justify it to their audience (interaction) and articulate who they are (identity claim).
By using a typical male and female life story on addiction as examples, the paper shows how we can analyze addiction stories as a practice in which storytellers reassemble the addiction-related actor-networks, justify them and make them meaningful to their future.
The analysis reveals in what way addiction is other-driven by heterogeneous forces, in what way the narrators of the life stories undermine their responsibility in the development of addiction and how they individualize themselves in relation to diverse master narratives and hegemonic discourses.
By approaching addiction stories through three dimensions, we can produce knowledge on what kinds of identity alignments with human and non-human actors promote or hinder addiction as part of specific assemblages. This knowledge helps health practitioners focus their treatment interventions on the relational identities that act as barriers or facilitators of recovery.