chapter  5
19 Pages

Halting

Addiction and the gender of substance use
WithHans Reihling

This chapter points out how substance use is linked to the making and unmaking of masculinities. For young men, the use of alcohol as well as illicit stimulants and sedative drugs in urban South Africa could be seen as a way of establishing belonging. Ethnographic observations show how tik (methamphetamine), mandrax (methaqualone), and rocks (crack cocaine), as well as alcohol, could establish bonds between people, as well as between people and the places of distribution and consumption of these substances, in urban Cape Town. I argue that these substances assumed different meanings in accordance with race, class, and gender divides. In the long haul, however, when a tipping point was reached, this sense of halting commonly compromised affective health and unmade dominant ideals of manhood. In this context, addiction was a real but never actual state. Following Deleuze and Guattari’s distinction between the virtual and actual, I claim that the disease model of addiction conflates the virtual tendency and the actual materiality of substance use problems, as if the potential for ongoing alcohol and drug use would be the same as use in the present moment. When addiction is conceptualized as halting, there are always lines of flight that can lead to rapid change, depending on alternatives in the environment.