7 Pages

Mother Fixations

Drugs have long been an acceptable register for claims about the irreducible otherness of persons who use them, as Part II amply demonstrated in the case of “opium vampires,” male adolescent addicts, and “girl drug addicts.” Male drug users may be written off, but women’s reproductive capacities and responsibilities place them in a more complex position. Addicted women are understood to reproduce their own (in)humanity, as well as offspring who are not fully human. In the last decades of the twentieth century, drug-addicted babies were constructed as nonsubjects lacking the “central core of what it is to be human.”1 The discursive process that unfolded in the 1980s appeared to be one of sober scientific assessment replete with statistical data and rational confabulations outlining an escalating crack-cocaine epidemic. These confabulations were the basis for questioning the very status of drug-addicted babies and their mothers as subjects. By the late 1990s, a note of regret crept into media portrayals of the crack epidemic as it dwindled to an “underground” presence.2 The dire predictions failed to materialize, and so we must ask what cultural work they performed then and now.