Wilton, Robert and DeVerteuil, Geoffrey
Spaces of sobriety/sites of power: examining social model
alcohol recovery programs as therapeutic landscapes
Social Science & Medicine, 63, (3), . (doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.01.022).
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While there has been interest in geographical variations in alcohol use and their implications for health, similar attention
has not been given to geographies of alcohol treatment and recovery. This paper is concerned with exploring these
geographies of alcohol recovery and treatment. Specifically, the paper uses the therapeutic landscape concept coupled with
Foucault’s concept of governmentality to frame a qualitative case study of a ‘social model’ recovery community in San
Pedro, California. Analysis of the programs operating in San Pedro consisting of observation and interviews, demonstrates
the complexity and contradictory character of such recovery landscapes. In particular, the governmentality perspective
suggests that spaces created for alcohol recovery and support can be simultaneously understood as sites designed to govern
the health-related conduct of individuals. Within programs, clients were provided with support and encouragement from
staff and peers, but these same relations also made possible surveillance and the governing of daily routines. In the
neighbourhood, program staff intervened to create ‘healthy’ spaces but these interventions also shaped the conduct of local
residents and contributed to the spatial regulation of problem groups. While a focus on governmentality does not preclude
recognition of the positive effects associated with therapeutic landscapes, it does provide an opportunity for further
consideration of the complexities underlying such environments.
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