Drug use, risk and urban order: examining supervised injection sites (SISs) as ‘governmentality’Benedikt Fischer, Sarah Turnbull, Blake Poland, Emma Haydon (2004)
This paper problematises the emergence and functioning of the recent phenomenon of ‘supervised injection sites’ (SISs) as a case study of post-welfarist governmentality. We propose that SISs arose as an unprecedented intervention in the late 20th century to deal with the increasing challenge of ‘urban drug scenes’ towards public order interests ‘entrepreneurial city’. Under predominant discourses of ‘public health’ and ‘harm reduction’, SISs became possible within a wide variety of political interests as a technology for purifying public spaces of ‘disorderly’ drug users to present the ‘new city’ as an attractive consumption space. Thus, SISs can be meaningfully understood as one element of socio-spatial ‘exclusion’ of marginalised populations from urban cores to ghettoised, peripheral spaces, even as they more benignly seek to better meet the unique needs of drug user populations. Further, the inner workings of SISs illustrate these facilities as powerful surveillance and discipline sites, defining the drug user as an agent of omnipresent risk being responsibilized in the care of the self and body, but also multiple aspects of behaviour and lifestyle reaching beyond drug use; thus construing the drug user as a ‘normalised’ citizen/consumer. We suggest that pressures to answer to powerful interests promoting ‘order’ are concretised as practices of ‘risk management’ ‘on the shop floor’, raising serious questions about the extent to which the ability to meet user needs is compromised in the interest of social control, surveillance, ‘management’, ‘education’, and ‘rehabilitation’, particularly in the current socio-political context (characterised as it is by a persistence, and indeed concomitant hardening, of repressive measures ‘on the street’).