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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2016/17 Prof. Dr. Nancy D. Campbell

Prof. Dr. Nancy D. Campbell

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York
Historian of science, technology and medicine
External Senior Fellow
May - June 2014

Selected Publications


  • Gendering Addiction: The Politics of Drug Treatment in a Neurochemical World (Palgrave, 2011), with Elizabeth Ettorre
  • The Narcotic Farm: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug Addicts (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2008), with JP Olsen and Luke Walden
  • Discovering Addiction: The Science and Politics of Substance Abuse Research (University of Michigan Press, 2007)
  • Using Women: Gender, Drug Policy, and Social Justice (Routledge, 2000)

Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Why Can’t They Stop? A Highly Public Misunderstanding of Science.” In Addiction Trajectories, eds. Eugene Raikhel and William Garriott (Durham, NC; Duke University Press. 2013).
  • “Medicalization and Biomedicalization: Does the Diseasing of Addiction Fit the Frame?” In Julie Netherland (Ed.) Critical Perspectives on Addiction: Advances in Medical Sociology, 14 (2012): 3-26.
  • “The History of the Development of Buprenorphine as an Addiction Therapeutics.” Annals of the New York Academy of Science. 1248 (2012): 124-139, with Anne M. Lovell.
  • “The Metapharmacology of the ‘Addicted Brain.’” Journal of the History of the Present. 1.2 (2011): 194-218.
  • “Towards a Critical Neuroscience of ‘Addiction’.” BioSocieties. 5.1(2010): 89-104.
  • “Incitements to Discourse: Illicit Drugs, Harm Reduction and the Production of Ethnographic Subjects.” Journal of Cultural Anthropology 24.3 (2008): 688-717 with Susan Shaw.
  • “The Impact of Changes in Neuroscience on the History of Ideas about Addiction.” In Addiction Neuroethics. Eds. Adrian Carter, Wayne Hall and Judy Illes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2011.
  • “From ‘magic bullets’ to medical maintenance: the changing meanings of medical approaches to drug use in US drug policy.” In The Drug Effect: Health, Crime, and Society. Eds. Suzanne Fraser and David C. Moore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2011.


FRIAS Research Project

Rewriting the ‘Antidrug’: The Ambivalence of the Pharmakon in the Cultural Discourse of Overdose

Narcotic overdose (OD) represents a ‘limit case’ in modern clinical, cultural, and scientific discourse on opioid use. Since the 1950s it has been technically possible to reverse opioid overdose using a class of drugs called “narcotic antagonists” or simply “the antidrug.” Deep reading and philosophical reflection on OD as a cultural text reveals much about how drug discourses make social order and sustain moral worth, while symptomatically signaling social disorder and lack of moral value. Binary oppositions between ‘medical’ / ‘iatrogenic’, ‘non-medical’ / ‘recreational’, and licit / illicit map onto the history of the pharmakon, an agonistic, always ambivalent term indicating the presence of promise and poison. Framed as an “iatrogenic” problem in cases of “innocent” or “respectable” drug users, OD also figures the immorality of “nonmedical” users who seek intoxication. This ancient antinomy continually plays out in the context of new regimens. How we make sense of OD is culturally and historically specific; yet some of the classical Greek antinomies continue to code the significance of OD as a liminal cultural event. At FRIAS, I will integrate philosophical, etymological, and epistemological reflections on the forms of ‘living’ and ‘dead’ knowledge, central both to the Platonic texts and to Derrida’s text on the pharmakon, into a historical and ethnographic project on OD as a specific form of clinical and social marginality. Based on ethnographic interviews and archival work already underway, the project contextualizes the emergence of a global social movement designed to distribute social and technical knowledge of the use of narcotic antagonists in the context of harm reduction drug policy.