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Governing the Narcotic City

“Drogues Genres Villes” Series

Governing the Narcotic City

In 2020–2021 the Bordeaux-based Narcotic City team is organizing a series of academic and activist events on “Drugs, Genders, Cities.” The organizing group gathers members of the local institutions PASSAGES with Mélina Germes and CED with Emmanuel Langlois and Sara Perrin, the projects DRUSEC with Roxane Scavo and Governing the Narcotic City with Jenny Künkel, as well as our Associated Partner Université Populaire de Bordeaux.

With this series, our aim is to triangulate three major topics of the social sciences and humanities. Cities as spaces of spatial (re-)production of power relationships; genders as a regulation and hierarchization of identities, bodies and practices; drugs as highly socially, spatially and gender-differentiated practices of inebriation. The construction of “drug problems” and most drug-related issues refer primarily to male consumption practices. Dominant discourses as well as practices of repression, prevention and harm reduction target mostly male users, establishing a very precise gender binary and gender roles. Policies are conceived as gender-neutral and yet overwhelmingly serve cis men. Several stereotypical roles are attributed to women: the vulnerable victim of intoxicated men, the irresponsible drug-using mother, the dependent sex worker, or the virtuous abstinent woman. Perhaps less visible, female consumption nevertheless exists and is in fact very diverse. Low visibility makes it more difficult for support systems to reach women, and therefore they benefit little. Gay men are framed by the chemsex practice. Many others such as lesbians, trans, inter and queer people are mostly ignored. The complexity of gender identities and sexualities is underrepresented. This series aims to contribute to the broader project of gendering drugs.

As urban researchers and drug researchers, we want to highlight the connections between drugs, genders and cities. Drugs tell us a lot about spaces of deprivation and privilege, urban stigmatization and governance. Gender-focused approaches explain how spaces matter for the (re)-production of gender relationships and the enforcement of binary gender roles. Drug practices (use and governance) are gendered and spatialized, producing very different urban spaces depending on the users. Reciprocally, spaces play a role in the gendering of drugs.

We want to challenge the production and sharing of knowledge beyond the male/female binary and beyond the heterosexual, heteronormative context. With this series of events, we will question gender constructions around drug use in the city.

First Event: “Sex, Drugs and the City”

Conference “Alcohol and Drugs in Affective or Sexual Relationships: Transactions, Consent, Grey Zones?,” October 22, 2020, Bordeaux, in French.

Second Event: “The genders of urban drug policies,” January 21, 2021, Bordeaux, in French.

Third Event: “Drugs in Party Spaces and Gender,” May 2021, Bordeaux

Published on November 24th, 2020.