Wasted: Performing Addiction in America  book cover
1st Edition

Wasted: Performing Addiction in America

ISBN 9780367597528
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
220 Pages

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Book Description

Departing from the scholarly treatment of addiction as a form of rhetoric or discursive formation, Wasted: Performing Addiction in America focuses on the material, lived experience of addiction and the ways in which it is shaped by a ’metaphor of waste’, from the manner in which people describe the addict, the experience of inebriation or his or her systematic exclusion from various aspects of American culture. With analyses of scientific and popular cultural texts such as novels and films, scholarly or medical models of addiction, reality television, TV drama, public health and anti-addiction campaigns, and the lives of celebrities who struggled with addiction, this book recovers the sense of materiality in which the experience of substance abuse is anchored, revealing addiction to be a set of socio-cultural practices, historically-contingent events and behaviours. Exploring the ways in which addiction as an identity construct, as a social problem, and as a lived experience is always and already circumscribed by the metaphor of waste, Wasted: Performing Addiction in America advances the idea that addiction constitutes a site of social control beyond the individual, through which American citizenship is regulated and the ’nation’ itself is imagined, demarcated, and contained. As such, it will appeal to scholars of popular culture, cultural and media studies, performance studies, sociology and American culture.

Table of Contents

Preface: on being wasted in America. Part I Representing Wasted Metaphors: Writing Belushi/performing America: addiction, national identity, and the cultural mythos of ‘waste’ in Wired. Part II Staging Wasted Histories: Welcome (again) to the circus: resurrecting the freak show and the inebriate asylum in A&E’s Intervention; Re-visiting literary realism: adaptation, ideology, and the metaphor of waste in Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City and Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero; ‘My name is Jim, and I’m an alcoholic’: peddling the wasteful propaganda of 12-step treatment in Peter Cohn’s Drunks. Part III Performing Wasted Lives: ‘Real people with real stories’: anti-drug PSAs, the propagation of stereotypes, and the boomerang effect; ‘Didn’t [she] almost have it all?’: being Whitney Houston/performing addiction/imagining America; Conclusion: on being wasted in America - redux

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Heath A. Diehl is a lecturer in the Department of English and the Honors College at Bowling Green State University, USA and author of Stages of Sexuality: Performance, Gay Male Identity, and Public Space(s).


’Anyone seeking to understand addiction in U.S. popular culture from the 1980s to the present will find value in this book, which identifies waste as the condition’s most pervasive metaphor. Diehl’s readings of texts ranging from Less Than Zero to Intervention convincingly demonstrate that it is time to scrap the waste metaphor.’ Susan Zieger, University of California, Riverside, USA ’Searching rigorously through culture from freak shows to films, Diehl shines a surgical light into the conversation America is having with itself about addiction, revealing (and arguing convincingly against) the identity imposed by the metaphor of addict-as-waste. Passionately written and highly readable, this timely and essential book makes a vital contribution to current interdisciplinary conversations on addiction and performance.’ James Reynolds, Kingston University, UK ’A significant and inspiring book connecting American history and the war on drugs rhetoric with popular culture and social perception theories. This book is a must read for anyone wishing to understand the role of addiction and the multiplicity of its representation in contemporary American popular culture.’ Zoe Zontou, Liverpool Hope University, UK