Recovery Poets, Recovery Workers

Recovery Poets, Recovery Workers: Labor and Place in the Dialogical Way-Finding of Homeless Addicts in Therapy
Jennifer S. Bowles


In recent years, anthropologists have built a rich body of ethnography on the experience of addiction, including important cultural critiques of treatment systems. Yet little has been written from the perspective of those who work in the everyday to help others recover from substance abuse. In this article, I reflect on my labor as a clinical social worker providing therapy for homeless women and men who struggle with addiction. Building on the eloquence of those who seek to recover, recovery poets, I demonstrate how the work of a team of frontline workers operates in a particular intersubjective realm that creates different conditions for understanding addiction and recovery than does anthropological fieldwork. By detailing the labor of recovery as I performed it using different evidence-based therapies to permit the emergence of a new consciousness, I aim to bring to center stage the complex labor of frontline workers so that their working conditions will be taken into account more often in anthropological work on addiction and treatment.