Shaping Your Own Disease: Agency of alcoholics in Alcoholics Anonymous
Herk, W.C. van
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Ten weeks of qualitative research was conducted in Texas to research the social construction of alcoholism and how it interacts with the agency of individuals marked as alcoholics. Interviews were conducted to understand how members of Alcoholics Anonymous understand alcoholism, as well as how the medical and legal entities' understand alcoholism. Participant observation was implemented to gain in depth data concerning the inner workings of Alcoholics Anonymous. Theoretical insights used to analyze findings are drawn from medical as well as cultural anthropology, including 'culture-bound-syndrome', 'disease' and 'illness' perspectives, identity transformation, social encapsulation and the analogy of religious organizations and conversion theories with AA and identity transformation. A dialectic process has been found between the structure of AA's influence in society and the agency of the alcoholic. The alcoholic undergoes a transformation in identity in AA and is subsequently granted a new agency, which he is able to exercise within in this new identity.