On Tuesday 1 August 2017, Dr Kate Seear, ARC DECRA Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Law at Monash University presented a Research Seminar for the Centre for Health Law and Society, La Trobe Law School. Kate’s presentation, Addiction Veridiction: Mobilising Gender in Legal Accounts of Addicted Agency, explored the ways in which addiction is classified in the law and how this reinforces gendered assumptions about victims and perpetrators.
Kate discussed findings from her research undertaken as part of an Australian Research Council DECRA grant, Addiction in the Australian Legal System: A Sociological Analysis (2016-2018).
Drawing upon qualitative interviews with lawyers in Australia and Canada, and informed by Science and Technologies Studies (STS) theory, Dr Seear discussed the specific processes through which the law distinguishes truth from falsity. She also explored the role of lawyers in framing the agency of individuals said to be experiencing addiction, and the lack of judicial oversight of the work of lawyers in establishing addiction ‘facts’. Despite the fact that lawyers’ accounts of addiction feature centrally in family violence cases, she point out that lawyers have little or no training or education in this area.
Through her empirical research, Dr Seear showed that lawyers’ accounts of addicted agency are often contradictory, highly gendered, with a range of material-discursive effects. Specifically, the lives of women, whether they be victims of perpetrators of family violence, are in some way affected by discourses of addiction as a disease. She argued that legal practices of creating truth and falsity are centrally implicated in the making of both gender and health, and that elements of these processes, which are not often publicly visible or subjected to scrutiny, require more detailed analysis.
The Centre for Health Law and Society would like to thank Dr Seear for presenting on the fascinating topic of gender and addiction.