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Call for Papers--Critical Approaches to Harm Reduction Policy, Practice, and Philosophy, New Edited Book

Deadline February 13, 2015

Critical Approaches to Harm Reduction Policy, Practice, and Philosophy: Conflict, Institutionalization, (De-)Politicization, and Direct Action

The diverse multiplicity of philosophies, programs, and interventions that fall under the general term ‘harm reduction’ – both in the form of top-down, institutionalized public health policy, and bottom-up, grassroots, community-based autonomous drug/service-user organizing and activism – were initially developed in the contexts of illicit drug use and sexual health, but have since been expanded to include numerous other fields and applications. Illustrative of the conflicts and tensions existing between top-down and bottom-up manifestations of harm reduction, in the traditional context of substance use, harm reduction in North America originated as a radical, grassroots, direct-action-based social movement prior to becoming institutionalized as public health policy. During the process of institutionalization the radical political underpinnings of the movement were arguably sanitized, becoming eclipsed by the cost/benefit ‘bottom line’ arguments used to justify, market, and sell harm reduction interventions such as needle exchange programs (NEPs) and methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) to conservative opponents.

Traditional research concerning harm reduction as it relates to substance use is overwhelmingly characterized by quantitative, epidemiologically-driven approaches that lack politically engaged, social analyses. We are therefore soliciting abstracts for a co-edited book of essays tentatively entitled Critical Approaches to Harm Reduction Policy, Practice, and Philosophy: Conflict, Institutionalization, (De-)Politicization, and Direct Action, focusing on several core themes, including but not limited to:

  • New or emergent forms of harm reduction policy, practice, advocacy, and activism relating to substance use, sexual health, or other relevant contexts;
  • Critiques of existing harm reduction-based models and interventions, policies, and practices;
  • Analysis and/or evaluation of targeted harm reduction policies and interventions as they relate to experiences of marginalization and oppression;
  • The role and importance of people with lived experience in harm reduction;
  • Autonomous, user-driven, grassroots harm reduction organizing, advocacy, and activism;
  • Examples of disconnect, conflict, and/or resistance between the founding principles of harm reduction theory and philosophy, and contemporary institutionalized manifestations of harm reduction;
  • Comparative, historical, and/or cross-cultural analysis of harm reduction in a global context, and;
  • Critical interrogations of the prevailing pathology paradigm or biomedical ‘brain disease’ model for addiction research and treatment and its relationship to contemporary harm reduction interventions.  

Additionally, we encourage the submission of abstracts for chapters relating to harm reduction outside of the broad areas listed above, and welcome inter/trans/multi-disciplinary work in a diverse array of formats, including creative, artistic endeavours; insider and/or auto-ethnography; interviews with harm reduction innovators, front-line practitioners and/or drug/service users. Moreover, we particularly encourage submissions that explicitly adopt a drug/service user-centred approach and/or actively include the voices, perspectives, and lived experiential knowledge of drug/service users.
Abstracts of approximately 500 words should ideally be structured to include the following sub-headings: (1) Background/Context, (2) Methodology, (3) Results, and (4) Conclusions.
All abstracts are due Friday, 13 February, 2015, and can be sent by email to:

The deadline for full chapters will be May 15, 2015.

Not: The full Call for Papers can be downloaded here:

We look forward to the possibility of future critical/creative co-conspiracy and collaboration!

Christopher Smith and Zack Marshall (Co-Editors)