Talking Point: Recovering Assemblages: Unfolding Sociomaterial Relations of Drug Use and Recovery, presented by Dr Aysel Sultan on 16th August 2023


In this talk, I will explore these questions and illustrate personal accounts of recovery that shed light on differences, contexts, relations, and meanings. The talk discusses individual, communal, and political roles of recovery and take the use of the concept beyond the discourse of free will, responsibility or an institutional treatment outcome. To achieve this, I ask what makes recovery a contested concept, how can we approach it differently, and whether there is a need to talk about recovery at all, especially in semiotic, sociomaterial, and relational forms. Merging biomedical, social-psychological, and environmental dimensions, recovery in itself is a delicate concept to study. The talk will draw on findings published in my first book “Recovering Assemblages” that tells a number of stories of recovery of young people from Azerbaijan and Germany and shows the erratic, arbitrary, ambiguous character of their recovery experiences. Empowered by theories in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and ground breaking works of many critical drug scholars on rethinking new ways on how to approach concepts of addiction, drug use and recovery, the book gradually builds from material aspects and semiotic and sociomaterial relations, to cultural and structural dimensions informing national drug discourses.

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About the presenter

Dr Aysel Sultan is a Lecturer at the Department of Science, Technology and Society at the Technical University of Munich. Aysel has a background in the sociology of health and illness and educational sciences with a particular interest in the application of Science and Technology Studies (STS) in public health, treatment and healthcare policies and completed her academic degrees in Azerbaijan, Lithuania and Germany.

She is particularly excited about theoretical and conceptual reframing of such contested terms as agency, vulnerability and wellbeing, and especially within the context of childhood and youth. Most of her work has focused on (young) people using illegal drugs, living with chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS and policies addressing these issues. To this end, she is collaborated with some of the excellent Australian scholars here at Monash and RMIT on the topic of drug policy and recovery.

Lately, she has been working on the use of technologies (esp. smartphones and social media) to better understand how children and young people experience digital communication and build knowledge around health, harm and safety. Aysel is also co-Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly, peer-reviewed academic journal “Drugs, Habits and Social Policy” published by Emerald.