Coffee and Cigarettes: Performative regulation and governmental techniques at a reinventive institution

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper/skriftligt oplægForskning


In this paper I present my analysis of social control in the everyday interaction between clients and social workers in an in-patient rehabilitation institution for alcoholics. Departing from interactionistic re-conceptualization of Foucault’s work on governmentality based on Goffman’s dramaturgy, I analyze how the informal and supposedly non-therapeutic interactions (e.g. coffee breaks, lunch or fieldtrips) between clients and social workers are scenes of subtle acts of governing and resistance. I employ Susie Scott’s (2010) notions of performative regulation and reinventive institutions thus I highlight how social control is enacted not only by the social workers but also the client’s peers and that the clients themselves entered the institution seeking self-transformation. From this perspective I scrutinize the social control at the institution by looking at both how the social workers direct the client’s attention towards specific topics by asking questions and making suggestions and how clients mutually support and survey each other. Further, I examine the resistive acts of the clients. I do so with reference to Foucault’s concept of counter-conduct. Through the analysis I show how the interactions in the institution promote the alcoholic as a recovering subject whose subjectivity is closely linked to active life styles and the management of social relationships, risks and uncertainty. Additionally I show the non confrontational ways in which the client’s resist the acts of governing.
StatusUdgivet - 2011
Begivenhed2nd European meeting of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction: Everyday Life, Social Control and Ethnography - University of Kassel, Kassel, Tyskland
Varighed: 21 jul. 201124 jul. 2011


Konference2nd European meeting of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction
LokationUniversity of Kassel