HomeDrug places between knowledge and representations

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Published on Friday, July 03, 2020


The aim of this special issue on drug places is to focus on the spatiality of drug and alcohol practices and policies, in order to question how researchers do explicitly or implicitly spatialise practices and policies.


Guest Editors

  • Mélina Germes
  • Bernd Werse
  • Marie Jauffret-Roustide


The aim of this special issue on drug places is to focus on the spatiality of drug and alcohol practices and policies, in order to question how researchers do explicitly or implicitly spatialise practices and policies.

By drug places, we mean places that are characterised by the consumption of psychoactive substances. However, drug use by itself is not sufficient to characterise a drug place: it requires some other factors and actors such as public, media and political discourses; the intervention and action of stakeholders of drug policies, like prevention and harm reduction organisations, municipalities and police; the organisation of residents’ initiatives; the underground, (sub)cultural knowledge or hearsay narratives specific to certain groups. So drug places might be public, private, or semi-public spaces; they might be geolocalised areas as well as imaginary or digital spaces; they might be very mobile and changing or persistent over decades. Drug places are neither determined by their urbanistic design or localisation nor by their social characteristics. Drug places emerge as the result of a complex social production, since they are populated by residents, professionals and workers, appropriated for many uses, designed and managed by public and private landlords. Their history, the power relationship they are into, their configuration, their localisation and the scales they are embedded in all matter: all this contributes to their construction, at a specific moment, in a particular configuration, as a drug place.

Qualifying a place as drug place is highly relevant for researchers defining their fieldwork or study area as well as for agencies negotiating the spaces of their interventions. Drug users organise their everyday lives and mobility along their experiences and knowledge of varying drug places. From more occasional drug users to sober residents: everyone has a particular perception and representation of drug places, which influences the places people are going to avoid or go to.

Therefore, the question raised by the notion of “drug place” is less the one of the localisation of (public) places where (marginalised) people do drugs, usually referred to as places that require public intervention. A huge part of the state of the art in drug research and urban studies already deals with this question. Our question is the one of the spatial knowledge about places associated with drug practices. From where comes the knowledge about where and what drug places are? What are the actors, the methods, the processes involved in the construction and circulation of knowledge and representations about drug places?

The practices of knowledge about drug places vary from hearsay in specific settings to geographical studies ordered by cities, from social workers’ long-time experience on the street to GIS-supported data treatment. Expert knowledge about drug places ranges from rather organisational knowledge such as the implementation of collected data, e.g. in treatment or regulatory policies, to a more vernacular and personal knowledge, gained in course of day-to-day experiences and interactions– e.g., by local traders and businesses, residents or drug users.

We welcome any valuable contribution to the issue drug places, particularly with regard to the following themes:

  • Actors and uses of knowledge about drug places: Which actors aim at which knowledge? For what purpose and for which use? Whom does this knowledge belong to? What are the consequences of hiding or revealing information? What is the importance of confidence and distrust in such settings?
  • Formalisation of knowledge about drug places: Vernacular and expert knowledge takes different forms: from untold representations, subtle linguistic categorisations, obvious stereotypes or reports to tables or maps. How are drug places visualised? The range of cartographical visualisations is broad: from spatial analysis of institutional data, surveillance maps or participative citizens report maps or mental maps. In addition, knowledge about drug places is also formalised in other forms, such as different kinds of text or figures. What is the place of drug users in the process of knowing: are they subjects or ignored?
  • Preconstructions: Even the most technical procedures and scientific protocols are not free from preconstructions, in particular from pre-existing representations of space, cities and neighbourhoods. Generic categories such as “public places” and “sensitive neighbourhoods” influence representations, formal and informal knowledge produced by the actors.
  • Scales and boundaries of drug places: Are drug places considered as isolated spots in the broader social space, or, on the contrary, linked to broader spatial, social and political configurations, through networks or scales?
  • Changes in spaces, actors, practices and perceptions of drug places: Materialisations and perceptions of drug places may change in many forms: the structure of the actors may change, e.g. due to ageing or migration, the places itself may be subject to gentrification, security measures or other kinds of urban development, local policy discourses may vary over time, and there may be changes with regard of drugs, patterns of use or ways of administration. We particularly welcome papers that take into account linkages between different factors. Since the Covid-19 pandemic changed conditions for particular drug places, we also welcome contributions related to this current global crisis.

Deadline and Submission Details

The submission deadline for all papers is 31/10/2020

The publication date of this special issue is (provisionally) June 2021

To submit your article please use the Journal’s submission site, ensuring you select the Special Issue on ‘Drug places between knowledge and representations’


Papers should be 3000 to 6000 words in length inclusive of references and appendices. More information on author guidelines can be found at: http://emeraldgrouppublishing.com/products/journals/author_guidelines.htm?id=dat


  • Saturday, October 31, 2020


  • Mélina Germes
    courriel : melina [dot] germes [at] cnrs [dot] fr

Information source

  • Mélina Germes
    courriel : melina [dot] germes [at] cnrs [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Drug places between knowledge and representations », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, July 03, 2020, https://doi.org/10.58079/152q

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