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Objects-in-Use, Thing-Power Materialism, and Prosthetic Identity

Kenneth Yates

PhD Candidate, National Centre in HIV Social Research (NCHSR, University of New South Wales)

Vitellone’s (2003) work on the syringe as an object-in-use provides a useful framework for research about people who inject drugs and the equipment that they use. The notion of the object-in-use suggests that the needle and syringe might usefully be considered as more than just medical technology, or objects of exchange circulated through needle and syringe programs. In this paper I will consider Vitellone’s theoretical approach, and the implication that the syringe as object-in-use materialises gender and sexual difference. Vitellone’s work will be compared to the work of Bennett, and the notion of thing-power materialism (Bennett, 2004). This paper will argue that these theoretical approaches are complimentary, and that they can provide useful new insights into the relationships between people who inject drugs and the equipment they use. Furthermore, this paper will take into account the implications of thing-power materialism, namely the agency of the non-human in assemblages, and consider firstly what argument could be made for the agency of the syringe and secondly how this conceptualization of the syringe as object-in-use exercising thing-power agency could be a useful consideration for research around needle and syringe programs and harm reduction.


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