As part of “American Identities in the 21st Century,” Cameron University’s current academic festival, the CU Department of English & Foreign Languages will present “In These Rooms: Narcotics Anonymous and the Discourse of the American Self-Help Movement” on Thursday, January 18 at 3:30 p.m. The presentation by CU students Sandesh Pokharel, Anuoluwapo Onabanjo and Katherine Book and faculty member Dr. William Carney will present the results of a research projected conducted last summer on the use of specific speech acts in Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and how NA fits into a broader American self-help movement. The presentation is open to the public at no charge and takes place in the CETES Conference Center.
This presentation is the first of three part of the research project during which the team listened to a series of speakers’ tapes. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and NA hold “speakers’ meetings” where one member will talk about recovery for 30-40 minutes. The CU research team listened to a broad cross-section of these presentations, listening for thematic patterns, use of specific vocabulary, and more.
“We found is that the NA speakers, unlike those in AA, were open to talking about co-existing psychiatric disorders and various symptoms of mental health issues such as shoplifting and promiscuity,” Carney says. “NA speakers are also more open to discussing the social and economic factors that either lead to or co-exist with addiction. They are less likely to blame family and more likely to joke about the legal difficulties that come with drug addiction. In addition, female speakers tend to speak ‘inclusively’ by using pronouns such as ‘we’ or ‘us’) and are more likely to discuss the marginalization of female addicts.”
Falling under the festival sub-theme of “Social Justice and the American Dream” as NA members are quite likely to be on probation or parole and many use illegal substances, the presentation will posit that NA provides addicts a way to fashion new identities for themselves and that as with all 12-step groups, NA is peculiarly American in that it is non-hierarchical and democratic in its organization.
“This was a fascinating research project that allowed our students to delve into how speech and word patterns differ within similar organizations,” says Carney. “We are excited to share our findings.”
January 12, 2018