From Treatment to Containment to Enterprise: An Ethno-history of Therapeutic Communities in Puerto Rico, 1961-1993

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Abstract

Unpaid work is now a central therapy in Puerto Rican therapeutic communities, where substance users reside and seek to rehabilitate each other, often for years at a time. Once a leading treatment for addiction in mainland United States, therapeutic communities were scaled back in the 1970s after they lost federal endorsement. They continue to flourish in Puerto Rico for reasons that have less to do with their curative powers than with their malleability as multi-purpose social enterprises and their historical co-option by state, market and family actors who have deployed them for a variety of purposes. Their endurance from the 1960s to the neoliberal present obliges us to recognize their capacities as what Mizruchi calls abeyance mechanisms whereby 'surplus' populations, otherwise excluded from labor and home, are absorbed into substitute livelihoods. Having initially emerged as a low-cost treatment, in a context of mass unemployment and prison-overcrowding they now thrive as institutions of containment and informal enterprise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-157
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Volume44
Early online date11 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2019

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