Expertise, Gender, and Marginality: Health Related Practices by People who Inject Drugs in the United States


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




People who inject drugs face high rates of overdose and infection. This project examines how they attempt to protect themselves from these risks. It focuses on the assessment, performance, and development of uncredentialed expertise in a particularly high-risk and common practice: assisted injection, in which one person injects another with illicit drugs. Based on 16 months of ethnographic observation in San Francisco and interviews with 80 people who receive and/or provide injection assistance, this project demonstrates that people assess uncredentialed expertise through trust mechanisms, which may increase risk. Further, in interactions with unequal power dynamics, their position in these interactions correlates with characteristics often considered gendered. This research thereby contributes to literature on marginalized communities, gender, and expertise.