'Doing' normal : a membership categorization analysis (MCA) of recovery from addiction

Murphy, Carole (2014) 'Doing' normal : a membership categorization analysis (MCA) of recovery from addiction. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Research investigating recovery from addiction has grown in recent years. This new recovery paradigm is gaining momentum, and a key construct proposed through which to understand it is that of recovery capital, which emphasises how access to social, cultural, human and physical capital can impact on this experience. This thesis contributes to these debates through an exploration of two key issues: recovery capital or ‘resources’, and identity construction. The analysis draws on ethnomethodology to demonstrate how social order is achieved through the everyday, situated accomplishments of members’ practical action and practical reasoning. Consistent with this methodological framework, the data were analysed using Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA) to illuminate how those in recovery draw on particular discourses, linguistic devices and ‘commonsense’ knowledge to produce a recovery identity in situ. Respondents demonstrated the temporality of the recovery process by invoking cultural knowledge about ‘turning points’ and ‘rock bottom’ as evidence of initiation into this new membership category. Attributes of a ‘resourceful’ recovery identity were further shown through implicit or explicit reference to “Better than well”, a linguistic device common in many recovery communities. Significantly, in contrast to the notion that recovery capital relies on access to external resources, the analysis illustrates that it can be understood as an interactional resource, invoked to display membership of the category ‘doing’ recovery. Additionally, a fimdamental concern for many respondents throughout this process was the production of a ‘normal’ identity. How respondents’ talk about negotiating the stigma associated with their former membership of a morally disreputable category is a crucial factor. MCA reveals the everyday cultural knowledge used by individuals to ‘do’ normal. It therefore contributes to a richer understanding of the recovery experience, and can serve as a reference point for future studies about identity construction in recovery.

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