Ethknoworks LLC

Michael Agar @alcaldemike

Dope Double Agent: The Naked Emperor on Drugs

Dope Double Agent is a war on drugs story, one that starts in the 60s and only ends with the last lines of the book. More than this, it is the story of a young Berkeley student--and occasional drug user--who turns into an insider expert in the drug war with a personal agenda to subvert and correct it. He checks in as a heroin patient, works the streets of New York, dips into worlds of PCP and LSD, and seeks the sources of crack, heroin and ecstasy. The delusions of the experts, the public and the politicians amaze him and make him think the double agent job will be easy. Instead it is impossible. He fails, spectacularly so on such hallowed ground as the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health. Come behind the scenes and watch the drug policy emperor march along for decades thinking he wears a new suit of clothes.

Selected Works

“FROM RICH POINTS TO LEVERAGE POINTS AND BACK AGAIN: HOW RESEARCH, APPLICATION AND PRACTICE WORK TOGETHER” Starting with the day in 1968 that Vietnam landed me in the world of heroin addicts as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, I became a “despistado” anthropologist. (“Despistado” was used by many Honduran colleagues in a recent project to mean, more or less, “derailed.”) Until that day, I’d accepted the common wisdom that “anthropology” meant a faculty position in an academic department of the same name. Over the decades I’ve learned that contentious discussions about academic, applied and practice miss the fundamental point, not to mention failing to nourish potential developments of the field now underway as increasing numbers of institutions tire of failure of “the numbers” to identify and solve problems. The point is that, though contexts of work vary, the epistemology—the “anthropological perspective”—remains the same whatever kind of anthropology one does. The problem for the future, for all three kinds of anthropology, is the general one of boundaries in our post- or trans-discplinary age. This talk will be built on case examples ranging from a seven year NIH grant to brief projects with clinics and courts. The thread that will tie them and the various anthropologies together will be the roughly 200 year old argument that human social research requires a different kind of science.
Wonder why studies you read about your world usually don’t get who you are and how you really live? Frustrated that “the numbers” don’t solve the problem? Does it bother you that policies and programs, more often than not, don’t work like they’re supposed to? People, organizations, countries–they rely on information about real human social lives. Usually they don’t have it because they only test what they think they already know in narrow situations of their own design. The results have value, some of the time, but it’s not nearly enough. We need a human social science that begins and ends in the real worlds of the humans that it claims to be about. One has been around for a couple of hundred years. The Lively Science tells the story of its historical roots and the reasons for its neglect, blends in new intellectual tools, and argues that it’s time to get on with a science that changes research objects into human subjects and learns who they are and what they’re trying to do before conclusions are drawn.
Living in a world of linguistic and cultural differences
A personal story of decades of work in the substance abuse field, a story of how our ineffective drug policy came to be and stayed in place. Now available as an e-book at iBook on iTunes and on Barnes and Noble.
The story of the working world of independent truckers in a time of deregulation
Nonfiction, Introductory Text
An introduction to ethnography