Governmentality: A Theoretical Evaluation of Supervised Injection Sites and Consequent Police Practices

  • Benjamin Daniel Scher


This essay looks to present governmentality as a theoretical framework through which to evaluate supervised injection sites (SIS) as a ‘political technology’ and police as extensions of this ‘technology’. Firstly, I will discuss how SIS arose under discourses of ‘public health’ and ‘harm reduction’ to fit varying political ideologies as a technology to cleanse public spaces of ‘disorderly’ drug use, thus safeguarding the urban environment as an attractive, civil and commercial space. Despite saving lives and meeting the unique needs of injection drug users, SIS can be understood as spaces of exclusion, immediately linking people to a marginalised population. Secondly, I will present the ways in which SIS can be contextualized as a powerful tool of surveillance and discipline, imposing the ‘responsibilization’ of individuals’ drug use and lifestyle habits, construing drug users as requiring surveillance and discipline to successfully conform to certain ‘acceptable’ behavioural traits. Lastly, once again through the lens of governmentality, I will demonstrate that police practises ironically work in opposition to the aim of SIS as a technology of control as they often deter drug users from frequenting SIS. Although governmentality can be philosophically conceptualized as an infringement on human freedom, in this instance, police practises need to be evaluated to increase their role in promoting SIS use. In light of the national health crisis in Canada, pertaining to injection drug use, if government control, surveillance and discipline results in the saving of thousands of lives, then in this occasion it is useful and necessary.