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Keywords:

  • morality;
  • ethics;
  • care;
  • incarceration;
  • addiction

Abstract

Moral engagement in the setting of drug addiction is often at odds with prevailing moral discourse and is treated in punitive terms. In this article, I explore how one moral gesture—a promise between a heroin-using mother and daughter—embodies the difficulty and ambiguity of moral experience in the context of addiction and offers insight into how it is profoundly shaped by social processes. By offering a close description of the promise over time, I show how morality is lived through sentiments and practices of care and commitment, which are vulnerable to isolation, punishment, and wounding. The story of the promise thus offers a way to reflect upon morality as the blurring of these different intensities.