The politics of belonging in alcoholics anonymous: A qualitative interview study

Hannah S. Glassman*, Maja Moensted, Paul Rhodes, Niels Buus

*Corresponding author for this work

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A prevalent critique of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is that members must adopt an inflexible illness narrative, taking on an “alcoholic” identity and performing a set of practices to address this condition. Conversely, a small body of research suggests that, rather than comprising the uniform adoption of a rigid narrative, integration into AA is achieved by negotiating individual beliefs, values, and preferences with the AA model. To investigate such processes of negotiation, the current study aimed to explore the politics of belonging in AA. The study involved semi-structured interviews with 15 AA members recruited from meetings across Sydney, Australia, and data were analyzed thematically. Findings illustrated how participants navigated the politics of inclusion/exclusion within AA. While some aspects of AA were found to be negotiable by participants, a non-negotiable aspect of AA ideology that emerged was the axiom that “alcoholics” have no control over alcohol and therefore should maintain abstinence. Findings raise questions about how the politics of belonging in AA may shift over time following broader patterns of societal change.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)33-44
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Community Research and Action


  • 12-Step Programs
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • belonging
  • peer-to-peer
  • qualitative research


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