Claire Sterk, Charles Howard Candler Professor
of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, will deliver the eighth
annual Distinguished Faculty Lecture, Thursday, March 27, at 4 p.m.
in the Dobbs Center’s Winship Ballroom.
Her lecture, titled “The ‘Substances’ in Addiction:
Socially Constructed or Scientifically Determined?” will go
beyond the traditional ideas of addiction research and examine the
issue across many disciplines, reflecting the work she and a number
of Emory researchers in are doing in studying the biological and
social roots of substance abuse. Additionally, Sterk said she particularly
wants to emphasize society’s longstanding history of ambivalence
regarding substances, be they legal or illegal.
“Frequently, there is the notion that addiction requires the
use of a substance, but there are many addictions that do not include
the use of a substance but rather focus on obsessive behaviors,”
said Sterk, who added some current aspects of her research arose
from her 1999 book, Fast Lives: Women Who Use Crack Cocaine.
Through this work, Sterk said she began to examine various new ideas
about addiction, including societal distinctions made between “good”
and “bad” drugs and how being an addict tends to be
one of many social roles in a person’s life.
However, Sterk said her upcoming lecture will be much “broader”
in its scope than the materials covered in her books and articles.
In many ways, Sterk’s current research is a natural evolvement
in her far-reaching and multidimensional career. She first came
to national attention in the late 1980s when she discovered that
crack cocaine users were at high risk for HIV infection due to unsafe
sex that often occurred during their drug use. In the late 1990s,
she became known in a completely different circle of researchers
as a member of the team that investigated the syphilis outbreak
among a group of upper-middle-class teenagers in Conyers. Her work
was profiled in the PBS Frontline episode, “The Lost Children
of Rockdale County.”
Known for her ethnographic skills and work in various areas of women’s
health, Sterk also is the author of Tricking and Tripping: Prostitution
in the Era of AIDS and has published more than 50 journal articles.
Sterk holds a Ph.D. degree in anthropology from the University of
Utrecht and a doctorate in sociology from Erasmus University, in
collaboration with the Graduate Center of the City University of
New York. In 2000, she was named chair of the behavioral science
and health education in the Rollins School of Public Health.
Sterk also is an active leader figure in the Emory community. She
is a past president of the University Senate and former Faculty
Council chair, as well as cochair of the Research@Emory Commission.
Distinguished Faculty lecturers are selected by the Faculty Council
from a submitted list of nominees. A committee of previous speakers
and a chair gathers nominations, evaluates them and makes a recommendation
to the full council, which then votes to forward the recommendation
to the president.
“This is an honor, and that has motivated me to want to present
the topic from a multidisciplinary perspective,” Sterk said.
“I hope it will trigger continued discussion.”
The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information,