Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2016

Author's School

College of Arts & Sciences

Author's Program


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (A.B.)




This study, based on one month of ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative interviews, examines how Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) functioned at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility for men in southern Ecuador. I argue that, because A.A. has its roots in the United States and in distinctly American interpretations of Judeo-Christian doctrines, many of the key features of the twelve steps and its therapeutics are irreconcilable with aspects of Ecuadorian culture with regards to cultural identity, issues of masculinity and machismo, and religion. Many of the twelve steps and the goal of ultimate abstinence in A.A. do not align well with these cultural factors. Because success in A.A. relies on an identity transformation into a particular kind of “alcoholic subject” and because members must reconcile their identity with the culture of A.A., I contend that, in the Latin American context, the program acts as a neocolonial practice that attempts to refashion the body and “self” into an Americanized way of being. In making this argument I demonstrate that merely because a healthcare program is American or Western does not entail ultimate success internationally; rather, a system of therapeutics must take into account the culture and individuals that it is serving to best care for the patient.


Dr. Rebecca Lester