(Re)Working the Program: Gender and Openness in Alcoholics Anonymous

Rachel Kornfield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Given concerns that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) might disempower already disenfranchised groups by focusing attention on self scrutiny and away from social action, this article explores how a cohort of black women members in Chicago portray the role of individual and social forces in their addictions. Despite challenges including histories of sex work and abuse, these women describe themselves as empowered in their recovery efforts and as more successful in AA than their male peers. Their reported success reflects their innovative application of a women-only meeting. Through this meeting, members develop a practice of "openness" that is in some ways at odds with AA's customary self-focus, especially as it becomes grounds to exchange stories about social precipitants of addiction and to strategize ways to assert themselves in their relationships. Rather than enacting a pregiven version of AA, these women interpret the program in creative ways that allow them to accomplish a broad set of objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-439
Number of pages25
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Alcoholics anonymous
  • Authenticity
  • Gender
  • Self-help

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of '(Re)Working the Program: Gender and Openness in Alcoholics Anonymous'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this