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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Mari Castañeda

Second Advisor

Sut Jhally

Third Advisor

Henry Geddes

Fourth Advisor

Agustin Lao

Subject Categories



This dissertation examines how discourses and ideologies about the opioid crisis were framed, produced and constructed in the geographic specificity of the Merrimack Valley in the period leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Applying the theoretical and methodological frameworks offered by the cultural studies tradition, this dissertation project attempts to map out the complex interplay between the news media, law enforcement, policymakers, and citizens in producing, circulating, amplifying, framing and sustaining public anxiety about the opioid crisis in the Merrimack Valley and beyond. Employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative forms of inquiry, including interpretation of data collected through text mining, text visualization, sentiment and emotion analysis, and coding software, this project examines the dominant framing devices used in local television coverage of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire, analyzes images and discourses to three prominent opioid analgesic poisoning cases in the Merrimack Valley, and investigates the dominant discursive themes in several dozen speeches delivered by Jeff Sessions during his short tenure as Attorney General. Together, these analyses demonstrate that strategic portrayals of drugs, addiction, treatment, and justice can frame the opioid crisis to advance particular political and social agendas.


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