Research Scientists

Michael Agar

Michael Agar
Senior Research Scientist

Degree: Ph.D., Linguistic Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
Phone: 410-837-3977

Research Interests

Dr. Agar is an internationally recognized expert on drug abuse trend issues. He has researched and published on drug issues since the 1960s, with other work in ethnographic theory, method, language, and culture. He has recently finished work as a Principal Investigator on a seven-year NIH project to explain illicit drug epidemics.

Dr. Agar is also a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, College Park, with adjunct appointments in Speech Communication and Comparative Literature, as well as at the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology at the University of Alberta. Recently, he became an associate of Antropokaos at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Dr. Agar is also an honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellow, NIH Career Award recipient, and currently a Fulbright Senior Specialist.

Dr. Agar conducts introductory and advanced workshops on qualitative research and complexity theory and consults on the use of those methods in diverse project applications. Lately, the use of complexity theory to reformulate social service organizations occupies his time and interest.

Beyond his work at the SRC, Dr. Agar works independently at Ethknoworks LLC in northern New Mexico. Ethknoworks centers on research, writing and consultation around issues in ethnography, language, complexity theory, and the organization from both theoretical and practical points of view. Kurt Lewin provides the motto: There is nothing as practical as a good theory. Dr. Agar also works with the Redfish Group in Santa Fe (www., particularly around the application of a blend of ethnography and computer visualization called “OrgViz,” short for “making the organization visible. ”

Dr. Agar is a member of several editorial boards and has served on numerous research advisory committees. In 2004, he was presented with the Leadership Award in Qualitative Inquiry by the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology.
Prior to joining the SRC, Dr. Agar’s past appointments included research positions with public health agencies in Kentucky and New York as well as university positions at the Universities of Hawaii, Houston, and California in the US, and visits with the Universities of Mysore in India, Surrey in the UK, and Vienna and the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.

Dr. Agar has published quite extensively including articles in journals from the fields of anthropology, linguistics, folklore and oral history, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, public policy, artificial intelligence, complexity, intercultural communication, and the substance use and transportation fields. He also writes for general magazines like the Smithsonian. His books include Ripping and Running, The Professional Stranger, Angel Dust, Speaking of Ethnography, Independents Declared, and Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation. A new book, a policy critique based on his decades in the drug field that was just published, is Dope Double Agent: The Naked Emperor on Drugs.

Selected Publications

Mitchell, S. G., Morioka, R., Reisinger, H. S., Peterson, J. A., Kelly, S. M., Agar, M. H., Brown, B. S., O'Grady, K. E., Schwartz, R. P. (2011). Redefining retention: recovery from the patient's perspective. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 43(2), 99-107.

Peterson, J. A., Schwartz, R. P., Mitchell, S. G., Reisinger, H. S., Kelly, S. M., O'Grady, K. E., Brown, B. S., Agar, M. H. (2010). Why don’t out-of-treatment individuals enter methadone treatment programs? International Journal of Drug Policy, 21, 36-42.

Gwin Mitchell, S., Kelly, S. M., Brown, B. S., Schacht Reisinger, H., Peterson, J. A., Ruhf, A., Agar, M. H. O'Grady, K. E. , Schwartz, R. P. (2009). Uses of diverted methadone and buprenorphine by opioid-addicted individuals in Baltimore, Maryland. Am J Addict, 18(5), 346-355.

Kelly, S. M., Schwartz, R. P., O'Grady, K. E., Mitchell, S. G., Reisinger, H. S., Peterson, J. A., Agar, M. H., Brown, B. S. (2009). Gender Differences Among In- and Out-of-Treatment Opioid-Addicted Individuals. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse, 35(1), 38-42.

Mitchell, S. G., Kelly, S. M., Brown, B. S., Reisinger, H. S., Peterson, J. A., Ruhf, A., Agar, M. H., Schwartz, R. P. (2009). Incarceration and opioid withdrawal: the experiences of methadone patients and out-of-treatment heroin users. J Psychoactive Drugs, 41(2), 145-152.

Reisinger, H. S., Schwartz, R. P., Mitchell, S. G., Peterson, J. A., Kelly, S. M., O'Grady, K. E., Marrari, E. A., Brown, B. S., Agar, M. H. (2009). Premature discharge from methadone treatment: patient perspectives. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 41(3), 285-296.

Peterson, J. A., Reisinger, H. S., Schwartz, R. P., Mitchell, S. G., Kelly, S. M., Brown, B. S., & Agar, M. H. (2008). Targeted sampling in drug abuse research: A review and case study. Field Methods, 20(2), 155-170.

Schwartz, R. P., Kelly, S. M., O'Grady, K. E., Mitchell, S. G., Peterson, J. A., Reisinger, H. S., Agar, M. H., Brown, B. S. (2008). Attitudes toward buprenorphine and methadone among opioid-dependent individuals. Am J Addict, 17(5), 396 401.

Schwartz, R. P., Kelly, S. M., O'Grady, K. E., Peterson, J. A., Reisinger, H. S., Mitchell, S. G., Wilson, M. E., Agar, M. H., Brown, B. S. (2008). In-treatment vs. out-of-treatment opioid dependent adults: drug use and criminal history. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse, 34(1), 17-28.

Peterson, J., Mitchell, S. G., Hong, Y., Agar, M., & Latkin, C. (2006). Getting clean and harm reduction: adversarial or complementary issues for injection drug users. Cad Saude Publica, 22(4), 733-740.

Agar, M., & Reisinger, H. S. (2002). A tale of two policies: the French connection, methadone, and heroin epidemics. Cult Med Psychiatry, 26(3), 371-396.

Agar, M., Reisinger, H. S. (2002). A heroin epidemic at the intersection of histories: The 1960’s epidemic among African Americans in Baltimore. (with H. S. Reisinger). Medical Anthropology, 21(2), 115-156.

Agar, M. H. (2001). Another complex step: A Model of Heroin Experimentation. Field Methods, 13(4): 353-369. Agar, M., Reisinger, H. S. (2001). Using trend theory to explain heroin use trends. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 33(3), 203-211.< Agar, M., Bourgois, P., French, J., & Murdoch, O. (2001). Buprenorphine: "field trials" of a new drug. Qual Health Res, 11(1), 69-84.

Agar, M. H. (2001) Ethnography. International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 3, 1: Article 76. Oxon UK: Elsevier, 2001

Agar, M., Reisinger, H. S. (2000). Explaining drug use trends. In Illicit Drugs: Patterns of Response, ed. A. Springer & A. Uh. Innsbruck, Studienverlag.

Agar, M. (2000). Border lessons: Linguistic rich points and evaluative understanding. In special issue of New Directions for Evaluation, How and Why Language Matters in Evaluation, ed. Rodney K. Hopson, 86, 93-109.

Agar, M. H., Reisinger, H. S. (2000). Read all about it: media construction of a heroin epidemic. Substance Use and Abuse, 35(11), 1551-1571.

Agar, M. (1999). Complexity theory: an exploration and overview based on John Holland’s work (with commentary by Michael Patton and reply). Field Methods, 11, 99-120.

Agar, M., & Reisinger, H. S. (1999). Numbers and patterns: heroin indicators and what they represent. Human Organization, 58, 365-374.

Agar, M. (1999). How to ask for a study in Qualitatish. Qualitative Health Research, 9, 684-697.

Agar, M. (1999). Talking Numbers: Ethnography and Epidemiology. Special Issue of Substance Use and Misuse. (co-editor with Nick Kozel). Vol. 34, No. 14.

Agar, M., Bourgois, P., French, J., & Murdoch, O. (1998). Heroin addict habit size in three cities: context and variation. Journal of Drug Issues, 28(4), 921-940.

Agar, M. H. (1997). Ethnography: An Overview. Substance Use and Misuse, 32(9), 1155-1173.

Agar, M. H. (1996).The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography. Second Edition. New York, Academic Press, 1980. (Forthcoming in Japanese translation as “Yosomono Kagyo” with Shinjuku publishing, Tokyo.)

Agar, M. (1996). Show it, don’t tell it: How to run an ethnography appreciation course. Practicing Anthropology, 18(2), 3-5.

Agar, M. (1996). Recasting the “ethno” in “epidemiology.” Medical Anthropology, 16(4), 391-403.

Agar, M. (1995). Ethnography. Handbook of Pragmatics Manual, ed. Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Ostman and Jan Blommaert. Amsterdam, John Benjamins. pp. 583-590.

Agar, M. (1995). Concept abuse in the drug field. International Journal of the Addictions, 30(9): 1165-1168.

Agar, M., McDonald, J. (1995). Focus groups and ethnography. Human Organization, 54(1), 78-86.

Agar, M., Murdoch, O. (1994). Investigating recent trends in heroin use in Baltimore City: A Pilot “Quanitative” Research Project. CESAR Special Topics in Substance Abuse, 94-1, College Park, MD.

Agar, M. (1994). Le role de l’ethnographie dans les politques de soins aux Etats-Units. (The role of ethnography in health politics in the U.S.) La Revue Agora: Ethique, Medecine, Societe, 31:95-105.

Agar, M. (1994). The intercultural frame. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 18(2), 221-237.

MacDonald, J., Agar, M. (1994). What is a trip--and why take one. In LSD: Still With Us After All These Years, ed. Leigh Henderson and William Glass. New York, Lexington Press. pp. 9-36.

Agar, M. H. (1994). Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation. New York, Wm. Morrow.

Agar, M. (1991). The right brain strikes back. In: Using Computers in Qualitative Research, ed. Nigel G. Fielding and Raymond M. Lee. London, Sage.

Agar, M. H. (1989). Speaking of Ethnography. Hollywood, Sage. 1985. Part reprinted in Human Communication, ed. S. W. Littlejohn, Wadsworth.