Call for Papers: Drugs and Drink in Asia

Editor’s Note: We’re posting a just-issued call for papers for a conference (“Drugs and Drink in Asia: New Perspectives from History”) to be held at Shanghai University through the David F. Musto Center for Drug Policy Studies.  As one of the conference organizers, I’d like to invite readers to recall Prof. Musto himself.  Doubtless he’d be pleased to see the Center hosting a gathering like this–readers might wish to take a look at David Courtwright’s affecting remembrance for more on David Musto’s life and career. JS 

Call for Papers– Drugs and drink in Asia: New perspectives from History
June 22-24, 2012, Shanghai University, Shanghai, China

The centenary of the Hague Opium Convention in 1912 marks a hundred years of the development of international controls on commercial flows in psycho-active substances.  This conference seeks to bring together those conducting new research on the origins and trajectory of that system in order to exchange recent conclusions and to address emerging questions.  The focus will be on Asian contexts given that these were at the heart of the controversies that drove the emergence of the international drugs regulatory system.  Among the questions to be considered are:

The Conference Context

1. What has recent research revealed about historic markets for psycho-active substances in Asia?
2. How far were Asian consumers of psycho-active substances driving these markets or being led by them?
3. What were the chief concerns of governments and administrations in Asia when seeking to control these markets and consumers?
4. How significant was the place of psycho-active substances in both Asian and imperial commercial networks?
5. Were representations of Asian consumers of psycho-active substances more varied than previously thought, and if so what does this tell us?

The event’s organisers are keen to encourage those conducting historical research into all substances that can be understood as psycho-active, from across the modern period.  While the focus is on Asia, comparative papers will be considered.  The preference will be for research that is being conducted or that has recently been published.  The objective is to bring together from around the globe all those currently tackling issues related to psycho-active substances in Asia before c. 1961.  To discuss proposals please contact Dr Yong-an Zhang or Professor James Mills or Dr. Joseph F. Spillane

Proposals for panels and papers of no more than 300 words per paper are welcomed by December 15 2011.  Please submit by email to AND AND  Those accepted will be notified by January 16 2012.  Participation will require the submission of papers of no more than 5000 words by April 30 2012.  The intention is to publish a collected edition of papers from the event.

The conference will take place in Baoshan Campus at Shanghai University, Shanghai and accommodation will be provided for all participants.  Some funding for travel may be available to post-graduate students and early career scholars.  The event’s major sponsors include the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare Glasgow; the Wellcome Trust; the University of Florida; the Alcohol and Drugs History Society; and a range of institutions at Shanghai University: the David F. Musto Center for Drug Policy Studies, the Center for Global Studies, the Graduate School, the History Department, and the College of Liberal Arts.

Dr Yong-an Zhang                                                                Professor James Mills
History Department                                                             CSHHH Glasgow
Shanghai University                                                             University of Strathclyde
99 Shangda Road                                                                  Glasgow G11XQ, UK
Shanghai, 200444, China                                                                                     

Dr. Joseph F. Spillane
Associate Professor
Department of History
025 Keene-Flint Hall
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-7320


Teaching Points: “Narcotic Hedonism: American Drug Use”– Commentary on the Class

Editor’s Note: In the second part of their contribution to the “Teaching Points” series, Wesleyan University seniors Robert Echeverria and Siddhanth Issar meditate on the challenges and promises of a peer-led pedagogy of alcohol and drugs history.  The syllabus for their class on “Narcotic Hedonism” appeared yesterday.

“Hello Professors Echeverria & Issar.”
“We’re not professors. It’s just Rob & Sid.”

SOC420: Rob and Sid, Wesleyan '12

Having taught a class before, we expected it. Students come to believe that if you can put together a syllabus and demand a certain amount of work, you actually have the knowledge and authority to be at the head of the classroom. Sid & I saw things differently; we were teaching this class because it was something that we wanted to learn about that the faculty wasn’t offering. The turnout for the class really showed us just how much interest surrounds taboo topics such as drug use. Continue reading →

The Stoned Ages

Everybody Must Get the History Channel

Editor’s Note: This early posting on the HNN documentary “The Stoned Ages,” does not discuss the show’s content.  For commentary and analysis of the show, and a few links for further reading, click here.

Programming alert! Tomorrow evening (Wednesday, September 21) at 9 PM, the History Channel will broadcast a one-hour special program on drug history, called “The Stoned Ages.”  The work of director/producer Adam Barton (though the title comes from publicity-keen History Channel folks), the program may or may not feature some of your Points contributors.  Both David Herzberg and I, along with several others, were interviewed by Adam during the recent Alcohol and Drugs History Society conference in Buffalo.  In my experience, I found Adam be an eager and engaged consumer of academic histories on the subject of drugs.  Here’s the description of the program, from the History Channel site:

From the early cave dwellers who first stumbled upon psychedelic mushrooms to the over 6000-year-old tradition of opium cultivation in the East to a modern pharmaceutical industry with over 24,000 drugs on the market, drugs have played a role in our lives since well before recorded human history. Explore the reasons we’ve used drugs through the ages, while considering the devastating consequences that accompany the choice to use certain drugs. This fascinating, fresh, and insightful documentary will ask the question: overall, have drugs done more to help us or hurt us? Host Dean Norris will journey through the millennia and look in on the greatest civilizations in human history to discover if drugs helped these societies flourish or fail and whether drug use was holy or hedonistic, a savior or a curse?

Now, I understand that academic historians have treated the History Channel with some ambivalence.

American Pickers

The Stoned Ages--Airs Immediately after these Guys

Indeed, ambivalence may have been the high-water mark, characteristic of HC’s early years, when the network programming dwelt on conventional military and political history.  In recent years, the channel’s been drifting further from the original history concept, drawing commentary that’s, well, less ambivalent and more directly hostile.

So, what should we expect from “The Stoned Ages”?  Anyone who has ever had two hours of talking edited down to two minutes will almost certainly agree that there’s no way to tell just what it will sound like.  I hope you’ll join me in taking a look, and then back here at Points to discuss the results, which ought to make an interesting lead in to the upcoming Ken Burns’ Prohibition series (more on that soon).

Teaching Points: “Narcotic Hedonism: American Drug Use”

Editor’s Note:  The fourth installation in our “Teaching Points” series is a bit of a trip, to say the least.  A “Student Forum” at Wesleyan University, “Narcotic Hedonism” is the brainchild of Robert Echeverria  and Siddhanth Issar, advanced undergraduates working under the guidance of Sociology Professor Jonathan Cutler.  They explain the rationale for the class and present the syllabus below; their commentary on the class will appear tomorrow. 

Only at Wesleyan

“Narcotic Hedonism: American Drug Use” is unlike the majority of academic courses on the subject of drugs. For starters, Sid & I are both currently senior undergraduates at Wesleyan University. Sid is a philosophy major with a strong interest in ethics. I am a sociology major with a focus on media and cultural studies. In our time at Wesleyan, we have led two academic seminars–“Pornocopia: Society & Pornography” and “Narcotic Hedonism: American Drug Use.” Unlike formal classes that are taught by Professors with PhDs, Wesleyan University allows for faculty to sponsor students to teach student forums. These student leaders must create their very own syllabus, detailing the subjects to be covered each week, the reading material for that week and any assignments that will be turned in, on a topic of their choice and have it meet the approval of both the chair of the desired department and the Dean of Academic Affairs. Both the student leaders and the students who enroll in the course are given one full academic credit in a pass/fail format. Needless to say, the process is long but rewarding. Wesleyan limits the class size at 15 plus the two student leaders. It allows for a safe discussion environment and encourages everyone to share his or her viewpoints. Sid & I have been fortunate to have amazing turnouts for both classes and have had the luxury to pick and choose a diverse group of 15 Wesleyan undergraduates ranging from freshmen to seniors in each.

The purpose of this student forum was to discuss the relationship between society and its simultaneous fascination and rejection of hedonistic drug use. Society has always frowned upon drug use and has held strong to the mantra of a drug free society. Our class aimed at investigating the feasibility of this goal and we dwelled into the ethics and pragmatism associated with this view. Historically speaking, mankind has never had a drug free society and has found various uses for drugs such as recreation, medicinal purposes, spiritual experiences and an enhanced perception of reality. However, with the rise of the Western world, western value and religion, perceptions regarding the use of mind-altering substances started to change drastically. Over the last century, movements such as the hippie revolution and the War on Drugs indicate a somewhat divided perception on the volatile topic of drug use. In American society, drug use is heavily tied to the criminal underworld but it is also glorified and accepted as something that comes with fame and fortune. Thus, throughout our course, we studied drug use from a historical and sociological perspective, gained a deeper understanding of why the perceived value of drugs have changed over time, discussed the philosophical question of whether or not we have a right to choose to partake in drug use, attempted to understand the sociological and historical context of drug policies and the surrounding social movements, and tried to attain a full understanding of addiction and the cultures surrounding specific drugs. Below is the syllabus for the course. Continue reading →

History at Work and Play: Thoughts on the AA Archives Workshop

Dig AA History in Montana this Weekend

Points readers interested in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous will be interested to know that this weekend (22-25 Sept.) is the 15th Annual National AA Archives Workshop— a get-together dedicated to collecting and preserving the history of that fellowship at the local, regional, and national levels.  Points readers who are not interested in AA history should still take note of this event: the National Archives Workshops are part of a robust movement within AA to create “citizen historians” (for lack of a better term) actively engaged in the process of doing history–an example of what Rob MacDougall (late of Old is the New New) a few years back called “history at play.” Continue reading →

Points on Blogs: Understanding Society

There’s plenty of self-promoting, self-referential nonsense out there in the blogosphere.  When it came time to thinking about “Points on Blogs,” well…let’s just say that your editor did not feel this feature needed to promote the self-promoting, or add layers of nonsense to the nonsensical.  Consequently, we were very pleased to be able to bring to the Points readership the earnest inquiry of the Drugs, Law and Conflict blog and the vivid explorations of the Res Obscura blog.  Last time, I promised we’d “go drinking” in this installment, but I’ve decided to “go thinking” instead.  Our third blog is Prof. Daniel Little’s Understanding Society, and it moves away from the realm of alcohol and drugs particularly, to the broad questions that animate our investigations.  Little is a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where he is also currently university chancellor.  Here’s how he describes his intellectual orientation on the front page of Understanding Society: “I am a philosopher of social science with a strong interest in China and Southeast Asia. Right now I’m thinking about how to reformulate the philosophy of history in a way that is more closely related to the practice of contemporary historians. I think philosophers need to interact seriously and extensively with working social scientists and historians if they are going to be able to make a useful contribution.”

Crowds cheer war

Crowds cheer for war--understand them?

As for Understanding Society, calling it a blog doesn’t quite capture what Little is trying to accomplish.  The recipe for a typical academic blog mixes small amounts of extended analysis with a larger portion of timely reaction pieces, all baked together with heaping pile of whatever comes to mind at the moment.  In contrast, here’s Little’s goal, in his own words: “This site addresses a series of topics in the philosophy of social science. What is involved in “understanding society”? The blog is an experiment in thinking, one idea at a time. Look at it as a web-based, dynamic monograph on the philosophy of social science and some foundational issues about the nature of the social world.”  Indeed, one can find the entire site organized into a table of contents, or obtain the entire contents through July, 2011 in monograph form (obtained free from the site as a 1234-page[!] pdf file).

Needless to say, that’s a lot to go through.  Why should historians of drugs and alcohol care?

Continue reading →

Teaching Points: “Women and Addiction: A Feminist Perspective”– Commentary on the Class

Editor’s Note: Echoing themes sounded by guest blogger Eoin Cannon, Ohio State University Graduate Instructor Sarah Carnahan reflects on the risks–and benefits– of self-disclosure when teaching about addiction and recovery.

Guest Blogger Sarah Carnahan

This summer was my first foray into teaching an undergraduate course about women and addiction in our Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department. One of the challenges of teaching courses that lend themselves to a feminist framework is finding the balance between “the personal is political,” and the academic rigor that is required when learning what is, to most students, a new body of theory and a new mode of analysis. Compared to the other WGSST courses that I have taught, “Women and Addiction” brought new demands and opportunities in terms of self-disclosure as pedagogical, academic, and human practice.

One component of the Women and Addiction class is blogging. Continue reading →