Some light reading for the Alpen retreat. See Houghton Library for more on the book’s provenance.
An American “hygienic physiology” textbook of 1888 subtitled “with special reference to the use of alcoholic drinks and narcotics.” Adolf Hitler’s copy of Kokain, a German translation of Cocaina, the 1921 narco-novel written by Dino Segre under his pseudonym Pitigrilli. A 1973 “psychedelic guide to preparation of the Eucharist in a few of its many guises” published in Austin, Texas, combining spiritual and biochemical instructions in the use of mescaline and other hallucinogens.
These items suggest the breadth of the more than 50,000 pieces in the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection, now stored at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. The bulk of the collection focuses on the production, use, representation, and study of drugs. Santo Domingo (1958–2009) was an investment advisor who became a full-time collector, acquiring material from 19th-century French literature to 21st -century comics. His family placed his collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, audio materials, and films on long-term deposit at Harvard last year.
This year the librarians combing through the collection have been displaying intriguing discoveries on Houghton’s Modern Books and Manuscripts blog. In coming weeks, Points will be cross-posting a number of such entries, as part of an occasional series highlighting recent acquisitions, discoveries, and announcements in various archives.
Houghton librarians emphasized that the Santo Domingo collection enriches and greatly expands Harvard’s holdings on psychoactive drugs and their physical and social effects—from cultivation and synthesis to the myriad cultural and counter-cultural products linked to altered states of mind.
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Editor’s Note: Authors Peter Ferentzy and Nigel E. Turner describe their new book, The History of Problem Gambling: Temperance, Substance Abuse, Medicine, and Metaphors (Springer, 2012) in today’s Points interview.
1. Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.
NT & PF: Our book examines how the idea of gambling as a disease came into existence and how that concept changed over time. We point out two current disease models – the public health and the chronic disease model – and explore their roots. We also explore the metaphoric utilities of these models, examining what these metaphors both can reveal and can hide about the concept. The idea that metaphors reveal and hide information is important. It is not always recognized that how one categorizes a phenomenon affects how it is understood. This is true for all categorization but perhaps more so for mental health phenomena. Viewing gambling problems as a chronic disease harbors the implication that the disorder is difficult to overcome, that it is not the person’s fault, and that it obligates lifelong abstinence for those who are vulnerable as the only viable approach to the disorder. If on the other hand we view gambling as a public health problem the focus shifts to the game and the administration of gambling, rather than the gambler. Now, issues relating to the game’s availability, its design, and the role of public health policy in addressing the problem rise in salience. The public health perspective shifts attention to prevention and self-control, rather than abstinence per se. Our book discusses how both models also hide facts about the disorder. It’s important to be aware of the metaphors one is using and not mistake metaphors for literal truths. Otherwise they can become a mental trap preventing one from understanding the reality of the phenomenon. We examine how metaphors associated with problem gambling have changed over time.
2. What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?
NT: The book brings together a number of ideas from disciplines that have not interacted very much in the past. Continue reading →
If, like me, you’ve spent the past several years studying the history of addiction treatment, then you might know why I can’t look at beachy treatment ads—they tend to resemble the image below— without thinking about the work of William L. White, the prolific addiction professional and historian.
Addiction Ends in Malibu?
White’s book, Slaying the Dragon, is a canonical text on the history of addiction treatment in the United States. While Slaying was written to give addiction professionals a sense of their own history, the book is also an essential starting point for any scholar who first approaches the subject. Early on, White describes the “rise and fall of inebriate homes and asylums.” At the turn of the twentieth century, White writes, “a national network of addiction treatment programs was born, was professionalized, and then disappeared—all within the span of a few decades.” In his analysis of the dissolution of the early addiction treatment industry, White finds parallels with the precarious position of treatment providers today: a motley of institutional models for addiction treatment, conflicting professional interpretations regarding the nature of addiction, and unreliable political support.
One parallel is evident in contemporary treatment ads. While a combination of forces led to the decline of treatment centers a little less than a century ago, one of the most salient factors, it seems to me, was the economics of Gilded Age addiction treatment. Despite significant changes in theories of addiction, drug policy, and treatment trends over the course of the last century, the pitch for ritzy, private treatment centers has remained remarkably faithful to its early rhetoric.
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SAGE Reference is seeking authors for some of the 550 entries in a new work entitled Alcohol: Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives, which seeks to go beyond the United States and beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to examine alcohol as a cultural and social phenomenon dating to the earliest days of humankind. This comprehensive project, edited by Scott C. Martin of Bowling Green State University, will be marketed to academic and public libraries as a printed book and as a digital product available to students via the library’s electronic services. Assignments are being made with a deadline of August 16, 2013. For a list of available articles and submission guidelines, contact Joseph Golson at firstname.lastname@example.org, providing your CV or a brief summary of your academic/publishing credentials in related disciplines.
CCTV interview prior to execution. Caption: “Their pain (referring to the mothers of the dead bargemen) is the same as mine.”
On February 28, 2013, the People’s Republic of China executed the Myanmese (Burmese) drug trafficker, Naw Kham (Ch. Nuo Kang 糯康, Th. Jai Norkham), and three associates for the 2011 murder of thirteen Chinese boatmen. What was notable about this particular capital case was the preceding live broadcast where cameras followed Naw Kham in his last hours until moments before his execution by lethal injection.
Xinmin.cn 湄公河惨案主犯糯康等四人在云南执行死刑 March 1, 2013
The state media CCTV footage, excerpts of which are available online, can seem slightly surreal. A little before his execution, the prisoner is shown in what looks like an office waiting room surrounded by fruit and snacks as if he were a guest. However, he is shown seated, facing what seems to be a large pink vomit bucket—an aberrant reminder of his impending fate. In the aftermath of the broadcasts, several human rights organizations as well as Chinese netizens criticized the state’s handling of this execution.
Although the human rights and capital punishment aspects of this case have been the objects of critical scrutiny, the international relations and substance policy issues have received far less attention in the media. The execution of four foreign traffickers, as well as the unprecedented multinational manhunt leading up to their arrest arguably represents the culmination of a ramped up Chinese war on drugs that is being waged domestically and, increasingly, internationally.
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Editor’s note: Points welcomes Todd Meyers, a medical anthropologist at Wayne State University, to discuss his new book, The Clinic and Elsewhere: Addiction, Adolescents, and the Afterlife of Therapy (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013).
1. Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.
The book tells the story of a small group of teenagers (some quite young) who abuse opiates (heroin, prescription painkillers) as well as other drugs, and what drug dependency treatment was like for them. I met most of them during their time at a residential drug treatment center in Baltimore – a treatment center that, oddly enough, was once a monastery. I was fool enough to attempt following them around for long periods of time to gain an appreciation of how addiction and treatment took shape in their lives – how these two “modes” (drug dependency and its treatment) blur in unexpected ways. And that’s really one of the key arguments of the book – that clinical activities and thought reach into this thing we call “the social” and vice versa, thus the title of the book, The Clinic and Elsewhere. All of the kids I followed were treated with a relatively new pharmaceutical therapy (buprenorphine) for withdrawal and replacement therapy, and I followed that treatment process through their time in residential care and back into their homes or other institutional environments. The book is simultaneously about the new pharmaceutical therapy itself – tracing its development and approval as a new treatment modality. The book is a bit theoretical (what are the experiential dimensions of therapeutics? of patienthood? of success and failure of medical intervention? of concern? etc.) and a bit straight storytelling (that is to say, it’s ethnographic, through I’m becoming less and less satisfied with the salience of ethnography as both the technology and product of fieldwork). I attempted, at times clumsily, to make sense of treatment and addiction alongside these kids and their families as they themselves struggled with its meaning.
That’s probably what I’d say. But in full disclosure, the last time I had a conversation with a bartender it began with hearing how he makes his own bitters from plants in his hydroponic garden and ended with him describing his thesis project (something about lactose fermentation and legal aspects of local food production), so I don’t think the book would be much of a stretch. In fact, that’s part of my effort – to present work in conceptual terms that is not completely foreign to a broad readership (though not to water things down by any means, keeping with the bartender analogy) – and at the same time I have tried to write against the anticipated trope of marginality. That last part is probably the hardest to convey convincingly. The book is not a series of reworked scenes from The Wire but instead attempts to demonstrate the slow, at times banal, at other times brutal ways in which both addiction and treatment take hold within the domain of individual experience (contrasting a perspective where treatment neutralizes addiction uniformly, or that the experience of treatment is largely unvaried). Continue reading →
Celebratory drinking has fueled Fourth of July festivity from its inception in the years following 1776, when double rum-rations for the troops, endless toasts at formal dinners, and makeshift booze-stalls at public gatherings became norms. And it was not long before high-minded patriots began to worry over the excesses of republican revelry. Before the Fourth of July oration itself became well established, there emerged within and alongside it a recognizable (if unnamed) theme in Independence Day rhetoric: the identification of that very day’s public drunkenness with whatever was ailing the republic.
All was not well in 1837.
Over the years, Independence Day jeremiads have taken numerous forms, from grim warnings about public health and morals, to wry satire of overzealous exceptionalism, to the ferocious indictment of national shortcomings. Many have focused on intoxication as the essential expression of decay, of hypocrisy, even of delusion.
Complaints begin with the sheer recklessness of the traditional program of events. Continue reading →