Drug Use in the Past and Present: Points Bibliography

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen. They were formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but are now periodically featured on the Points blog. For more information, contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

Psychotropic Society: The medical and cultural history of drugs in France, 1840-1920

Author: Black, Sara Elizabeth

Abstract: “Psychotropic Society” traces the numerous ways in which the everyday consumption of psychotropic substances in the nineteenth century blurred the lines between science and stimulation, calculated therapeutic practice and chemically induced self-discovery. It focuses on opium, morphine, ether, chloroform, cocaine, and hashish—all substances used both to control pain and to produce pleasure, at a time when the boundaries between medical and recreational drug use were ill defined and permeable. Doctors, pharmacists, and the state sought to mobilize these substances to relieve pain in the birthing room and the battlefield, to restore sanity in the asylum, and to shore up their own authority over the bodies of citizens. Determining proper dosages and discovering potential side effects of these drugs are crucial chapters in the history of therapeutic progress and medical ethics, which this dissertation explores. Yet these projects were intertwined with doctors’ self-experimentation, bohemian recreational drug use, and popular fascination with the increasingly common figure of the addict. “Psychotropic Society” reveals the centrality of these varied and seemingly liminal uses of drugs to the emergence of modern French medicine and therapeutic regimens that shaped the ways in which citizens experienced the world at key moments in their lives. Drugs offered doctors and pharmacists powerful ways to legitimate their professions. It was not simply that they acted as gatekeepers to these powerful substances. Rather, medical professionals emphasized the danger and heroism of their experiments with drugs on their own bodies in the name of therapeutic progress. Psychotropic drugs were also at the center of a new claim by French citizens: the right to freedom from pain. Drugs’ widespread availability empowered patients to self-medicate, transcending the quotidian discomforts of modern life. Yet this freedom came at a high potential cost for a nation that saw itself as a collection of liberal subjects. Drugs cast into doubt the notion of the liberal self as autonomous, rational, and driven by free will. Instead, these substances revealed that self to be malleable, sometimes passive, and mediated through the body’s chemical needs and desires.

Publication year: 2016

ISBN: 9781369349757

Advisor: Smith, Bonnie

University/institution: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick


Cultivating Illegibility: Governing the Margins of Rural Marijuana Production

Author: Keene, Sara Elizabeth

Abstract: This dissertation explores how and with what effects marijuana and its subjects are governed in a rural region of northern California. I argue that in this region, the governance of marijuana is both constituted through and generative of a politics of illegibility. Although the region is home to a robust marijuana industry that contributes directly and indirectly to the local economy, public officials know little about its impacts, and considerable effort is made to ensure that the industry remains unknowable. In contrast to state projects in which the legibility of populations, practices, and places is a critical dimension of rule, the marijuana industry in rural California is constituted as an unknowable dimension of the local economy in order to preserve dominant ideologies that take marijuana to be both immoral and a source of social denigration. While the illegibility of the marijuana industry is partly an effect of its status as an informal economy, this status is reinforced if not solidified through practices of moral regulation and counter-hegemonic struggle.

Publication year: 2017

ISBN: 9781369375190

Advisor: McMichael, Philip Wolford, Wendy

Committee member: Makki, Fouad

University/institution: Cornell University

Department: Development Sociology


Ab-normal Athletes: Technomedical Productions of Gender, Sports, Fairness and Doping

Author: Olson, Cora Mae


Abstract: Doping and anti-doping research laboratories are crucial sites for the production and reproduction of gender in sports. Such labs have, over time, constructed a multiplicity of gender categories through which to view and assess doping practice, but nevertheless, they consistently work hard to reproduce binary, hegemonic sex and gender categories. As part of their reproduction of the binary, I argue that technomedical researchers police gender and negotiate ethics within their research by “ab-normalizing” athletes. Ab-normalization refers to a process, adjunct to normalization, whereby gendered and racialized categories of deviance, and the means of policing such categories, are produced. Likewise, these technomedical researchers developed means of authenticating the hormonal gender of athletes. Authentication is a form of ab-normalization that represents the kind of policing that anti-doping researchers perform. It refers to the technomedical processes that produce and legitimate these hormonal gender states. In order for technomedical researchers to do this work, they have had to negotiate ethical quandaries across different spaces. Such ethical negotiations have played an important role in shaping the direction, and thus gender possibilities, within this research. Specifically, I show how technomedical researchers often shifted ethical frames while performing their research, from a sports ethical frame to either an athletic performance research ethical frame or an anti-doping research ethical frame. The first of these is premised on notions of “fair play” while the second is guided by technomedical uncertainties regarding athletic performance and doping practices. The third ethical frame reconciles these two by producing “fair play” amongst competitors through the development of technomedical detection techniques that either catch or deter cheating athletes. This shifting of ethical frames highlights how these researchers were performing legitimate scientific research at the time and not the “immoral,” ethically dubious, research as it might appear to be from our current perspective. To clarify my theoretical points on gender and ethics, I draw upon two cases. The first case deals with blood doping, which requires the withdrawal and subsequent re-infusion of blood into an athlete. The second case examines endogenous steroid use, particularly, androgenic anabolic “naturally” occurring steroids. These hormones aid in muscle production and recovery. Blood doping and endogenous steroid use are two key practices of sports doping. By deconstructing the science surrounding these two practices, I offer an alternative account of the doping debates from the more familiar accounts that explain the doping debates as a “cat and mouse game” between anti-doping researchers and athletes within which “doping” is often presented as a straightforward immoral act for the athletes. By telling the story of how these technomedical researchers simultaneously produced gender categories, ethical categories, and technomedical processes, my alternative account positions these doping debates as competing, socio-historical, articulations of “fairness” bound to competing articulations of gender. I suggest that it is possible to re-imagine “fairness” from this alternative account. Specifically, we can imagine more equitable ways to allow the individuals that do not fit neatly into the binary gender system to compete “fairly” in sports.

Publication year: 2014


ISBN: 9781369758900

Advisor: Halfon, Saul E.

Committee members: Downey, Gary; Fuhrman, Ellsworth; Kilkelly, Ann

University/institution: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Department: Science and Technology in Society