Workshop Report: Drugs and the Politics of Consumption in Japan

Editor’s Note: This workshop report is from Dr. Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, an associate professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who recently traveled to Switzerland for the event.

A workshop entitled “Drugs and the Politics of Consumption in Japan” was held at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, from Aug. 22-24, 2019. It was organized by Dr. Judith Vitale with the help of Ulrich Brandenburg of the host institution. The workshop was impressively multinational, bringing together speakers representing universities from six countries and three continents. 

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CFP: Beyond the Medicines/Drugs Dichotomy: Historical Perspectives on Good and Evil in Pharmacy

Editor’s Note: You know you’ve always wanted to visit South Africa. Here’s your chance! Check out this CFP for an exciting conference at the University of Johannesburg this December.

Beyond the Medicines/Drugs Dichotomy: Historical Perspectives on Good and Evil in Pharmacy 

University of Johannesburg
5-7 December 2019

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The dichotomy between pharmacologically-active substances considered legitimate (and therefore worthy of regulation as medicines, and also provided as public goods) and those considered problematic (and therefore deserving of moral and legal opprobrium, prohibition and sanction) has informed global regulatory regimes for decades.  (Andy Gray, 2017)

Drug policies and ways of thinking and talking about substances and treatment approaches are changing fast, both at national and international levels. These changes reflect a growing acknowledgement of core contradictions within the legislative regimes Gray described above, crafted respectively for ‘drugs’ and ‘medicines’ from the nineteenth-century onwards. Subversions of this dichotomy have lately become more apparent in the public eye – for example, in widespread addiction to opioid painkillers; in the repurposing of pharmaceuticals for pleasure, sedation or sociability; in the scientific legitimation of previously restricted drug alkaloids for medical application. Increasing criticism of ‘war-on-drugs’ style governance, the liberalisation of cannabis laws, and the advocacy of harm reduction approaches to drug treatment are among the indications of shifting views even within governments themselves.

The organizers of this event argue that precise historical understandings of how this dichotomy has worked in practice, in multiple and very different contexts, are necessary in order to map possible alternatives and futures. To clearly identify who established and maintained classificatory boundaries, what interests lay behind their actions, how they have been challenged, and why it is only now that faith in them seems to be waning are important tasks for historians of health, medicines and modernities, and those working in related fields and disciplines.

This event at the University of Johannesburg aims to draw together those addressing the questions below in their research. We invite submissions from postgraduates, together with emerging and established scholars, and are keen to include studies from around the world, as well as those that look at international or transnational contexts.

Guiding questions:

  • What knowledge was generated to justify distinctions between medicines/drugs? By whom? How were decisions made about what evidence could be considered authoritative?
  • Which groups and/or disciplines were involved in establishing or challenging the emergence of this dichotomy and what determined their success or failure?
  • How have histories of various substances been created and deployed in justifying or disputing this dichotomy?
  • What values have driven pharmaceutical technologies and their regulation? How have ideas about ‘good’ and ‘evil’ framed scientific and political discussions?
  • How long has a shift towards a neuro-chemical society been happening and with what effects? Has it necessarily been a dehumanising process?
  • Have chronologies of commodification, lawmaking and enforcement followed similar routes in different countries or contexts?
  • How do historians recover neuro-chemical biographies, and what do these reveal about individual or collective experiences of the medicines/drugs dichotomy in practice?

The event is funded by the Wellcome Trust and is jointly organised by the Department of History at the University of Johannesburg and The Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) Glasgow through the ‘Changing Minds: Psychoactive Substances in African and Asian History’ project.

The event will take place from 5 to 7 December 2019 at the University of Johannesburg.

Call for Papers
Please submit a title, an abstract of no more than 200 words which addresses some of the above questions, along with a narrative biography of 200 words, to Caroline Marley (caroline.marley@strath.ac.uk) and Thembisa Waetjen (twaetjen@uj.ac.za) by 20 September 2019.

Applicants will be informed of the committee’s decision by 4 October 2019.

Funding
This event is made possible by the generous support of the Wellcome Trust. Some funding for travel and accommodation is available, and will be prioritised for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and early career researchers, particularly where they are located at institutions in the Global South.

Call for Papers: Entangling Histories of International Trafficking

Editor’s Note: Today we bring you a special bonus post from Dr. Ned Richardson-Little. He’s putting together a conference at the University of Erfurt in July 2020, and the call for papers is below. Hope to see you in Germany!

At the beginning of the 21st century, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime oversaw a complex network of international conventions that aimed to combat narcotics smuggling and the illicit trade in arms, and human trafficking for purposes of exploitation. Today, law enforcement organizations argue that these three fields are fundamentally linked together by transnational organized crime to support their demands for global police cooperation. At the beginning of the century however, when activists and diplomats first created prohibition regimes aimed at addressing these issues, they understood them as distinctly separate problems, each requiring radically different solutions. In the early 20th century, international drug control initially stemmed from lobbying by missionaries concerned about widespread addiction in China due to legal traffic in opium. Controls on small arms were sparked by imperial fears that unrestricted trade could destabilize colonial rule. ‘White slavery’ was seen as a radically new problem, distinct from other forms of forced labour, in which individual pimps lured European girls and women abroad to exploiting their sexual labor for profit.

This conference aims to answer the question: How did the trafficking in humans, arms and narcotics become entangled over the long 20th century – in terms of actual illicit flows of people, guns and drugs, but also in terms of public perceptions and prohibition regimes?

The conference is looking for papers that will address themes including:

– When and how were networks of trafficking between these fields actually interconnected?

– How did global events such as the World Wars, Decolonization, or the collapse of State Socialism act as catalysts for the entangled proliferation of trafficking or prohibition across these fields? What were the local effects of these macro-events?

– How did regional and global legal systems linking these fields interact with local norms and practices of law enforcement and prohibition?

– Under what circumstances have these fields been linked together or separated by different actors and institutions including civil society activists and NGOS, the media, academics, bureaucrats, politicians, police, diplomats, clergy, medical authorities and global legal frameworks?

– How have moral panics in one area been used to legitimize prohibition campaigns against other types of cross border movement and traffic?

– How have demands for and opposition against state nationalization/regulation or for liberalization and decriminalization been interconnected between these fields?

– How have ideas about race, class and gender linked these fields together?

– What role has money laundering and other forms of illicit finance acted to link these fields together both by criminalized actors and control regimes?

– How did the interconnection of these illicit flows intersect with broader economic and political trends, including globalization, free trade and neoliberalism?

Proposals are strongly encouraged to explore the links between the fields rather than focus on just one of the fields. The focus of the conference is historical, but interdisciplinary work in encouraged. Contributions from all world regions are welcome; papers that can show interconnections between regions are encouraged. Joint and collaborative proposals with multiple authors will also be accepted.

This conference is the first in a series hosted by the VolkswagenStiftung funded research project “The Other Global Germany: International Crime and Deviant Globalization in the 20th Century,” and it will be held at the University of Erfurt located in central Germany.

Please send your abstract (250-500 words) and a short academic CV until the September 30, 2019. The conference organizers are able to cover accommodation for the conference, and there is a limited budget for travel costs (with priority for grad students, the precariously employed, and those coming from institutions with limited resources).

Contact:

Ned Richardson-Little

University of Erfurt

ned.richardson-little@uni-erfurt.de

URL: https://www.hsozkult.de/event/id/termine-40996

Call for Proposals: Drug Policy Research Incubator Pleasure and Self-Regulating Drug Use

Editor’s Note: We’re double-posting today for an exciting reason. See below for a call for proposals from the Drug Policy Alliance that may be of interest to readers. Act fast – proposals are due in one month. 

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The Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of Academic Engagement is committed to improving drug policy research. Through a project called Unbounded Knowledge: Re-envisioning Drug Policy Research (UBK), we have worked with researchers over the past two years to identify gaps and opportunities in the field with the intention of fostering interdisciplinary research and improving the evidence base that informs drug policy in the U.S.

Researchers in the UBK project noted the deficiency of research in the United States on unproblematic drug use and/or drug use motivated by the desire for pleasure and recreation. One of the recommendations from that project was to examine a key factor that shapes U.S. drug research: the pervasive belief that some drugs are inherently harmful and addictive, a position that influences research questions and populations studied, as well as the outcomes that are measured.

• What might we learn from studying non-problematic, normative, or self-regulating drug use?
• What skills, knowledges, choices, and routines do non-problematic drug users employ?
• How might we capture a more representative sample of the complex diversity of people who use drugs?
• What is the role of pleasure in drug use choices?
• How is poly-drug use part of the pleasure equation?
• What other questions will help us better understand pleasure as part of non-problematic drug use?

We invite applications for researchers from all disciplines to join us for a one-day meeting to develop research projects focused on the topic of non-problematic drug use and pleasure. We envision an exciting, creative session wherein scholars from a breadth of fields come together to generate research ideas to advance our understanding in ways that could best influence policy change. Our goal is to use this session to discuss specific research proposals that will then be further developed and circulated to funders.

To apply, please submit:
•  A CV
•  An 800-word statement describing:
• Your specific research interest in this area and your background, if any, in related issues
• How your specific research interest would benefit from an interdisciplinary approach
• Any experience you have working collaboratively across disciplines

We are particularly interested in:
• Proposals that center people who use drugs and people directly impacted by the war on drugs in research design, development, and publication
• Applied projects that are policy-relevant
• Projects requiring an interdisciplinary approach
• Scholars who are willing to “think outside the box” with innovative methods to work beyond the limits of most research currently funded by the public sector

The Drug Policy Alliance will cover all associated travel and lodging costs. This meeting will be held in conjunction with (the day before) DPA’s biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference, and participants are encouraged to stay and attend the conference.

Email materials to Jules Netherland (jnetherland@drugpolicy.org) and Ingrid Walker (iwalker2@washington.edu).

Screenshot 2019-08-12 at 1.33.00 PMDeadline: September 13, 2019
Workshop: November 6, 2019 in St. Louis, MO

Conference Report – ADHS Shanghai, 12-15 June 2019

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. David A. Guba, Jr., of Bard Early College in Baltimore. He presents his conference report from the biennial ADHS conference, held last month in Shanghai. It was the meeting’s first gathering in Asia.

From the 13th through the 15th of June, nearly 100 scholars from 14 countries gathered at Shanghai University in China for the biennial conference of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, beefily titled “Changing Minds: Societies, States, the Sciences and Psychoactive Substances in History.” Jointly sponsored by the Sir Henry Welcome Trust, the David F. Musto Center for Drug Policy Studies at Shanghai University, and the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare at the University of Strathclyde, the conference marked the first meeting of the ADHS in Asia and an important next step in the organization’s ongoing efforts to globalize drugs and alcohol history. I trust I speak for all in attendance in extending sincerest gratitude to the organizers and sponsors, the staff of the New Lehu Hotel and Conference Center, and the many graduate student volunteers for putting on a great four days of stimulating conversations, fascinating presentations, and productive networking. 

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Introducing the Oxford Companion to Global Drug History

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Miriam Kingsberg Kadia , professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Today she reports on the ADHS conference held last week in Shanghai, China, and the upcoming publication of a potentially very useful new book for drug and alcohol scholars around the globe. 

In its earliest phase, the historiography of intoxicants generally focused on (inter)national attempts to bring troublesome substances under state control, particularly in western Europe and the United States. The past twenty-five years or so have witnessed the rise of the “New Drug History,” which breaks free of this legal and diplomatic history chrysalis to consider social, cultural and ideological issues pertaining to both licit and illicit substances. This New Drug History is not simply history, but rather an interdisciplinary mobilization of approaches and insights from anthropology, sociology, economics, ethnography, medicine, science and technology studies, literary studies, religious studies, and other disciplines. Recent scholars have taken up topics such as the constructed nature of “addiction,” attempts to alleviate and intervene against narcotics dependence, urban communities of users, and the significations of intoxicants in fiction, film, and the media. Illustrating the reach of narcotics into every aspect of public and private life, the diverse sources for these projects include (but are not limited to) newspapers, periodicals, statistical surveys, travel narratives, eyewitness accounts, personal testimonies, medical journals, clinical records, advertisements, photographs, and art.

Of equal importance to the making of the New Drug History is the long overdue representation of the non-West. No longer does research on Europe and the United States dominate the field. By examining Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, historians (including those born and employed in these regions) have not only brought previously unstudied drug cultures to light, but have also challenged colleagues to rethink the traditional narration of the history of intoxicants as a telos toward Western power and domination.

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Shanghai: ADHS 2019

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Yesterday, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society‘s biennial conference began in Shanghai, China, and will last until tomorrow. The theme for this year’s meeting is “Changing Minds: Societies, the Sciences and Psychoactive Substances in History.” It marks the first time ADHS has met in Asia, at Shanghai University in China, one hundred and ten years after the Opium Commission in the city that did so much to shape future control regimes, and a remarkable new chapter for our organization.

Over the last two decades or so physiological models of drug and alcohol use have claimed to provide definitive accounts of the actions of these substances on human bodies, and how they function to literally change our minds.  In much the same period ideas about certain substances, from alcohol to cannabis, have begun to fundamentally shift and with this has come political change as many consumers, scientists, doctors and policy-makers change their minds, even as others refuse to do so.  The conference stops to ask ‘haven’t we seen this all before’?

After all, experts offering definitive accounts of such substances, vacillating bureaucrats and politicians, unyielding moralists and fickle consumers are all among the figures familiar to historians from other periods and a range of places.  The conference brings together those working in the field to examine the latest research into why ideas, attitudes and approaches towards intoxication and psychoactive substances have changed in historical contexts, and why they have not.  It will also establish how far these historical understandings can provide a clearer sense of just what lies behind practices, perceptions and policies today.

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