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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Call for Papers: Alcohol and Drug History Society 2019 Conference

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Baoshan Campus of Shanghai University
12-15 June 2019

The 2019 Alcohol and Drugs in History Society conference takes its cue from recent shifts in attitudes towards, and understandings of, intoxicants and psychoactive substances to explore the drivers of change throughout history in ideas about, and actions on, such materials.

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.

Where and When:
For the first time the ADHS will host its conference in Asia, at the Baoshan Campus of 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. The event will also mark the centenary of the Treaty of Versailles which saw the establishment of the first permanent international mechanisms for monitoring and making policy on psychoactive and intoxicating substances at the new League of Nations. The David F. Musto Center for Drugs and National Security Studies at Shanghai University, in partnership with the ADHS and the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) Glasgow at the University of Strathclyde, looks forward to welcoming all those conducting research on any aspects of the consumption or control of alcohol or drugs in the past, anywhere in the world.

The event will take place between 12 and 15 June 2019.

Call for Papers
For individual papers please submit a one-page cv, a title and an abstract of no more than 200 words.

For panel proposals please provide a panel title and a list of four participants, together with a one-page cv, a title and an abstract of no more than 200 words for each participant.

The deadline for proposals is Monday, 5 November 2018.

These should be submitted to caroline.marley@strath.ac.uk

Contact Info:

Dr. Robert P. Stephens
Associate Professor of History
Virginia Tech
431 Major Williams Hall (0117)
220 Stanger Street
Blacksburg, VA  24061

Contact Email:

Exciting Updates: SHAD and the University of Chicago Press, the 2019 ADHS Conference, and more!

The Alcohol and Drugs History Society (ADHS) has a lot of exciting news to reveal these days.

First of all, the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (or SHAD), the official journal of ADHS, has three new co-editors. We’re so pleased to welcome this esteemed and worthy trio!

Second, the co-editors of SHAD just signed a five-year agreement with the University of Chicago Press, beginning with the 2019 volume of the journal. ADHS President Dr. Timothy Hickman celebrated the news in an email, stating that “this is a fantastic deal for the society.  Of greatest interest to those of you who have published in the journal or are considering it, our reach will grow dramatically.  We will be bundled in with other U. of Chicago journals and will be part of their institutional subscription package.  That means we will become available in hundreds of libraries and research institutes all over the world where we had no presence before.

“It also means that the entire run of the journal will be easily available electronically and that the submission and review process will be brought up to date.  Submission will be centralized, and reviews assigned via an on-line submission system.  The new system will push the journal to an entirely new level, which I hope will encourage even more of you to submit.  The society will also benefit from a very lucrative financial arrangement with the press.

“We will also be able to bring our membership and subscription practices up to date.  The U. of Chicago Press will manage subscriptions, so please watch out for a renewal e-mail from them in the future.”

But that’s not all! Things just seem to be getting more exciting for ADHS: our 2019 conference will take us to Shanghai!

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Conference Summary: “I’ve Been to Dwight,” July 14-18, 2016, Dwight, IL

Editor’s Note: This conference summary is brought to you by David Korostyshevsky, a doctoral student in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Minnesota. He traveled to Dwight, Illinois, in mid-July to attend the ADHS off-year “I’ve Been to Dwight” conference, and has provided this account of his time there. Thanks David!

On July 14-18, 2016, a group of international alcohol and drug historians descended upon the village of Dwight, Illinois, for an ADHS off-year conference. Conference organizers selected Dwight because 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Keeley Institute.

Founded by Leslie E. Keeley in 1879 (and operating until 1966), the Keeley Institute offered treatment options to patients with addiction, usually alcoholism, including Keeley’s Gold Cure. “I’ve Been to Dwight,” the conference title, references “a catchphrase” former Keeley Institute patients “used to explain their sobriety.”

Keeley

To make it easier to read, this summary is organized thematically. You can see the full conference program here.

I live-tweeted the conference as @rndmhistorian under the hashtag #IBTD16. Also, Janet Olson, volunteer archivist at the Frances Willard Historical Association wrote a blog post about the conference.

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Conference Wrap-Up: Borders, Boundaries & Contexts

Editor’s Note: Today three of our contributing editors – Michelle McClellan, Adam Rathge and Sarah Siff – present their thoughts on the recent international conference of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, which was held from June 18 to 21 at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. This year’s theme was “Borders, Boundaries and Contexts: Defining Spaces in the History of Alcohol & Drugs.” Enjoy!

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Dispatches from London: “Under Control?” Conference

This past weekend alcohol and drug scholars across the globe descended upon London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to learn from each other about what they know best, alcohol and drugs.  The interdisciplinary conference does much to encourage scholarship across lines of disciplinary specializations, but also, the nation-state.  Below please find assorted notes from my time abroad:

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Perhaps most noted for his work Andean Cocaine, Paul Gootenberg gave a keynote speech addressing the concept of blowback.  Entitled “Controlling Cocaine?  1900-2000,” Gootenberg began with what might be considered an obvious truth for drug historians—that is, that if read from an historical perspective, the term “drug control” is an oxymoron.  Throughout the 20th century, drug control often perpetuates the antithesis of control.  Drug control efforts by the United States have bred more chaos, more illicit trade, more use, and worst of all, more violence.  In supporting his claim, Gootenberg examined the ways in which United States efforts to control the global supply of cocaine produced various unintended consequences.

Originally an economic historian by trade, Gootenberg makes good use of global commodity chains to explain the story of cocaine and attempts at its control.  In framing the long history of cocaine commodity chains and blowback, Gootenberg broke down the century into several distinct phases, each with specific unintended consequences.  In the first forty years of the 20th century, particularly after 1914, the United States attempted to push anti-cocaine measures onto the international agenda.  During this period, Andean trafficking in cocaine remained relatively benign, marginal, and nonviolent.  Between 1948 and 1973, cocaine came to be increasingly criminalized as illicit networks began to shift outward from the Andean region in response to FBN attempts to crush production in the region.  A pivotal moment in cocaine commodity chain development passed in 1960 when traffickers were exiled under the Cuban Revolution.  These exiled traffickers quickly became a Pan-American Network of traffickers, thereby expanding the commodity network for cocaine traffic.  Still though, Gootenberg carefully noted, the trade remained small and fairly peaceful through 1970.  Continue reading →