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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Points in Public

Hello and happy new year to all our beloved readers! We want to welcome 2019 in a new and special way.

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As you probably know, the writers and contributing editors of Points are real live people, who can often be found doing exciting work in the world far beyond this website. We thought we’d start off the new year by letting you know all the places where you can catch Points writers speaking, lecturing and presenting their research over the next few months. Below is a list of where you can find us during the first half of 2019. Many of these things are based in the U.S., and most are on the east coast. But hopefully we’ll keep expanding our reach, and you can find us more nationally and internationally in the second half of the year!

If you have events you’d like us to feature related to drug and alcohol history, get in touch and we can add you to the calendar. You can reach me, managing editor Emily Dufton, directly at the email address located under the “Contact Us” tab.

Seth Blumenthal:

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 7.55.11 AMCome see contributing editor Dr. Blumenthal discuss his new book, Children of the Silent Majority: Young Voters and the Rise of the Republican Party, 1968-1980, on January 7 at 7pm in Washington, DC, at the new Politics and Prose storefront at the Wharf in Southwest. More info here.

Matt Pembleton: 

Come see Dr. Pembleton in Chicago at the American Historical Association’s meeting on January 4 at 10:30am. Pembleton will be chairing a panel titled “The New Drug History and US Foreign Policy: Perspectives and Methodologies.” More info here.

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 8.00.19 AMLater this month, come see Pembleton present an encore performance of his extremely popular Profs and Pints talk, “A Nation of Drunkards,” on January 20 at 6pm at the Bier Baron in Washington, DC. Profs and Pints is a great lecture series in the DC area that brings professors into bars and local establishments to give fun lectures on cool topics. Pembleton’s talk includes a purchasable flight of some of the very historical beverages he’ll be telling you about, from cider to whiskey to beer.

Robert Beach:

Come see Mr. Beach present two conference papers over the winter. He’ll present the first, “Comics and Cannabis: The Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and the Portrayal of Marijuana Use in American Comic Books, 1940-1950,” at the Michigan State University Comics Forum on February 23.

The second, “Intoxication and Resistance: Rethinking the American Marijuana Complex 1937-1960,” can be seen at the Eleventh Annual Graduate Conference of the Department of History, at Syracuse University on March 22.

Okay readers, we’re ready to roll into 2019 with you. Thank you, always, for your support and we look forward to bringing you lots of drug and alcohol history over the next twelve months. We wish you health, happiness, and good history in the new year!

Many Scholars Think Drug Courts Harm Policy Reform, Not Vice Versa

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Sarah Brady Siff, visiting assistant professor of journalism at Miami University in Ohio. Enjoy!

The current so-called opioid epidemic has placed an urgent frame around drug-related policy debates in Ohio. Here, the current midterm election ballot includes Issue 1, a state constitutional amendment that would convert level 4 and 5 drug felonies—charges for possession and use of drugs—into misdemeanors, somewhat like California’s Proposition 47 in 2014. Ohio would be only the sixth state to take similar measures to reduce drug-related mass incarceration.

So Issue 1 was much on the minds and lips of panelists at “Facing Opioids: Drug Enforcement & Health Policy in Today’s Epidemic,” an Oct. 19 symposium at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. The event reminded me how little I know about current events and policies related to drug control, living, as I and many other historians do, in the past. I appreciated the chance to listen to legal experts in criminal justice and public health talk about Issue 1, drug courts, harm reduction, and other topics related to Ohio’s very high rate of overdose deaths.

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Radical Temperance: Conference General Report

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Annemarie McAllister, Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Central Lancashire, and Pam Lock, a doctoral candidate and the GW4 Developing People Officer at the University of Bristol. They organized a conference on alcohol called Radical Temperance: Social Change and Drink, from Teetotalism to Dry January, held at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, England, from June 28-29, 2018. This is their general report, with more posts to come over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

The signing of the teetotal pledge on 1 September 1832 in Preston by a group of seven men, including the social reformer Joseph Livesey, was a pivotal moment in the history of the temperance movement in Britain. Preston was thus an obvious home for the first-ever conference to bring together historians, social scientists, and third sector groups concerned about support for alcohol-free lifestyles today.  The underpinning rationale for “Radical Temperance: Social change and drink, from teetotalism to dry January,” (28th-29th June, 2018), was that, just as the total abstinence movement had originally sprung from the desire of working people for radical improvement of individual lives and of society, in the twenty-first century we are once again seeing living alcohol-free as a radical, counter-cultural choice.  This had been a project in the making for over two years, the dream of Preston academic Dr Annemarie McAllister, Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), enthusiastically supported by Pam Lock, University of Bristol. At times, drawing such a varied range of delegates together did seem as impossible as the scenario of Field of Dreams (1989, P.A. Robinson). Repetition of “If we build it, they will come,” became a mantra, but to ensure that the event did succeed, considerable, real, support was provided by a team of colleagues and grants from the ADHS and Alcohol Research UK.

A diverse group of nearly sixty academics, graduate students and third-sector delegates arrived from the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Denmark, Ireland and around the UK to share research and experiences, discover connections, and explore the history and legacy of the temperance movement. The conference bags included refillable eco-friendly water bottles and snap-open fans, necessary during the hottest weather Preston had experienced for many years. The latter prompted our favourite joke of the conference from drink-studies regular, Phil Mellows who began his talk on the Newcastle project by declaring: “Nice to see so many fans in the audience.”   Continue reading →

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: