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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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: