Over the past week, we here at Points continued our Courtwright Symposium, offering readers a series of responses to David Courtwright’s reflections on history, historians, and addiction. We were lucky enough to get incisive commentary from three excellent contributors whose writings will help us better frame the series’ finale this coming week.
Monday: We began the week with a commentary from Points Contributing Editor Nancy Campbell, who spoke about the high stakes dogging present conversations between addiction researchers and historians of addiction. Nancy explains, undertandably, that if we can’t resolve certain intellectual schisms, “we might miss the intellectual opportunities now available.”
Tuesday: Alex Mold is a Lecturer in History at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and she was kind enough to offer his own thoughts on David Courtwright’s piece. He discusses the importance of historians engaging with the present contemporary science of addiction without ‘going native’ (ie., becoming social scientists). Alex explains that historians must “take on the recent developments within addiction science but at the same time maintain a sense of critical distance.”
Thursday: Late in the week, we heard from Professor of Anthropology at Clarkson University, Daniel Bradburd. Daniel explained that drug and alcohol history, as a field of study, “provides a base of very useful knowledge for those examining the use of drugs and/or of addiction in other disciplines.” It is not that he believes Courtwright has all of the issues resolved, of course, but he agrees that it would be nice if, “years down the road, historians will look at our tempests and put them into context.”
Saturday: On Saturday, we published our weekly Weekend Reads column, in which we looked at the language of alcoholism that has surrounded the death of former child actor and Canadian television icon Neil Hope. Interrogating the coverage of Hope’s death, we asked a central question: Must alcoholism play a central role in discussing the early death of a known alcoholic, or should we be more sensitive to the idea that alcohol may be merely habitual and might play little or no role in an uncharacteristically early death?