Teaching Points– Matt Crawford Comments on “History of Drugs in the Modern World”

 Editor’s Note: Today, historian of early modern drugs Matt Crawford reflects on his seminar “The History of Drugs in the Modern World,” the syllabus of which inaugurated this fall’s “Teaching Points” series.  In his commentary today, he discusses the abiding aims of the class as well as what he changed from its first iteration– the syllabus of which was posted yesterday– to its second.  That syllabus is available in full right here.

“Mexico is a failed state and the United States should invade it,” exclaimed a student in my “History of Drugs in the Modern World” course. His impassioned statement was in response to other students’ critiques of the United States’ policy on drug trafficking in Latin America—a  part of our discussion of Paul Gootenburg’s book Andean Cocaine(2008). Even if it was one of the more contentious moments that semester, I took this exchange as evidence that the course had achieved one of its goals: to provoke engaged (and informed) discussion about the course material.

Matt Crawford (left) Sparks Engaged and Informed Discussion

One advantage of teaching the history of drugs is the intrinsic interest that students have in the topic. Many of them also come to class with strong feelings and pre-conceptions regarding drugs, drug use and drug regulation. Consequently, while it is a topic that works well in a primarily discussion-based course, one of the challenges can be encouraging students to recognize and grapple with perspectives and historical narratives that don’t always fit with common and deeply held beliefs about drugs in our culture.

Course Design
I begin the course by asking the students to name some drugs and then ask a deceptively simple question: What is a drug?

This exercise serves two functions. It helps to assess their thinking about drugs, while setting the tone of the course as a serious intellectual endeavor. One of the central goals in the course is to encourage students to understand drugs as substances whose properties are defined as much by the societies and cultures in which they exist as by their chemical composition and physiological effects. In addition, I ask students to consider how the ways in which individuals, societies, and states use or regulate drugs depends on how they understand and define those substances. Finally, I use several of the course readings to highlight the forms of social and cultural regulation of drug use beyond the legal regulations of states, with which students are most familiar.

In the first iteration of my “History of Drugs in the Modern World” in Spring 2010, the course organization was fairly straightforward and focused on five drugs: tobacco, opium, cocaine, Taxol (a cancer drug), and Viagra. Three main principles informed the selection of these cases.

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Teaching Points– A History of Drugs in the Modern World

Editor’s Note: Continuing in a great year-old tradition, Points kicks off this back to school season as we did last year, with a celebration of drug and alcohol pedagogy from various fields.  Over the next five weeks, the “Teaching Points” series will present the syllabi from relevant classes in history, criminology, international relations, economics and behavioral sciences.  The day after the syllabus appears, the instructor will offer a “Comment on the Class” that discusses their highs (as it were) and lows, their middles and muddles.  Our first foray in the series comes from Matthew Crawford, Department of History at Kent State, whom some Points readers may know from his superb stint as a guest blogger last winter.  We’ve positioned him first in the series because of the modest scope and ambition of his senior history elective “A History of Drugs in the Modern World.”

Course Description and Objectives
What is a “drug”? How are they discovered and produced? Why and how do some drugs get distributed widely and others do not?  Why do societies and states regulate the distribution of some drugs and not others?  These are some of the central questions that this course seeks to answer.  We will employ a comparative and historical approach to examine the ways in which societies identify, develop, produce, consume and regulate (or not) various pharmacological substances.  Course readings will cover a range historical case studies of primarily plant-based drugs from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America.  One of the main features and forces of world history since 1500 has been globalization.  As a result, we will pay special attention to what happens when drugs move across political, social, economic, and cultural boundaries. Possible case studies to be covered include: kola, coffee, tobacco, cocaine, opium, quinine, anti-cancer drugs and contraceptives.  Members of the course will do a short project on a drug of their choice in order to sharpen their skills at exploring the history of modern societies and cultures through material objects.

Our objectives for the course include:
• Be able to describe and discuss major trends in the history of drugs in the early modern and modern periods (c. 1500 to the present)
• Understand the use of material culture and objects in historical understanding of the modern world and its development
• Learn how to identify, evaluate and compare different historical accounts of drugs, their development and their regulation
• Learn how to analyze primary sources and relate them to their historical context
• Learn how to synthesize information from primary and secondary sources into a coherent historical narrative and how to use evidence to support a historical interpretation or argument

Transnational, Transtemporal

Course Readings
Required Readings
Brandt, Allan M. The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America. New York: Basic Books, 2007.

Dikötter, Frank, Lars Laamann, and Zhou Xun. Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Goodman, Jordan and Vivian Walsh. The Story of Taxol: Nature and Politics in the Pursuit of an Anti-Cancer Drug. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Gootenberg, Paul. Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Reidy, James. Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman. New York: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005.

Additional readings or links to reading may be posted on our course website on Blackboard.  You MUST bring a copy of these readings to class.

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Feminism and Addiction– An Interview with Barabara Epstein

Editor’s Note:  In a post last spring, I laid out my interest in trying to locate feminist responses to alcohol and drug problems within the women’s liberation movement of the late 1960s-early ‘70s.  Comments of and off the blog suggested that in fact there was an obvious connection between 2nd wave feminism and drugs and alcohol, and it lay in the history of what one interlocutor called “Prohibition feminism.” The correlation seemed commonsensical to me too, until I thought “wait a minute—did people even think about the temperance movement as feminist in the 1960s and ‘70s?” To get at that question, I decided to consult UC Santa Cruz’s Barbara Epstein, whose 1981 book The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in 19th-Century America, is the first extended published treatment of women’s organizing against alcohol.  (I say “published” since it should be noted that sociologist Joseph Gusfield wrote a history of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union for his 1954 dissertation at the University of Chicago.  [Why gender plays so small a role in his landmark book Symbolic Crusade, discussed below, is a question worth pondering.]) Our conversation sheds interesting light on the moment in which temperance got tagged as a feminist issue—and on the reasons why 19th-century feminism’s anti-drunkenness stance did not translate into a similarly coherent or forceful anti-drug abuse position among Second Wave feminists.

What’s the origin story of The Politics of Domesticity? How did that book come into being?

Barbara Epstein

I did my PhD in the History Department at UC Berkeley in the early 1970s.  I had taken a seminar on US Colonial history in which I wrote a research paper on the role of women in the Great Awakening; I was interested in social movements and in women’s history and this seemed to be a way of addressing both.  My graduate advisor, Lawrence Levine, always encouraged whatever his students wanted to do, and he was a feminist before the emergence of feminism.  So he suggested that I write my dissertation on this topic.  I followed his advice, more out of a sense of bewilderment at being in academia at all than out of conscious choice.  When I turned my dissertation into a book—for the usual reason, so as to keep my job (by that time I was already teaching at UCSC)— I extended it into the women’s temperance movement, which I actually found more interesting than the Great Awakening, which, by that time, I was thoroughly sick of.  But at least it turned into a study of an early women’s movement.

And that’s how I always saw this work: as a little corner of women’s history and social movement history.  I knew Harry Levine and other people who worked at the Social Research Group [ed: originally the California Study on Drinking Practices, fd. 1959; later the Alcohol Research Group]but I never had a sense that “alcohol studies” was a field, and I never thought I was doing work on the history of alcohol or public policy.

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Olympics, Doping, Genes, and Other Inconsistencies in “Performance Enhancement” and Sport– Part II

Editor’s Note: Building on yesterday’s post, guest blogger Ross Aikins goes deeper into the strange world of performance enhancement.

Just last week, both NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger and Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden tested positive for using Adderall without a prescription.  But with the world caught in a pandemic of Olympic fever, our collective doping suspicions were too transfixed on Chinese swimming sensation Ye Shiwen to notice [1]. Yesterday’s post began to ask why—with so many substances, technologies, and rituals that purport to enhance performance in various occupations all over the world—are we so concerned about athletics?

Enhanced? You tell me.

For example, would anybody really care if Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point while taking Concerta illicitly, or if we found out that the rhetorical clout of Noam Chomsky was aided by decades of beta-blocker use during public debates?  To cite a few actual historical examples, the accomplishments of Jack Kerouac, Watson and Crick, and half of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame aren’t invalidated despite the assistance of illicit substances.

This is another strange facet of sports: fairness is paramount, testing is objective, cheating is unfair, but the exemptions that allow athletes to take certain performance enhancing substances are both subjective and subject to change.

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Olympics, Doping, Genes, and Other Inconsistencies in “Performance Enhancement” and Sport

Editor’s Note: Today and tomorrow, Points “rips from the headlines” to look at doping– Olympic and otherwise– as part of drug history.  Guest blogging for us in these pieces is Ross Aikins, a self-proclaimed sports-nerd, journalist, teacher, and postdoctoral fellow at the National Development and Research Institutes in New York City.  A recent PhD from UCLA’s School of Education, Ross principally studies enhancement drug use in society, substance use issues among military veteran and college student populations, and other education and health related issues. He blogs at www.yourblogondrugs.com; this is his first article for Points.

The Mandarin Mermaid

Two weeks ago the sports media landscape buzzed with suspicions about the dominating performance of 16 year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen.  There shouldn’t be anything controversial about this.  After all, competing at the limits of human performance and shattering world records is what virtually all Olympians aspire to and train their whole lives to accomplish. But when we talk about “suspicion” in sport we’re usually talking about doping.  Olympic athletes are the most tested humans in all of sport, and to date there is no evidence to suggest Ye ever used a banned substance.

Much of the faux-controversy may stem from the fact that the freestyle leg of Ye’s 200 IM was faster than that of men’s gold medalist and world record holder Ryan Lochte.  Or, in the 400 IM, Ye dropped the world record by nearly a whole second.  But are these feats really any less credible than the perennial dominance of, for example, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who seems to regularly set world records while celebrating mid-race? And is our collective speculation over alleged athletic performance enhancement any less warranted than, say, allegations that the man who announces these feats– NBC Sports’ eternally cherubic Bob Costas– may be cosmetically enhanced?

This is where sport, and sports culture are unfairly inconsistent, despite the premium that we—the sports consuming public—place on fairness in competition.  This pair of blog posts are about a lot of things, but mostly they are about the past, present, and future of both objectivity and subjectivity in sports and sports medicine.

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Introduction to Methadone

Editor’s Note: Today we welcome a new guest blogger, “Grey Ryder”– the pen name of an attorney and methadone patient whose blog at aboutmethadone.org discusses methadone treatment and policy.  In a three part series over the next weeks, he’ll introduce the history of methadone treatment, its clinical rationales, and recent attacks on it by conservative …

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Taverns, locals and street corners: Cross-chronological studies in community drinking, regulation and public space

Editor’s Note: Today brings the first in a series of postings on The Taverns Project, a  pilot study of Connected Communities sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). Participant David Rosenthal, of the Architecture and Civil Engineering Department, University of Bath, describes the overall aims of the cross-disciplinary, multi-national, and transhistorical project; later posts from participants Fabrizio Nevola (Bath), Jane Milling (University of Exeter), and Antonia Layard (University of Cardiff) will report on work in progress and conjecture about future avenues for research.

The “Taverns, Locals, and Street Corners” project began with the idea that the ‘public’ places in which people drink play an important role in the theatre of urban life – they are socially, morally and sometimes politically charged spaces.

Public Drinking

It’s hardly a new or radical insight, but it is a useful one, a basis from which to launch questions about continuity and change. How has the culture of public drinking and the social significance of taverns/pubs transformed in Europe in the past 500 or so years? On the other hand, what parallels can be teased out between the early modern period and the present?

Our aim isn’t to offer any kind of comprehensive history of public drinking. This is a short, ‘pilot’ project, funded by the UK’s Art and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities program. We look at three specific case studies, 16th-century Florence, London in the 18th century; and Bristol today. The way the project is structured means that these are dealt with consecutively. At present, we are in Renaissance Florence, the Enlightenment London part of the project begins in October, and Bristol takes us from February to April next year. This first, brief blog is designed simply to set out the main questions and themes of the research – later blogs will address our findings in detail.

The Carnivalesque

What interests us are the urban spaces, associations, networks and indeed communities that are shaped by tavern-going – whether it’s an osteria in an alley in the centre of Florence in the 1550s or a pub in central Bristol in 2012.

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Lessons of the Narcotic Farm, Part Five: Matrix House, continued

From the outset of the Matrix House treatment program, there were concerns among non-medical staff at Lexington that neither Dr. Conrad nor Wildes appreciated the explosive nature of allowing addicts free reign within a building isolated from the rest of society. Before long there were also signs that something was amiss inside Matrix. In my interview with Dr. Jack Croughan, Matrix’s attending physician and the only person other than Dr. Conrad with a key to the Matrix building, recalled meeting a young woman inside Matrix whose withdrawn behavior struck him as odd, particularly given the generally upbeat feel of the place — which he described as “slightly hypomanic.” But with no evidence of wrongdoing – and the denials of the woman that anything was wrong – he voiced no concerns.

Matrix House residents enjoy a little posed quiet time on the front porch.

Some months after that incident, Matrix was shut down in dramatic fashion by the FBI amid allegations that members were being tortured and that bombs were being assembled in the basement. The bombs – it was initially reported – were part of a plot to overthrow the federal government. This turned out to be false; the group was in fact building pyrotechnics for a musical theater production they were intending on presenting later that year.

In April of 1973, however, Jon Wildes appeared in federal court in downtown Lexington to face weapons charges.

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