Many scholars of drugs and alcohol that are engaged in comparative work within plural linguistic environments are already aware of the problems of translation. The encounter with compilations of mistranslated signs and slogans that many of us may have had in our first language courses have constituted some of our earliest brushes with the pitfalls of translation. (E.g.: Bangkok Dry Cleaner’s sign: “Drop your trousers here for best results” or an earlier version of KFC’s “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan—“Eat your fingers off” 吃掉你的手指头.) Translation, it seems, can be dangerous.
As the new managing editor of Points, it’s high time I introduced myself. For my lateness, I could offer some familiar academic excuses, but I have one that’s better: thanks mainly to work done by Trysh Travis and others, the blog has been filled with excellent essays in the new year, led by the wonderful symposium on the fortieth anniversary of David Musto’s The American Disease that was organized by Nancy Campbell. Reading those posts as they arrived was an especially useful way for me to start my tenure. They illustrated the development of drug history in the lived, personal pathways that are usually invisible to late-comers and onlookers. In doing so they put on display one of the best and most necessary things about Points: its role as a window into – and often, as a medium for – the multi-layered nature of knowledge production. Ideas in development, reflections on method, forays across disciplinary borders and, as in the symposium, retrospection – together these various kinds of posts constitute a fuller and more open account of how academic thought takes shape. But this is just one way of thinking about Points. One of my goals is to facilitate an open conversation about what the blog can and should do.