Watch 2021 “Kreminar” Videos—History of Opiates & Opioids

2021 Kreminar Social Card

In May and June of 2021, the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy and the Alcohol and Drugs History Society hosted and helped organize the second annual Edward Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy & Drugs. The Summer 2021 “Kreminar” explored the theme of Opiates & Opioids and featured six virtual seminars, presentations, and discussions by scholars and practitioners researching and writing about the history and the contemporary status of opiates, opioids, and addiction. The six presentations were:

  • Dr. Benjamin Breen: “Three Ways of Looking at Opium: Flower, Latex, Pharmaceutical.”
  • Dr. Diana S. Kim: “Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition Across Southeast Asia.”
  • Dr. Daniel Skinner in conversation with Kerri Mongenel: “The Humanity of Addiction: What We Can Learn from Families, Educators, and Practitioners”
  • Dr. Nancy Campbell and Dr. David Herzberg: “Unexpected Histories of Opioids and Overdose.”
  • Dr. James Bradford: “Poppy Politics: Drugs in Afghanistan, Past and Present.”
  • Maia Szalavitz: “Undoing Drugs: Harm Reduction, Opioids and the Future of Addiction.”

Each 2021 Kreminar event drew between 50 and 70 attendees for a total attendance of 327 people across the six webinars. The hosts and sponsors of the Summer 2021 Kreminar were: the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, and the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Cooperative for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Videos of each presentation are embedded below or available to watch on AIHP’s YouTube channel.

Presentations for the 2021 Summer Kreminar

May 13, Dr. Benjamin Breen: “Three Ways of Looking at Opium: Flower, Latex, Pharmaceutical.”

Host: Dr. Lucas Richert, George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy & Historical Director at the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy
Moderator: Jonathan S. Jones, Postdoctoral Scholar, Richards Civil War Era Center, Penn State University

Abstract: This talk investigates the changing social and medical roles of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) over the past five centuries. Though the earliest documented appearance of the opium poppy in the historical record suggests that it was first domesticated in Neolithic Europe, by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Europeans had begun to think of opium latex as an iconic drug of “the Indies.” Meanwhile, preparations of opium derived from seventeenth-century alchemical medicine, such as the opium tincture known as laudanum, were generating increasing interest and controversy among physicians and apothecaries in from London to Latin America to South Asia. By the early decades of the nineteenth century, medicines derived from Papaver somniferum had bifurcated into categories that mapped onto the imperialism of the era: on the one hand, the increasingly racialized and Orientalized opium latex; on the other, “purified” pharmaceuticals like morphine. Mapping these three ways of looking at opium—from flower, to latex, to pharmaceutical—can tell us much about the unspoken assumptions and colonial legacies that continue to shape contemporary debates about drugs.


May 20, Dr. Diana S. Kim: “Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition Across Southeast Asia.”

Hosts: Dr. Lucas Richert, UW–Madison School of Pharmacy & AIHP, and Dr. Claire Clark, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Kentucky
Moderator: Jonathan S. Jones, Penn State University

Abstract: During the late nineteenth century, opium was integral to European colonial rule in Southeast Asia. The taxation of opium was a major source of revenue for British and French colonizers, who also derived moral authority from imposing a tax on a peculiar vice of their non-European subjects. Yet between the 1890s and the 1940s, colonial states began to ban opium, upsetting the very foundations of overseas rule—how did this happen? This talk explores the history of this dramatic reversal and colonial legacies that set the stage for the region’s drug problems today.

Diana Kim challenges the conventional wisdom about opium prohibition—that it came about because doctors awoke to the dangers of drug addiction or that it was a response to moral crusaders—uncovering a more complex story deep within the colonial bureaucracy. Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence across Southeast Asia and Europe, she shows how prohibition was made possible through the pivotal contributions of seemingly weak bureaucratic officials. Comparing British and French experiences across today’s Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam, Kim explains how the everyday work of local administrators delegitimized the taxing of opium, which in turn made major anti-opium reforms possible. This talk is based on her book, Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition across Southeast Asia (Princeton University Press, 2020), which reveals more generally the inner life of colonial bureaucracy, illuminating how European rulers reconfigured their opium-entangled foundations of governance and durably shaped Southeast Asia’s political economy of illicit drugs.


May 27, Dr. Daniel Skinner in conversation with Kerri Mongenel: “The Humanity of Addiction: What We Can Learn from Families, Educators, and Practitioners”

Host: Dr. Claire Clark, University of Kentucky
Moderator: Jonathan S. Jones, Penn State University

Abstract: In this session, Kerri Mongenel, a children services caseworker, and Daniel Skinner, a health policy researcher, offer their perspectives on the changing dynamics of addiction in Ohio. Far more than a merely technical problem that could be solved by a single policy solution, Ohio’s addiction crisis is a far-reaching sociological phenomenon, with consequences for virtually every social group and institution in Ohio, including families, schools, places of employment and faith, and beyond. In this conversation, Dan and Kerri talk about their own work on the opioid crisis. Kerri will reflect on her work with children and their families, but also her own processing of her daily work. Dan, co-editor of the recent book, Not Far From Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio (Ohio State University Press, 2019), will share reflections on his work as a researcher and medical educator, including his work as a scholar of public humanities.


June 3, Dr. Nancy Campbell and Dr. David Herzberg: “Unexpected Histories of Opioids and Overdose.”

Hosts: Dr. Claire Clark, University of Kentucky and Dr. Lucas Richert, UW–Madison School of Pharmacy & AIHP
Moderator: Jonathan S. Jones, Penn State University

Abstract: Until recently, historians who studied opioids studied criminalized heroin markets and their participants. Dr. Nancy Campbell, the author of OD: Naloxone and the Politics of Overdose (MIT Press, 2020), and Dr. David Herzberg, author of White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America (University of Chicago Press, 2020), argue that we can’t understand prohibition markets unless we also understand the history of (much larger) pharmaceutical markets.  Why did certain pharmaceutical opioids, and opioid antagonists, come to matter the way they did, when they did—particularly during the social and political ferment of the early 21st century’s “opioid crisis”?  How does incorporating the story of pharmaceuticals change our understanding of the history of opioids, addiction, and overdose?


June 10, Dr. James Bradford: “Poppy Politics: Drugs in Afghanistan, Past and Present.”

Hosts: Dr. Claire Clark, University of Kentucky, and Dr. Horace Bartilow, Professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky
Moderator: Jonathan S. Jones, Penn State University

Abstract: During this talk, Dr. James Bradford will show that drugs, especially opium, were critical components in the formation and failure of the Afghan state. He will unveil how the country moved from licit supply of the global opium trade to one of the major suppliers of illicit hashish and opium. Poppies, Politics, and Power: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy (Cornell University Press, 2019) breaks the conventional modes of national histories that fail to fully encapsulate the global nature of the drug trade by explaining how Afghanistan’s emergence as a major supplier of illicit drugs is tied to broader changes to the global drug market and international drug control. Drawing from his book, Bradford’s talk will explore the global history of opium within the borders of Afghanistan, how the drug trade is tied to the formation of the Afghan state, and the future implications of drug production, trade, and use in Afghanistan and globally.


June 17, Maia Szalavitz: “Undoing Drugs: Harm Reduction, Opioids and the Future of Addiction.”

Host: Dr. Caroline Acker, Associate Professor of History Emerita at Carnegie Mellon University
Moderator: Jonathan S. Jones, Penn State University

Abstract: This Q&A about Maia Szalavitz’s forthcoming book, Undoing Drugs: The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction (Hachette Books, 2021) will explore the history of harm reduction and what it suggests about dealing with the current overdose crisis. It will examine the false narrative that now drives opioid policy and how harm reduction offers both a more accurate and a more effective way to manage drug problems.


Visit the main Kreminar homepage to explore videos from the 2020 Kreminar Series about cannabis and stay tuned for more information about the upcoming 2022 Kreminar!

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