Points Interview— “Theorizing Alcoholic Drinks in Ancient India: The Complex Case of Maireya” with James McHugh

Editor’s Note: This is the second Points interview with authors from the latest issue of ADHS’s journal Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (vol. 35, no. 1; Spring 2021), published by the University of Chicago Press. Today we feature Dr. James McHugh, an Associate Professor in the School of Religion at the University of Southern California You can see his article here. Contact the University of Chicago Press to subscribe to the journal or request access to this article or any other article from SHAD’s history. 

Article Abstract

An alcoholic drink called maireya is prominent in ancient texts from South Asia and features prominently in Buddhist law on alcohol. The article considers what we can say about the chronology, the nature, and the cultural significance of maireya. Maireya became prominent several centuries BCE, maintaining this high profile until the early first millennium CE. It was theorized to be made with an innately flexible formula with a secondary fermentation. Maireya is presented as a drink of social distinction. Flexible and based on sugars, maireya was an ideal drink to pair with the cereal-based drink called surā in Buddhist law, which reflects both the tastes and theories of this early period.

Tell readers a little about yourself

I’m based in LA, as an associate professor at the University of Southern California. I research and teach various topics connected to the cultures and religions of premodern South Asia, mostly using written sources in Sanskrit and related languages. I tend to be interested in subjects involving the manipulation and consumption of what were deemed significant substances—such as aromatics like camphor or drugs and alcoholic drinks. My first book, Sandalwood and Carrion: Smell in Indian Religion and Culture, was a wide-ranging history of the sense of smell, perfumery, and the use of aromatics in India. More recently, I have been doing a big project on alcohol, which also got me interested in some of the things we call drugs today.

SHAD Interview James McHugh Title Card
James McHugh with his homegrown Turkish tobacco. Image courtesy of James McHugh.

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Points Video Interview—Yan Liu, Healing With Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to feature the first Points Video Interview today! SHAD co-Editor Dr. David Herzberg interviews Dr. Yan Liu about his new book, Healing With Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China.

Points Interview Yan Liu

At first glance, medicine and poison might seem to be opposites. But in China’s formative era of pharmacy (200–800 CE), poisons were strategically deployed as healing agents to cure everything from chills to pains to epidemics. In Healing with Poisons, Dr. Yan Liu explores the ways physicians, religious devotees, court officials, and laypeople used powerful drugs to both treat intractable illnesses and enhance life. By recovering alternative modes of understanding wellness and the body’s interaction with potent drugs, this book cautions against arbitrary classifications and exemplifies the importance of paying attention to the technical, political, and cultural conditions in which drugs become truly meaningful.

In this interview conducted by David Herzberg, Dr. Liu discusses several topics from his book, including the crucial, but forgotten role of poisons in Chinese medicine during the medieval era, the misconceived dichotomy between Chinese and Western medicine, psychoactive drugs, and the close relationship between poison, witchcraft, and politics in medieval China.

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Points Interview: “Detectives, Detectors, and Drug Sniffers: Institutionalizing the Drug Dog Before and After Counterinsurgency” with Justin Hubbard

Editor’s Note: This is the first Points interview with authors from the latest issue of ADHS’s journal Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (vol. 35, no. 1; Spring 2021), published by the University of Chicago Press. Today we feature Justin Hubbard, who holds a PhD in the history of medicine from Vanderbilt University. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and vicious pug. You can see his article here. Contact the University of Chicago Press to subscribe to the journal or request access to this article or any other article from SHAD’s history. 

Article Abstract

The popularity of drug-sniffing dogs since the 1970s rests on the contributions of a dying technological movement—counterinsurgency science. A comparison of two drug-sniffing dog programs—the Federal Bureau of Narcotics’s detective dog of the 1940s and 1950s, and the Department of Defense’s detector dog of the 1960s and 1970s—documents how federal agents failed to institutionalize drug-sniffing dogs, while Department of Defense researchers succeeded. The disparate outcomes of the two programs illustrate, first, the contingent institutional factors involved in adopting dogs for drug control, and second, the fragile institutional relationships supporting counterinsurgency science and new drug-control strategies after the Vietnam War.

Tell readers a little about yourself

I’m an independent scholar, trained as a medical historian, living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The large chunk of my research has examined the social conditions of health and illness, the political economy of medical technologies, and health-maintenance and knowledge production as problems of governance. I’m currently transitioning from academic history to a career in strategic labor research. In the meantime, I volunteer at Philadelphia’s famous medical history museum, The Mütter, where I’ve created a learning module for some 600 human brain slices cast in plastic.

SHAD Interview Hubbard

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Addiction Lives Interview: Moira Plant

Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment of the “Addiction Lives” interview project, a print and online collaboration between the Society for the Study of Addiction and the journal Addiction.

Society for the Study of Addiction logo

Today’s featured interview is with Professor Moira Plant.

Dr. Plant is Emeritus Professor of Alcohol Studies at the University of West of England in Bristol, UK, and Adjunct Professor at Curtin University Perth Australia. Her main research interests include women, alcohol, and mental health; drinking in pregnancy; and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. She has published on these and related subjects in peer reviewed journals and books. Dr. Plant was the UK lead on the Gender Alcohol and Culture: An International Project (GENACIS) which now includes more than 40 countries worldwide. She has acted as consultant to the World Health Organization, the UK and other governments, the Centre for Addiction Research & Education Scotland (CARES) and is a UK consultant to the US Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD). Dr. Plant is a psychotherapist and trains and supervises counselors.

In this 2018 interview, Professor Virginia Berridge interviews Dr. Plant about her experiences working in alcohol clinical and research settings.

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9/11 and Drug History:
An Interview with Dr. Samuel R. Friedman

Editor’s Note: This post is by Points Managing Editor Emerita Emily Dufton. She holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University and is the author of Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America. Email Emily at emily.dufton@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @emily_dufton. Welcome back, Emily!

On the morning of September 11, 2001, recent health problems forced Dr. Samuel R. Friedman to get a blood test before going to work. That meant he didn’t catch the train from New Brunswick to New York until a little before 9 am. The hour-long PATH train would normally let him out right under the World Trade Center, where his suite of offices took up the South Tower’s entire sixteenth floor. Friedman was a senior fellow at the NDRI—the National Development and Research Institutes, formerly the Narcotic and Drug Research Institutes—and he was going to be late that day, but not too late.

But the train didn’t make it to Port Authority. As it drew into the Newark station, the conductor announced that all passengers would be taken to Penn Station instead, at no extra charge. Friedman, who had been commuting for years, knew all about the city’s problems with public transportation. “‘Ok,’ I said to myself, ‘that happens sometimes.’”

But when they pulled away from Newark, Friedman knew something else was wrong. “The track goes up and then goes down so you’ve got a good view of New York City,” he said. “You could always see the Trade Center.”

“We noticed that the North Tower was smoking like hell, it was on fire. And we go along a few miles later and we see there’s smoke coming out of the South Tower too.”

It was 2001, Friedman said; fewer people had cell phones then. But as they sat on the train, word spread. Something happened. A plane hit a building. The World Trade Center. Something’s going on.

“And so I get into Penn Station,” Friedman remembered. “And I’m able to get a payphone–they had them then. My first connection is home, where I leave a message saying I’m fine, I’m going to get the next train home. I then call the office to say, in case there’s anyone there, get the fuck out.”

But no one answered that phone. It rang in the emptying tower.

9-11 Friedman Social Card

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Pharmacy in History Interview—Rachael Pymm, “Transmitting Medical Exotica”

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of the Points series of interviews with authors from the latest issue of AIHP’s journal Pharmacy in History (vol. 62, no. 3-4). Today we feature Rachael Pymm, an independent researcher, holding an MA from the History Department of Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. You can see her article here. Contact AIHP to subscribe to Pharmacy in History.

Article Abstract for “Transmitting Medical Exotica: Louis Philiberto Vernatti, the Snakestone, and the Royal Society “

Snakestones, purported to naturally generate in the head of a snake, were reputed to be a cure for snakebites in the early modern world. Against the backdrop of European exoticism, which influenced the circulation of pharmaceutical and medical knowledge, snakestones became a subject of popular and scholarly interest during the late seventeenth century. Analyzing unpublished archival evidence, this paper considers the circumstances of the 1664 transmission of an individual snakestone from Batavia, Indonesia, to the Royal Society in London, England. Unlike other pharmaceutical exotica that was commonly conveyed via large-scale commercial networks, the trade in snakestones was characterized by small-scale transfer in the manner of kunstkammer materials.

Tell readers a little bit about yourself:

I’m an independent scholar based in the UK, and I work in Professional Services at a university. I have a broad range of academic interests, including the history of medicine, as well as the medieval crusades and how they have been memorialized on postage stamps. I have been researching unusual animal-based materia medica—particularly snakestones—for a number of years, alongside my work and family commitments. Researching in this way can be challenging, particularly in terms of time management, but I really love my subject. And I have a very supportive family most of whom—including my six year old son—are now fully conversant in snakestone lore!

PH Interview Pymm

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Pharmacy in History Interview—Kathi Badertscher, “Insulin at 100: Indianapolis, Toronto, Woods Hole, and the ‘Insulin Road'”

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of the Points series of interviews with authors from the latest issue of AIHP’s journal Pharmacy in History (vol. 62, no. 3-4). Today we feature Kathi Badertscher, Director of Graduate Programs and a lecturer at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. You can see her article here. Contact AIHP to subscribe to Pharmacy in History.

Article Abstract

“Insulin at 100” joins a body of new scholarship being produced globally to commemorate the discovery of insulin. This paper brings to light a new perspective on the collaboration between two North American institutions: the University of Toronto in Canada and Eli Lilly & Company in the United States. It focuses on the collaboration’s complexities, actors who have not been examined previously, and implications for both parties and the general public. The article contributes to existing scholarship by expanding the collaboration story to include central actors at both Eli Lilly and the University of Toronto in a continuous and collaborative cycle of discovery and innovation.

Tell readers a little bit about yourself

I am the Director of Graduate Programs and a lecturer at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. I worked in the corporate sector for 26 years before coming to IU as a master’s student. In 2006, I thought I would take a few classes on philanthropy to become a more intentional and informed volunteer, board member, and donor. I never imagined I would stay for the doctoral program and have the privilege of joining the faculty.

Kathi Badertscher PH Interview Title Card

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Points Interview: David Fahey and the History of ADHS

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to feature a Points Interview with Dr. David Fahey, a long-time member—and an unofficial resident historian—of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society. Dr. Fahey is Professor Emeritus at Miami University and the author of several books about the history of alcohol and temperance.

David Fahey

Dr. Fahey, nice to get in touch with you! Members of the ADHS often get notices about new publications and conferences from you via the Daily Register. So how long have you been involved in the organization?

Historians often neglect the history of their own organizations. I will happily provide a few details.

The Alcohol and Temperance History Group (ATHG) was first created at an American Historical Association (AHA) meeting in December 1979. A US Government-funded conference about alcohol history was then held at Berkeley, California, in January 1984—which occasioned the restructuring of the ATHG; its first officers (Jack Blocker as first president); and first membership dues. I joined a few years later and took part in the formal organization after the big Berkeley conference. Early conferences of the ATHG were usually held in Canada where funding for conferences was more available than in the USA (Berkeley in 1984 was unique).

Things used to be very informal. There were very few of us. At various times I was President of the organization and Editor of the journal. At some point, I took the main responsibility for the Daily Register but with no title. In fact, several people got the right to post and very occasionally did. 

I agree that we should be paying attention to our own history! What should members know about the early days of the ADHS? Can you share any gems from the organization’s history? 

You can read the early versions of SHAD. Also see Alcohol in History: A Multidisciplinary Newsletter, Spring 1980. It provides a brief history.

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