Introducing the Oxford Companion to Global Drug History

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Miriam Kingsberg Kadia , professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Today she reports on the ADHS conference held last week in Shanghai, China, and the upcoming publication of a potentially very useful new book for drug and alcohol scholars around the globe. 

In its earliest phase, the historiography of intoxicants generally focused on (inter)national attempts to bring troublesome substances under state control, particularly in western Europe and the United States. The past twenty-five years or so have witnessed the rise of the “New Drug History,” which breaks free of this legal and diplomatic history chrysalis to consider social, cultural and ideological issues pertaining to both licit and illicit substances. This New Drug History is not simply history, but rather an interdisciplinary mobilization of approaches and insights from anthropology, sociology, economics, ethnography, medicine, science and technology studies, literary studies, religious studies, and other disciplines. Recent scholars have taken up topics such as the constructed nature of “addiction,” attempts to alleviate and intervene against narcotics dependence, urban communities of users, and the significations of intoxicants in fiction, film, and the media. Illustrating the reach of narcotics into every aspect of public and private life, the diverse sources for these projects include (but are not limited to) newspapers, periodicals, statistical surveys, travel narratives, eyewitness accounts, personal testimonies, medical journals, clinical records, advertisements, photographs, and art.

Of equal importance to the making of the New Drug History is the long overdue representation of the non-West. No longer does research on Europe and the United States dominate the field. By examining Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, historians (including those born and employed in these regions) have not only brought previously unstudied drug cultures to light, but have also challenged colleagues to rethink the traditional narration of the history of intoxicants as a telos toward Western power and domination.

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Shanghai: ADHS 2019

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Yesterday, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society‘s biennial conference began in Shanghai, China, and will last until tomorrow. The theme for this year’s meeting is “Changing Minds: Societies, the Sciences and Psychoactive Substances in History.” It marks the first time ADHS has met in Asia, at Shanghai University in China, one hundred and ten years after the Opium Commission in the city that did so much to shape future control regimes, and a remarkable new chapter for our organization.

Over the last two decades or so physiological models of drug and alcohol use have claimed to provide definitive accounts of the actions of these substances on human bodies, and how they function to literally change our minds.  In much the same period ideas about certain substances, from alcohol to cannabis, have begun to fundamentally shift and with this has come political change as many consumers, scientists, doctors and policy-makers change their minds, even as others refuse to do so.  The conference stops to ask ‘haven’t we seen this all before’?

After all, experts offering definitive accounts of such substances, vacillating bureaucrats and politicians, unyielding moralists and fickle consumers are all among the figures familiar to historians from other periods and a range of places.  The conference brings together those working in the field to examine the latest research into why ideas, attitudes and approaches towards intoxication and psychoactive substances have changed in historical contexts, and why they have not.  It will also establish how far these historical understandings can provide a clearer sense of just what lies behind practices, perceptions and policies today.

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Many Scholars Think Drug Courts Harm Policy Reform, Not Vice Versa

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Sarah Brady Siff, visiting assistant professor of journalism at Miami University in Ohio. Enjoy!

The current so-called opioid epidemic has placed an urgent frame around drug-related policy debates in Ohio. Here, the current midterm election ballot includes Issue 1, a state constitutional amendment that would convert level 4 and 5 drug felonies—charges for possession and use of drugs—into misdemeanors, somewhat like California’s Proposition 47 in 2014. Ohio would be only the sixth state to take similar measures to reduce drug-related mass incarceration.

So Issue 1 was much on the minds and lips of panelists at “Facing Opioids: Drug Enforcement & Health Policy in Today’s Epidemic,” an Oct. 19 symposium at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. I appreciated the chance to listen to legal experts in criminal justice and public health talk about Issue 1, drug courts, harm reduction, and other topics related to Ohio’s very high rate of overdose deaths.

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Radical Temperance: Conference General Report

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Annemarie McAllister, Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Central Lancashire, and Pam Lock, a doctoral candidate and the GW4 Developing People Officer at the University of Bristol. They organized a conference on alcohol called Radical Temperance: Social Change and Drink, from Teetotalism to Dry January, held at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, England, from June 28-29, 2018. This is their general report, with more posts to come over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

The signing of the teetotal pledge on 1 September 1832 in Preston by a group of seven men, including the social reformer Joseph Livesey, was a pivotal moment in the history of the temperance movement in Britain. Preston was thus an obvious home for the first-ever conference to bring together historians, social scientists, and third sector groups concerned about support for alcohol-free lifestyles today.  The underpinning rationale for “Radical Temperance: Social change and drink, from teetotalism to dry January,” (28th-29th June, 2018), was that, just as the total abstinence movement had originally sprung from the desire of working people for radical improvement of individual lives and of society, in the twenty-first century we are once again seeing living alcohol-free as a radical, counter-cultural choice.  This had been a project in the making for over two years, the dream of Preston academic Dr Annemarie McAllister, Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), enthusiastically supported by Pam Lock, University of Bristol. At times, drawing such a varied range of delegates together did seem as impossible as the scenario of Field of Dreams (1989, P.A. Robinson). Repetition of “If we build it, they will come,” became a mantra, but to ensure that the event did succeed, considerable, real, support was provided by a team of colleagues and grants from the ADHS and Alcohol Research UK.

A diverse group of nearly sixty academics, graduate students and third-sector delegates arrived from the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Denmark, Ireland and around the UK to share research and experiences, discover connections, and explore the history and legacy of the temperance movement. The conference bags included refillable eco-friendly water bottles and snap-open fans, necessary during the hottest weather Preston had experienced for many years. The latter prompted our favourite joke of the conference from drink-studies regular, Phil Mellows who began his talk on the Newcastle project by declaring: “Nice to see so many fans in the audience.”  

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Call for Papers: Alcohol and Drug History Society 2019 Conference

Baoshan Campus of Shanghai University 12-15 June 2019 The 2019 Alcohol and Drugs in History Society conference takes its cue from recent shifts in attitudes towards, and understandings of, intoxicants and psychoactive substances to explore the drivers of change throughout history in ideas about, and actions on, such materials. Over the last two decades or …

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Exciting Updates: SHAD and the University of Chicago Press, the 2019 ADHS Conference, and more!

The Alcohol and Drugs History Society (ADHS) has a lot of exciting news to reveal these days.

First of all, the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (or SHAD), the official journal of ADHS, has three new co-editors. We’re so pleased to welcome this esteemed and worthy trio!

Second, the co-editors of SHAD just signed a five-year agreement with the University of Chicago Press, beginning with the 2019 volume of the journal. ADHS President Dr. Timothy Hickman celebrated the news in an email, stating that “this is a fantastic deal for the society.  Of greatest interest to those of you who have published in the journal or are considering it, our reach will grow dramatically.  We will be bundled in with other U. of Chicago journals and will be part of their institutional subscription package.  That means we will become available in hundreds of libraries and research institutes all over the world where we had no presence before.

“It also means that the entire run of the journal will be easily available electronically and that the submission and review process will be brought up to date.  Submission will be centralized, and reviews assigned via an on-line submission system.  The new system will push the journal to an entirely new level, which I hope will encourage even more of you to submit.  The society will also benefit from a very lucrative financial arrangement with the press.

“We will also be able to bring our membership and subscription practices up to date.  The U. of Chicago Press will manage subscriptions, so please watch out for a renewal e-mail from them in the future.”

But that’s not all! Things just seem to be getting more exciting for ADHS: our 2019 conference will take us to Shanghai!

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Writing Global Histories of Cannabis: Conference Report from Glasgow, 19-20 April 2018

Editor’s Note: Over the next several weeks, Points will feature blog posts, videos, and recaps from the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, from April 19-20, 2018. Today, Dr. David A. Guba, Jr., professor at Bard Early College in Baltimore, Md., offers a recap of the event. Enjoy!

On April 19th and 20th, the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) at the University of Strathclyde gathered scholars from around the world in unseasonably sunny Glasgow to attend the Cannabis: Global Histories conference and work toward the publication of an anthology on the “global histories of cannabis.” Masterfully organized by Dr. Lucas Richert, Dr. Jim Mills, and Ms. Caroline Marley, the conference provided one of the first opportunities for historians and scholars of cannabis to come together and discuss research that often flows into isolated disciplinary and regional channels. In addition to providing a more global view on cannabis’s modern history, the organizers also conceived of the conference as a means of facilitating conversation between scholars of cannabis and the general public. To help further this important outreach mission, the organizers have produced a series of blogs and vlogs from the conference, which will be featured over the next few weeks on Points.

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