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Hnrs 131 2013 b
Drugs and Policy (HNRS 131)
Office hours: Tuesday 3-4, Thursday 1:30-2:30
Or by appointment
This class examines the relationship between a number of mind-altering substances and cultural processes. We look at the relationship between drugs and such phenomena as poverty, religion, technology, inter-generational conflict, colonialism, and global capitalism. We read about the physiological and psychological effects of these substances -- ranging from alcohol to LSD, cocaine and viagra -- and ask why different societies prohibit and sanction different drugs. We examine the use of mind-altering substances in a number of "traditional" societies, and follow the development of a global trade in such substances as sugar, coffee, tea, nicotine, cocaine, and marijuana concurrent with the evolution of global capitalism. We look at the use of LSD as a mind-control substance by the CIA and as a mind-altering substance in the 1960's counter-culture, and we look at the rise of prozac and viagra as popular, if controversial, pharmaceutical products in recent years. Finally, we evaluate America's current drug laws.
Do not be misled by the course title; this is a rigorous class. This class is not
about celebrating (or, for that matter, mindlessly condemning) drugs. It is a place to think
through how our society has arrived at many of its judgments about various substances and how
drugs have become mixed up in various kinds of social problems. The reading is not light, and
many of the readings are not easy. Course requirements
Reading, writing and class participation are all expected. You are expected to do the
class and to come to class on time and stay til the end of class. There will be
class lectures (as well as in-class videos), but we will spend much of our class time discussing
the readings in seminar format. This only works if students come prepared to discuss the readings. That means students should be ready to say what they agreed and disagreed with, where the logic of the argument in the readings did not work etc. Final grades will take class participation and attendance into account.
There will be two quizzes. Students are also required to make a class presentation and to
write one longer paper on a topic to be developed in consultation with the instructor. There will be no final exam. Students who participate actively in class discussions not only get better grades; they also learn more. The final grade is calculated as follows: First quiz
I do not allow laptops in my classroom. If you want to know why, read this article:
Students with disabilities
If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see
me and contact the Office of Disability Resources at 703.993.2474. All academic
accommodations must be arranged through that office.
Other resources for students:
Counselling Services: http://caps.gmu.edu/
Learning Services: http://caps.gmu.edu/learningservices/
Career Services: http://careers.gmu.edu/
The Writing Center: http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/
(available at the bookstore)
Andrew Weil and Winifred Rosen, From Chocolate to Morphine (Houghton Mifflin, 1993).
Barbara Myerhoff, Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians (Cornell University
Sudhir Venkatesh, Gang Leader for a Day (New York: Penguin, 2008)
Janet Chrzan, Alcohol: Social Drinking in Cultural Context (Routledge, 2013)
Nick Reding, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town (Bloomsbury 2009)
Pdfs of other readings (unless noted in the syllabus as urls) can be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/drugsandsociety
Other useful resources:
Cynthia Kuhn, Scott Swartzwelder & Wilkie Wilson, Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most
Used and Abused Drugs From Alcohol to Ecstasy (Norton 1998).
James Inciardi and Karen McElrath, The American Drug Scene: An Anthology (Roxbury, 2001).
Erich Goode, Drugs in American Society (McGraw-Hill 2005).
Go Ask Alice: http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/Cat2.html
Some Preliminary Ideas
Weil and Rosen, From Chocolate to Morphine, chapter 2 (“what is a drug?”), chapter 3 (“why people use drugs”), chapter 4 “relationships with drugs”), chapter 5 (“types of drugs”), chapter 12 (“problems with drugs”), and chapter 13 (“alternatives to taking drugs”).
Howard Becker (1953) "Becoming a Marihuana User." American Journal of Sociology
David Lenson, “Preface” pp.ix-xx of his On Drugs (Minnesota Press, 1995).
Some Preliminary History
David Courtwright, chapters 1 (“The Big Three: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Caffeine”), and 2 (“The Little Three: Opium, Cannabis, and Coca,”) of his Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Harvard University Press, 2001), pp.9-52, 91-111.
David Courtwright, chapters 9 (“About Face: Restriction and Prohibition,”) and 10 (“Licit and Illicit Drugs,”) of Forces of Habit, pp.166-207.
Cocaine in Latin America
Catherine Allen, “To be Quechua: the Symbolism of Coca-Chewing in Highland Peru,” American Ethnologist 1981 8(1):157-171
Dominic Streatfeild, “Introducing Coca,” chapter 1 of Streatfeild’s Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography (Picador, 2001), pp.1-36.
Cocaine, Latin America and the War on Drugs
Edmundo Morales, Cocaine: White Gold Rush in Peru, 121-158.
David Zlutnick, “The Real War on Drugs: Veteran Border Journalist Charles Bowden Speaks,” Truthout July 20, 2011 http://www.truth-out.org/war-border-interview-charles-bowden/1310666406
Rebecca Solnit, “An Apology to Mexico for Bearing the Burden of America’s Drug Habit,” The Guardian July 10, 2012
Sudhir Venkatesh, Gang Leader for a Day (New York: Penguin, 2008), chaps 1-2
“Primitive” Drugs: peyote
Barbara Myerhoff, Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians (Cornell
Peyote in the U.S.
Joseph Calabrese, “The Supreme Court Versus Peyote: Consciousness, Alteration, Cultural Psychiatry and the Dilemma of Contemporary Subcultures,” Anthropology of
Russell Cobb, Mescaline on the Mexican Border, Houston Press, Feb 14, 2008
John Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind-Control (McGraw-Hill, 1980), chapters 4, & 6.
Louis Menand, “Acid Redux,” New Yorker
June 26, 2006 http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/06/26/060626crbo_books
Meth in Contemporary America
Nick Reding, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town (Bloomsbury 2009)
The War on Drugs in Historical Perspective
David F. Musto, “Opium, Cocaine and Marijuana in American History.” Scientific
Martin Booth, “The Fantasy Traders,” pp.108-139 of Booth, Opium: A History (St.
The War on Drug Abroad?
Eve Bertram, Morris Blachman, Kenneth Sharpe & Peter Andreas, "Three Fatal Flaws in the War on Drugs." In their Drug War Politics (UC Press), pp.9-31. Winifred Tate, “Congressional Drug Warriors and War on drugs in Colombia,” Critique of Anthropology
June 2013 Jon Lee Anderson, “The Taliban’s Opium War,” New Yorker July 9, 2007, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/07/09/070709fa_fact_anderson
November 5: The War On Drugs at Home
Eric Schlosser, “Reefer Madness,” chapter 1 of his Reefer Madness (Boston: Houghton
Sarah Stillman, “Taken,” New Yorker
August 12, 2013 http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/08/12/130812fa_fact_stillman
Radley Balko, “Why is a swat team assaulting me?” Salon
July 30, 2013 http://www.salon.com/2013/07/30/why_is_a_swat_team_assaulting_me_im_just_dancing_at_a_rave/
The War on Drugs and Race
Mike Gray, Drug Crazy (Routledge, 1998), chapter 2 (“May it Please the Court”). William Fisher, “Mandatory Injustice: Losing the War on Drugs,” Truthout June 15, 2010 http://archive.truthout.org/mandatory-injustice-losing-war-drugs60325
Jennifer Schuessler, “Drug Policy as Race Policy: Best Seller Galvanizes the Debate” New York Times
March 6, 2012
(If you find this interesting and want more detail, the author is interviewed on the radio at http://www.npr.org/2012/01/16/145175694/legal-scholar-jim-crow-still-exists-in-america)
The Addicted Society
Natasha Schull, “Machines, Medication, Modulation: Circuits of Dependency and Self-Care in Las Vegas,” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 2006 Mike Gray, Drug Crazy (Routledge, 1998), chapter 9 (“Lessons from the Old Country”) Allie Grasgreen, “Prescriptions and Prevention,” Inside Higher Ed June 2, 2011 http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/06/02/non_medical_prescription_drug_use_discussed_at_annual_acha_college_health_meeting
Modern Pharmaceuticals: The Pill and Tranquillizers
Andrea Tone, Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America (Hill and Wang 2001), chapter 10 and epilogue (pp.233-260, and 285-292).
Andrea Tone, The Age of Anxiety A History of America’s Turbulent Affair with Tranquillizers (Basic Books, 2009), chapter 8 (“Mother’s Little Helpers”).
Modern Pharmaceuticals (continued)
Meika Loe, The Rise of Viagra: How the Little Blue Pill Changed Sex in America (NYU
Melody Petersen, Our Daily Meds (Sarah Crichton Books, 2008), chapter 8 (“Altered State”).
Introduction to Alcohol
“Alcohol” from Cynthia Kuhn, Scott Swartzwelder & Wilkie Wilson, Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs From Alcohol to Ecstasy (W.W. Norton, 1998), pp.29-54.
Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and
Intoxicants. (Vintage, 1993), pp.147-166.
Alcohol and Culture
Louise Erdrich, “Foreword” to Michael Dorris, The Broken Cord Harper, 1989), pp.xi-xx
Gilbert Quintero, “Nostalgia and Degeneration: The Moral Economy of Drinking in Navajo Society.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 2002, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 3-21
November 28 NO CLASS THANKSGIVING
Alcohol on Campus
Janet Chrzan, Alcohol: Social Drinking in Cultural Context (Routledge, 2013), chaps 1, 4, 5
Alcohol on Campus
Final paper due December 8 by midnight
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