Addiction in African Literature

Where are the African tales of personal struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction?  I’ve been studying the history of alcohol use in Africa for more than twenty-five years and more recently I’ve also been looking at drug use.  Yet I can’t recall a single such story in my unsystematic sampling of African creative writing.  HereContinue reading “Addiction in African Literature”

Anti Vice Returns

A group of about 50 scholars met in early April at the idyllic Centro Stefano Franscini Conference Center at Monte Verità, over-looking Lake Maggiore in Ascona, Switzerland, to explore the enticing  topic of Global Anti-Vice Activism in the late 19th and early 20th century—Fighting Drink, Drugs, and Venereal Diseases.   The conference suggested a revival ofContinue reading “Anti Vice Returns”

In Search of the Drunken Native

In a March 3, 2012 New York Times article, “At Tribe’s Door, a Hub of Beer and Heartache,” reporter Timothy Williams provides yet another account of the terrible consequences associated with alcohol consumption among native Americans.  This article, which of course joins many others on the same topic, touches on a number of familiar points,Continue reading “In Search of the Drunken Native”

African Perspectives on Pharmaceuticals and Drugs

In a panel on “Drugs in Africa” at the African Studies Association annual meeting in Washington, DC in November, Donna Patterson, a historian in the Department of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, presented a paper on “Drug Trafficking in Africa:  Historical Cases from West Africa,” which in contrast to other papers on the panel lookedContinue reading “African Perspectives on Pharmaceuticals and Drugs”

Herding Khat

On January 11th the  BBC reported that the Netherlands government would ban the use of khat—the mild, leaf-based stimulant produced largely in East Africa.  The ban came as something as a surprise, given the liberal Dutch approach to cannabis and the ubiquity of “Coffee Shops” selling joints in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities.  Why thisContinue reading “Herding Khat”

Johnnie Carson on “African (Drug) Issues”

In a recent talk on “African Issues” and US policy on those issues, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, chose to conclude by stressing the growing challenge of drug trafficking in Africa.  Having discussed democratization, having covered all of the regional hot spots and having emphasized hot-button topics such as HIVContinue reading “Johnnie Carson on “African (Drug) Issues””

Ken Burns and Me– Charles Ambler’s Brief Career as a Talking Head

Let me admit it up front.  It was an indirect connection.  My local public TV station in El Paso, KCOS, decided to produce a short piece on “Prohibition on the Border” that would be tacked on to the third segment of Ken Burns’s documentary on Prohibition.  Judging from the relatively small number of comments alongContinue reading “Ken Burns and Me– Charles Ambler’s Brief Career as a Talking Head”

Alcoholism, Race, and Decolonization

In the June 1958 issue of the Nchanga Drum, Dominico Chansa, a social welfare worker on the Northern Rhodesian (Zambian) Copperbelt, asked readers the question, “Is Beer Drinking a Good or Bad Habit?”  The author claimed that there was “no subject on the Copperbelt today which draws more heated debate”—a surprising yet surprisingly accurate assertion. Continue reading “Alcoholism, Race, and Decolonization”

“We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges!”

In a strange twist in the history of international drug interdiction, three West African drug traffickers have through their attorneys in New York Federal Court openly acknowledged that they are in the global business of distributing cocaine.  According to a story, “Admitting Clients Are Drug Traffickers, but Denying Guilt,”  in the New York Times AprilContinue reading ““We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges!””

What Students Write about Drug History

What is it that interests students about the history of drugs?  As it turns out, a wide variety of topics.  And not necessarily the ones I would have expected.  In this post I’m going to reflect on the experience of teaching a research course on the history of drugs.  The idea here is to startContinue reading “What Students Write about Drug History”

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