Doing Drug History from a Drug War Zone

A Student Murdered

One hot morning last May, the El Paso Times brought news that many of us had been dreading—a student from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) had been murdered in the drug-trade violence that has disrupted our neighbor city, Ciudad Juárez, for three years.  Like many UTEP students, Alejandro Ruiz, 18 years old, lived a binational life.  A dual citizen, he lived mostly in Juárez, but commuted to UTEP.  On that day last May he and a friend were traveling from a boy scout meeting when their vehicle was riddled with machine gun fire.  His murder, like almost all the killings (more than 3,000 in 2010 alone) remains unsolved and unexplained.  Although Mexican political leaders have tried to dismiss the dead as criminals and effectively erase their existence, one thing seems certain, Alejandro himself had no direct involvement in the drugs trade.  We are left only to speculate. Continue reading “Doing Drug History from a Drug War Zone”

Starting Points

Points (n.) 1. marks of punctuation. 2. something that has position but not extension, as the intersection of two lines. 3. salient features of a story, epigram, joke, etc.:  he hit the high points. 4. (slang; U.S.) needles for intravenous drug use.

What’s the Point?

The “point” of an academic group blog has been the subject of a fair amount of discussion, and my colleague and co-Managing Editor Trysh Travis has already had her say about that here.

But what is it about the history of alcohol and drugs that seems worthy of the time and attention that we’re devoting to this particular academic blog?  There’s more to the answer than could fit in a single post, but why not start by considering the “points” featured in the header of the blog?  The image shows a beautifully detailed nineteenth-century syringe case, with marvelous decorative details.  How many doors are opened up when we follow the history of the syringe?  Here are a couple:Continue reading “What’s the Point?”

Points: Of Origin

What is the point of an academic group blog, my co-managing editor Joe Spillane wants to know? It’s a necessary and pleasurable adjunct to an academic print culture that, while maybe not quite dead, can hardly be termed in the pink of health.  The book I published last year on addiction and recovery appeared in a respectable hardcover edition, with copies priced “low” at  $35 each.  As I write, it’s hovering just above the 1-millionth most popular mark on amazon.com.

When the book was done, like a good academic I took some material that didn’t make the final cut and re-purposed it into an article.  After four months on the editor’s desk at a peer-reviewed journal that shall remain nameless, I got a revise-and-resubmit request.  I made the requested changes and returned the piece; after another four months, it was rejected by a different round of editors whose complaints were completely different from those of the first readers.  That was my writing year.

Sure, the book got me tenure, but you don’t have to be Peggy Lee to wonder, “is that all there is to a circus?” Continue reading “Points: Of Origin”

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