Many scholars of drugs and alcohol that are engaged in comparative work within plural linguistic environments are already aware of the problems of translation. The encounter with compilations of mistranslated signs and slogans that many of us may have had in our first language courses have constituted some of our earliest brushes with the pitfalls of translation. (E.g.: Bangkok Dry Cleaner’s sign: “Drop your trousers here for best results” or an earlier version of KFC’s “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan—“Eat your fingers off” 吃掉你的手指头.) Translation, it seems, can be dangerous.
In the past, Milton Friedman has argued that companies have minimal ethical and social responsibilities outside of avoiding legal transgressions and satisfying their shareholders, but this position does not seem to have broad public appeal in corporate boardrooms or on main street today. Definitions of corporate social responsibility (CSR) have not remained static over time, but broadly, it’s founded on an understanding that “business organizations have societal obligations which transcend economic functions” or that there is some “obligation to work for the social betterment” (Epstein 1989, 585; Frederick 1995, 151). In practice, a wide variety of programs and policies can fall under the CSR umbrella, including: scholarships for underprivileged youth, mentoring minority students, donating proceeds for disaster relief, among others. However, see Whitehouse 2006, Carroll 2001, and Wood 1991 for the general academic consensus that there is, well, no consensus on the meaning or implementation of CSR.
Of course, few would suggest that all public displays of corporate social responsibility are disingenuous, but there are ways in which CSR policies and marketing can serve to balance or cloak the ethical exposures of a company. The 2008 greening of BP is one recent visible example. That BP chose a “green” theme that privileged environmental responsibility over many other possible social contributions addressed a significant vulnerability shared by companies in this industry. As we have seen with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill or the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident, the environmental and human cost of securing energy resources can occasionally be spectacularly tragic and very public. Continue reading →
The Alcohol, Drug, and Tobacco Study Group (ADTSG) of the Society for
Medical Anthropology requests submissions for the best graduate student paper in the anthropology of alcohol, drugs, pharmaceuticals, tobacco or similar substances. Qualifying submissions will be judged by a committee of ADTSG members. The author of the winning paper will receive a cash award of $100 and her or his name will be announced in Anthropology News and at the Society for Medical Anthropology awards ceremony at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meetingin November. Submissions from all anthropological sub-disciplines are encouraged.
§ No more than 9,000 words
§ Must be based on original fieldwork and data
§ Must have been written in the past 12 months
§ Primary or first author must be a graduate student at time of submission
§ May be unpublished or submitted for publication at the time of submission
§ Originality of fieldwork and data
§ Richness of substantive or evidentiary materials
§ Clarity of anthropological methods
§ Linkage of work to social science literature
§ Effective use of theory and data
§ Organization, quality of writing, and coherence of argument
§ Please do not include your name or any identifying information in the
§ Papers must be double spaced and in PDF format (please include page
§ References should be formatted in the American Anthropologist style
§ Please submit an electronic copy to Taz Karim, chair of ADTSG at
§ Submissions must be received by 5:00PM EST, September 1, 2012 for full consideration
Editor’s Note: Today, the Points blog presents the second part of my (Joe Spillane) reflections on the recently-concluded meeting, “Drugs and Drink in Asia: New Perspectives from History.” Part one of these reflections considered the problem of talking across substances, while today’s comments consider the challenges posed by integrating levels of analysis.
We interrupted the first day of the conference to gather for a group photo near the meeting room where we had already completed the meeting’s first session.
The session, which I chaired, was “Drugs and Empire”–and it highlighted some of the challenges in talked across levels of analysis at our conference. Let’s begin with Zhiliang Su (Shanghai Normal University) and his paper, “Opium and the Progress of Asian History.” Prof. Su offered something of a traditional narrative we would hear repeated several times at the meeting, one in which engagement with opium initiated a series of developments through which, “China lost both its sovereignty and conception and dignity and confidence” (from the translation by Pan Zhang, a Fudan University graduate student). Opium, imposed on China by the British and later by the Japanese, is both the tool and symbol of imperial domination–the antithesis of personal and national sovereignty, with a decided focus on the latter. Continue reading →
Editor’s Note: This week, I’ll be offering up some reflections on the recently-concluded conference, “Drugs and Drink in Asia: New Perspectives from History,” which was held at the Shanghai University on June 22 and 23, 2012. The conference itself was organized by Drs. Yong-an Zhang, James H. Mills, and myself (Joe Spillane). The sponsoring organizations included James Mills’ University of Strathclyde, the Wellcome Trust, the David F. Musto Center for Drug Policy Studies at Shanghai University (headed by Yong-an Zhang), and the Alcohol and Drugs History Society. As the current President of the latter organization, I was very pleased to assist with the meeting, and to help welcome attendees. The late Professor Musto would have been very gratified, I think, to have seen this gathering of younger and more senior scholars–together, they provided ample evidence of the maturation of the field of drugs and alcohol history. Our hope in organizing this meeting was to showcase the “new perspectives” promised in the conference title, and to develop conversations across the boundaries of nation, substance, discipline, and method. In this week’s posts, I’ll step back and offer some preliminary thoughts on those conversations.
Before I begin, a brief bit of news for Points readers: this month, I’m stepping down as one of the Managing Editors’ for the Points blog. It has been two years since Trysh Travis and I began preparing to launch this new enterprise, and about eighteen months since our first post. Since then, we have published over 350 more posts, and attracted a modestly sizable readership. Most of this success is courtesy of the indefatigable Trysh Travis, with whom it has been an absolute pleasure to work. I will remain a fully engaged consumer of this blog’s content, and an occasional contributor as well, and look forward to seeing what new surprises Points has in store during the years to come. Now, back to Shanghai…
Conference themes are a curious thing. In theory, they promise a great deal, but all too often end up being nibbled at around the edges over the course of a meeting. Broad enough to sound exciting, themes are generally also capacious enough to include a lot of conversations that happen simultaneously but largely separately. The idea of talking about “Drugs and Drink in Asia: New Perspectives from History” provides us with just this sort theme–just coherent enough to tantalize the participant with the possibilities for engaging academic interactions, just big enough to make one worry that too much was going on. Continue reading →
Last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a series of nine new warning labels for cigarettes. The labels were designed around a series of graphic images intended to highlight the dangers of smoking – a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his throat, a pair of diseased lungs next to a pair of healthy ones, a mouth covered with cancerous lesions, and so on.
The images were surprisingly explicit, and prompted a storm of controversy. The FDA also instituted rules requiring that the labels cover one-half of the front side of all cigarette packages, that the images be rotated regularly, and other similar measures. Not surprisingly, the tobacco companies sued to stop the new rules from going into effect; not long after, a district court judge in Washington ruled that the new regulations were unconstitutional on free-speech grounds. The labels never went into effect, and the people of America continue to be free to buy cigarettes without having to confront images of diseased lips and people blowing smoke through holes in their necks. Continue reading →
After a bit of a break, the “Points Interview” feature returns this week. Christopher Snowdon becomes the eighteenth author to face the relentless grilling for which this feature has become so well known. Christopher joins us to discuss his book, The Art of Suppression: Pleasure, Panic and Prohibition Since 1800 (2011) [an arresting cover design, by the way!]. He’s also the author of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (2009), which examines the history of anti-smoking activity from the 15th century to the present day. He’s a blogger as well, and those of you interested in seeing more should check out his Velvet Glove, Iron Fist blog.
Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.
The Art of Suppression seeks to draw a character profile of The Prohibitionist. It offers five case studies – two about alcohol, two about drugs and one about tobacco – spanning 200 years and covering various countries, but particularly the USA and the UK. I wanted to see how substances—which is to say ‘drugs’ in the modern sense of the word: narcotics, stimulants, alcohol and tobacco—get demonised and become illegal. How does this happen? More importantly, who makes it happen?
There is something fascinating and mildly comic about people who dedicate their short time on Earth to stopping other people doing things. This is not an impulse I can relate to—although maybe I’m in the minority in that respect—and I’m intrigued by what compels them. There are a few cranks and oddballs in the book, as you might expect, but more often they’re well-meaning monomaniacs who have a very rigid sense of morality and a heightened sense of idealism.
What the book does is bring these different types of prohibition together to find common themes. It’s not really a book about the substances themselves, nor even the people who take them, but about the moral entrepreneurs who believe they can eradicate them. There are differences between them, of course, but I would say there are more similarities than differences, and whether the subject is opium-smoking in 19th century China or alcohol prohibition in Finland, there are lessons that can be applied to our circumstances today.