Author Archives: Shana.Harris

CFP: Dimensions of the Global and Local Narco-Environments (SfAA 2018)

SfAA 2018 Panel Call for Papers

Dimensions of the Global and Local Narco-Environments

Organizers: Marcos Mendoza (University of Mississippi) and Carter Hunt (Penn State University)

This panel examines the global and local narco-environments with an eye to understanding conservation outcomes. The global narco-environment refers to the shifting social, territorial, political, and economic bases for the production, trafficking, consumption, and interdiction of illegal drugs (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, etc.), typically within highly adaptive, flexible global commodity chains. These narco-activities impact concrete physical environments and spatial locations, generating diverse outcomes ranging from ecological disruption and destruction to increased capacity for conservation.

Various scholars have drawn attention to the complex relationships between drug traffickers and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) engaging in activities – both licit and illicit – that have direct consequences for the environment. TCOs and regional criminal organizations have promoted deforestation, unregulated mining, ranching, real estate investment, extortion, kidnapping, and assassination, as well as seeking to capture rents from industries ranging from palm oil to avocados to petroleum. Using terror and violence as tools, these narco-organizations have had major impacts on indigenous and peasant communities. Revolutionary insurgencies, self-defense militias, and paramilitary forces have been linked to conflicts deriving from the U.S.-led War on Drugs and the efforts by various states to root out production zones, decapitate cartels, and promote law and order. In some cases, the fear and avoidance of particular places associated with narco-activities has reduced extractive or otherwise destructive activities, leading to greater conservation outcomes than would otherwise have occurred.

The assembled panel will attempt to shed light on the differing conservation regimes generated within and across concrete narco-environments. Our goal is to gather ethnographically-grounded and theoretically-rich studies of the local and global narco-environments. First, panelists should speak to the fraught social and political relationships linking human communities and their neighboring environments to narco-activities and broader networks that might involve environmental NGOs, regional social movements, state conservation agencies, official and unofficial security forces (military, police, paramilitaries, etc.), or consumers. Second, panelists should address the cultural processes tied to these fraught socio-political relationships. How have actors generated new ways of perceiving, valuing, engaging, or appropriating the environment in relation to narco-activities? Third, panelists should discuss how these concrete sociocultural responses have generated variable regimes of conservation.

Potential topics include:

  • The impacts of the state-based militarization of drug policy (e.g. the War on Drugs), and associated regimes of policing and interdiction, on local landscapes and environmental conditions
  • The violent capturing of natural resources by TCOs, inter-cartel competition, and other organized trafficking activities
  • The ways that NGOs have initiated environmental restoration campaigns in response to resource extraction and depletion
  • Comparisons of environmental conditions and deforestation rates within private and public protected areas, indigenous territories, and narco-environments largely controlled by those involved in organized drug trafficking
  • Local communities’ responses to resource loss and physical violence, impacts on social positionality (class, gender, race, ethnicity, etc.), land tenure systems, traditional livelihoods, and traditional ecological knowledge

For consideration, email your paper abstract (100 words max.) to Marcos Mendoza (mendoza@olemiss.edu) or Carter Hunt (cahunt@psu.edu) by October 5, 2018. Please email either Marcos or Carter if you have any questions.

 

Student Profile: Olivia Marcus

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking him or her a series of questions related to his/her background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Olivia Marcus, a Ph.D. student at the University of Connecticut.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

I wanted to study everything when I entered university: medicine, political science, chemistry, economics, history, biology, and human behavior. Anthropology intrigued me as a discipline that considers these various disciplines in a particularly critical way. I had a particular interest in health, medicine, and well-being, especially as they relate to spirituality and various therapeutic techniques. It was my fascination with the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the anthropological lens that was a deciding factor for me to sway more toward the social science-public health work rather than approaches found in conventional biological science. My pressing question had always been: why do epidemics and health disparities still exist when western medicine is so effective? Also, what drives people to continue to use various other forms of therapeutic modalities and why do people persist in unhealthy behaviors when they ostensibly know better? Like many freshman in their first foray into the vast world of ethnography, I was deeply influenced by the political-economic explanations put forth by medical anthropologists such as Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Arthur Kleinman, and Paul Farmer, yet also was fortunate to stumble upon the works of Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Eduardo Luna, and E. Jean Langdon. From a young age I had an interest in consciousness and altered states, and upon discovering works in medical anthropology, political-economic critiques, and anthropology of consciousness, I found that my various interests (which also included studying languages, ethnobotany, and traveling) could be explored in a holistic, interconnected way.

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

Since childhood, I had a fascination with what role psychedelic drugs play in the search for so-called “higher” states of consciousness and deeper levels of self-knowledge. Growing up in Silicon Valley was definitely an influence in my process, since the culture and early access to the internet made it relatively easy to find people, books, and online resources with which I could explore these topics. When I learned that psychedelics were not only used for meditation and altering consciousness, but also for healing/medicinal purposes, I wanted to understand more about the different contexts in which this healing occurs, how many different traditions and methods exist, and the extent to which these methods are effective. I began my doctoral research with a lot of hesitancy toward using the word ‘drug’ and the term “drug research” to characterize my research since I focus on the use of plant medicines, specifically ayahuasca and the various other plants used among shamans in the Peruvian Amazon. I became interested in this context upon learning of the various therapeutic applications for both psychedelic and non-psychedelic plant preparations that are attracting a growing number of global audiences to the jungle. I find this work an exciting exploration of my interest in health-seeking behavior in a therapeutically plural environment, particularly for mental health and well-being.

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

I am currently conducting fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon for my doctoral dissertation on the therapeutic uses of ayahuasca shamanism for mental health. I focus on the cathartic aspects of plant-based healing techniques (both psychoactive and non-psychoactive) for mental well-being, particularly in light of the many claims that ayahuasca may be beneficial for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I further question how people who come for healing in the Amazon re-conceptualize their perceptions of health and healing. In this context, ayahuasca and other psychedelic plants are just a few items in the vast medicine cabinet of the Amazon rainforest. However, as a growing profession in Peru and abroad, ayahuasca shamanism has emerged as an important focus in my research, particularly the processes of medicalization and professionalization that are part of the constant re-shaping of shamanic practices and their diffusion around the world.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

At this point, I feel so immersed in my fieldwork that it is tempting to say I would like to continue living down here and studying plants for years to come. But I have always had an applied orientation to anthropology and envisioned being able to bridge my fieldwork and dissertation research with public health applications. This would involve advocacy for drug policy reform in the US in an effort to facilitate more opportunities for good scientific inquiry into psychedelic substances with therapeutic potential. I also plan to continue the process of helping to design and conduct good studies that can provide evidence for the benefits and risks of psychedelic use, as well as the pros and cons of legalizing them only for medical or therapeutic use.

If you are a student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at casperb@mail.usf.edu for more information!

ADTSG 2018 Graduate Student Travel Award

The Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco Study Group (ADTSG) of the Society for Medical Anthropology invites applications for a travel award to attend the 2018 AAA Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.  An award of $100 will be given to a graduate student presenting a paper at the conference that engages questions related to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, or other psychoactive substance use.  The ADTSG Graduate Student Travel Award is awarded annually on a competitive basis and reviewed by a committee comprised of ADTSG members.

QUALIFYING CRITERIA

  • Applicant must be currently enrolled in a graduate program
  • Applicant must be presenting a paper at the 2018 AAA Annual Meeting
  • Applicant must be a member of the Society for Medical Anthropology (see http://americananthro.org for instructions on how to join)

SUBMISSION PROCESS

  • Submit your paper abstract, university affiliation, graduate program (M.A. or Ph.D.), and contact information (no additional materials are required) to Shana Harris, Chair of ADTSG, at shana.harris@ucf.edu
  • Applications must be received by 5:00PM EST on September 24, 2018, for full consideration.

Questions may be directed to Shana Harris at the above email address. We look forward to your submissions!

CDC Job Opportunity

SEEKING A PHD-LEVEL RESEARCHER TO WORK WITH THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION AND HIGH INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFICKING AREAS ON A NATIONAL “HEROIN RESPONSE STRATEGY”

1-YEAR APPPOINTMENT, WITH OPTION FOR RENEWAL

LOCATED IN ATLANTA, GEORGIA

APPLICATION DUE AUGUST 1, 2018

Seeking a PhD-level researcher to work full-time at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA. The candidate will be hired by the Atlanta-Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, but will maintain office space and work with CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, within the Overdose Prevention Branch, located at the Chamblee campus near Doraville.

Duties: The incumbent will work closely with CDC and 10 HIDTAs on the National Heroin Response Strategy, which encompasses 22 states and the District of Columbia, to identify effective or promising strategies that prevent opioid-related overdose at the community, state, or health-system level. Specifically, the selected scientist will:

(1) provide subject matter expertise on existing opioid overdose prevention strategies in the United States;
(2) assist in the promotion of and education around evidence-based opioid overdose prevention strategies, especially those endorsed in the CDC-branded document of the same name (soon to be available);
(3) assist in the development of annual “cornerstone projects,” which requires the coordination of public health and drug intelligence staff across all 22 HRS states and DC on a focused, coordinated research project;
(4) make site visits to up to 5 selected “HRS focus states” to understand local need and capacity to address the opioid epidemic;
(5) with CDC, HIDTA directors, and local coalitions, assist in the development of an innovative pilot project to address the opioid epidemic in each focus state;
(6) work intensively with each focus state to implement the pilot project;
(7) collaborate with assigned program evaluators, epidemiologists, and administrators to gather and analyze relevant data to monitor progress of pilot project implementation;
(8) report progress to date and findings to relevant stakeholders at conferences, meetings, webinars, and in writing;
(9) other tasks as required or merited.

Requirements: (1) PhD degree in hand at the time of application; (2) PhD in public health, behavioral science, or a social science; (3) a research or educational background related to substance use, opioid use disorder, or opioid overdose; (4) excellent oral and written communication skills; (5) demonstrated track record of working effectively across disciplines, community environments, or Agencies; (6) an understanding of public health; (7) demonstrated experience with both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

For more information: Please contact Dr. Rita Noonan at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, RNoonan@cdc.gov, 770-488-1532.

Application procedure: Please submit your CV and 3 references to Ms. Jessica Wolff, JWolff@cdc.gov, with the subject line “CDC-HIDTA research position.”

Student Profile: Misha Laurence

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking them a series of questions related to his/her background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Misha Laurence, a recent graduate from Grinnell College.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

When I first went to college, I frankly had no idea what anthropology was, nor any passion for it, nor any predictions that I would end up loving it so much. Although I was always interested in human behavior, I started college with the intention of studying neuroscience (and possibly philosophy, in case I wanted to go to law school). At the time, it was honestly the only way I could conceive of studying human behavior. 

One upside of attending a liberal arts college like Grinnell College (which has rather flexible graduation requirements) is that I was actively encouraged to take classes in a variety of disciplines. Nonetheless, I was a little shocked when I was placed into an introductory anthropology course, as I do not remember marking that down on my registration form as a second or even a third choice. The course was taught by a professor whose research focuses on families. There didn’t seem to be anything in common between her interests in mine at first, but I unexpectedly found myself genuinely fascinated by class discussions. Quite a few students in that course, as I recall, were not actually intending to major in anthropology at the time, so people from diverse disciplinary backgrounds participated in our conversations. I was mostly a STEM-focused student with a passing familiarity with some philosophy at that point (mostly bioethics), and I actually felt my contributions were valued even as other people challenged them. So I decided I simply could not switch out of that course – it was that good.

What I did not predict was that taking this course actually threw me off-track for my intended biology major. If I wanted to continue in biology, my total time at college would have been more than four years, and I simply could not afford that kind of expense. I had a bit of a breakdown, and went to some anthropology professors for help. We eventually figured out that I had actually already fulfilled many of the prerequisites of the anthropology major by accident, and it would be easy for me to graduate on time in that major. After some introspection, I realized it would be much better, both short-term and in the long run, to graduate on-time in a field I actually enjoyed, instead of taking more time to complete a major I was beginning to get bored of anyway. (No offense to biology at all! It’s obviously an important and interesting field. It just wasn’t for me.) 

Additional anthropology courses confirmed to me that this was the right choice. I really liked anthropological perspectives on explaining why humans act and think the way they do. And the best part was that I did not have to discard my other interests or anything else I had learned so far – having multiple perspectives enriched what I got out of the experience. 

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

I entered the field of drug research through my interest in cannabis. However, I decided to study medical cannabis in particular, mostly because I have personal connections to it. Quite a few people I know use or have used cannabis for medical and/or recreational purposes (though I personally think this dichotomy is a misleading one). In addition, I grew up in Washington State and have lived through legal battles about cannabis, and seen firsthand the profound implications it has had for Washington’s cultural, economic, and political landscape. And growing up with a chronic illness made me seriously consider at times if my symptoms would be relieved if I used cannabis. (At the time, though, I was too scared to bring up the topic to anyone or try it for myself.) 

To me, American politics always seemed obsessed with drugs of all kinds, including alcohol. Our fixation on drugs is connected with how we talk about class, crime, health, immigration, race, and so many other issues. Drugs, disability, and health are thus some excellent windows into American history and the American experience. Also, I was thrilled to realize that I was watching history unfold in real time. 

Medical cannabis in the United States is, in my opinion, an understudied topic in the social sciences. Most research I have seen focuses on “recreational cannabis” (though I personally consider the medical/recreational dichotomy a false one). This obscures the diversity of cannabis users and subtly reinforces the perception that cannabis use is a social problem or perhaps just a trivial concern, rather than a public health phenomenon concerning people’s very real suffering and pain. After some reflection, I think the same can be said for many other drugs as well, particularly in how they are connected to disability, which is connected in turn to our cultural perceptions of human worth and deep difference. 

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

Before I graduated, I already decided that I didn’t want to go to graduate school right away. I want to gain firsthand experience actually working “in the field” of drug-related public health, and not just to be an anthropologist! Despite all the virtues of anthropological perspectives, I also feel the need to divert myself from it, at least for a while, and be more genuinely embedded in other contexts. 

That’s not to say I don’t care about anthropological research – I really do, and I plan to enter graduate school in a few years. But first I need to make up my mind about what kind of program would best suit my goals. (Medical anthropology? Applied anthropology? A dual anthropology PhD/MPH degree? I’m not really sure yet.) No matter how theoretical and abstract my research gets, I want it to be clearly and obviously translatable to people’s current practical needs. That’s why I’d love to focus on intersections between cannabis and other topics like class and disability, especially outside of the United States. Public health focuses more and more on underserved populations, and combined with drugs, that’s something I’d be very excited to be a part of. 

If you are a student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG’s Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at casperb@mail.usf.edu for more information!

Breaking Convention Awards

A UK-based psychedelic research organization called Breaking Convention has a call for several research awards and student essay prizes! 

RESEARCH AWARDS
Breaking Convention is proud to announce that we are opening nominations for the 2017 annual research awards. We will be giving three awards of £500 and a place on the 2019 programme as an invited speaker, one each for best published Scientific, Social Science, Humanities publications. The criteria are simple, the publication must be peer reviewed, from 2017, and, of course, about psychedelics. The deadline for nominations will be 5th of November (so you remember) 2018. So, get your thinking caps on and let us know what you think the best psychedelic bits from 2017 are!

While you are at it, keep in mind that 2018 is half way done and the nominations deadline for these same three awards for this year is coming up fast. We will want nominations for best Humanities, Scocial Science and Science publication by April 1 2019.

Please send nominations with a link to the article to Cameron@breakingconvention.co.uk with the subject 2017 Research Award or 2018 Research Award.

STUDENT ESSAY PRIZES
This award is £500 and a place on the 2019 programme as an invited speaker, for an original student essay or research report submitted by a confirmed Masters or Doctoral student in the three categories of Social Science, Humanities and Science. The winning essay/reports are to be 3-4000 words, relevant to psychedelics, and within the student’s field of study. The authors of the winning essay/reports will also be invited to speak at Breaking Convention in 2019. Student essays submitted by the end of the year will be considered for the 2018 award and those submitted from 1 January 2019 to April 1 2019 will be considered for the 2019 award. Get your pens to paper!

Please send submissions as a doc or txt file with your surname and either 2018 or 2019 (ie Adams2018.doc) to Cameron@breakingconvention.co.uk with the subject 2018 Student Essay or 2019 Student Essay.

For more information about Breaking Convention: www.breakingconvention.co.uk

 

REMINDER: ADTSG 2018 Graduate Student Paper Prize

The July 1 submission deadline for the 2018 Graduate Student Paper Prize for the Alcohol, Drug, and Tobacco Study Group (ADTSG) of the Society for Medical Anthropology is coming up!  

ADTSG invites submissions for the best graduate student paper in the anthropology of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, or other psychoactive substance use. A committee of ADTSG members will judge qualifying submissions.  The author of the winning paper will receive a cash award of $100, and her or his name will be announced at the Society for Medical Anthropology awards ceremony at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in November.  Submissions from all anthropological sub-disciplines are encouraged.

QUALIFYING CRITERIA

  • 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

JUDGING CRITERIA

  • 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

SUBMISSION PROCESS

  • Please do not include your name or any identifying information in the paper itself.
  • Papers must be double spaced and in PDF format (please include page numbers).
  • References and in-text citations should be formatted according to Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Please submit via email to Shana Harris, Chair of ADTSG, at shana.harris@ucf.edu
  • Submissions must be received by 5:00PM EST on July 1, 2018, for full consideration.

Questions may be directed to Shana Harris at the above email address. We look forward to your submissions!

Student Profile: Naciely Cabral

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking them a series of questions related to his/her background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Naciely Cabral, a Ph.D./M.P.H. student at the University of South Florida.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

In the pursuit of an undergraduate degree in anthropology, I laid the foundation for an academic and research career by broadening my understanding of the intersectionality between diseases, environments, and health outcomes. I intended to take courses addressing the biological and genetic dimensions of disease and human development; my anthropology course load reflected my awareness of the social and economic dimensions of disease. Indeed, the multidisciplinary nature of anthropology prompted my desire to understand and address the impact social and economic contexts have on disease interactions. With that relationship in mind, I decided to expand my academic and applied background and get my feet wet in fieldwork research concerning HIV/HCV syndemics. To do so, I applied to the Medical Anthropology and Cross-cultural Practice (MACCP) master’s program at Boston University School of Medicine.

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

Under the tutelage of Dr. Bayla Ostrach and Dr. Nancy Romero-Daza, both of whom are deeply familiar with syndemics and have worked with Dr. Merrill Singer, who developed the concept, I am pursuing my research interests in substance use, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis C syndemics. Mainly, I am drawn to questions addressing the experiences of people suffering from these conditions. Indeed, people suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C co-infection are vulnerable to socially marginalizing factors.  I am interested in ethnographically investigating experiences of these additive risks and to identify the pathway of interactions categorizing substance use as an important structure of risks. Therefore, I seek to ethnographically explore perceptions of risk for interactions between the social, economic, and structural conditions that shape them. That said, it is no surprise that I use anthropological concepts (i.e., syndemics) to conceptualize the interrelationship between HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and substance use practices and the subsequent worsened health outcomes.

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

For my future Ph.D. fieldwork, I aim to address the role of substance use in the development of syndemic clustering and multi-syndemic interactions. To do so, the project will also identify HIV/AIDS risks relevant to the population in question, with a special focus on women living with and suffering from the cumulative effects of HIV/AIDS and HCV, addiction, and substance use practices. Additionally, I aim to investigate experiences of the subsequent deleterious health effects among people living under the effects of economic precarity. For instance, some of the effects of economic precarity are: unstable housing, food insecurity, unstable employment, and unpredictable access to health care. These relationships may indicate the syndemics potentially experienced by women living with both HIV/AIDS and another chronic condition (e.g., HCV, diabetes, substance use disorder, or depression) in the context of food insecurity, poverty, and/or violence (structural, symbolic and everyday). That said, fieldwork offers opportunities to closely examine and analyze practical as well as theoretical implications of substance use as a syndemogenic factor.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

After I finish my Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology, I will continue the concurrent M.P.H degree in Maternal and Child Health, where I continue my research interests. Notably, I will explore the impact substance use practices have on women, with a special focus on mothers who report a history of engaging in the practice of substance use. Although my training at the University of South Florida has just begun, I continue to further my scholarly training and applied syndemics research.

If you are a student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG’s Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at casperb@mail.usf.edu for more information!

ADTSG 2018 Graduate Student Paper Prize

The Alcohol, Drug, and Tobacco Study Group (ADTSG) of the Society for Medical Anthropology invites submissions for the best graduate student paper in the anthropology of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, or other psychoactive substance use. A committee of ADTSG members will judge qualifying submissions.  The author of the winning paper will receive a cash award of $100, and her or his name will be announced at the Society for Medical Anthropology awards ceremony at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in November.  Submissions from all anthropological sub-disciplines are encouraged.

QUALIFYING CRITERIA

  • 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

JUDGING CRITERIA

  • 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

SUBMISSION PROCESS

  • Please do not include your name or any identifying information in the paper itself.
  • Papers must be double spaced and in PDF format (please include page numbers).
  • References and in-text citations should be formatted according to Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Please submit via email to Shana Harris, Chair of ADTSG, at shana.harris@ucf.edu
  • Submissions must be received by 5:00PM EST on July 1, 2018, for full consideration.

Questions may be directed to Shana Harris at the above email address. We look forward to your submissions!

CFP: Paradigmatic Narcotics (AAA 2018)

AAA 2018 Panel Call for Papers

Paradigmatic Narcotics: Rethinking Opioids and Epidemics

Organizers: Laura Meek (UC Davis) and Mauricio Najarro (UC Berkeley/UCSF)

Discussant: Kelly Ray Knight (UCSF)

Rather than taking the notion of the “opioid epidemic” at face value, this panel will consider the relevant histories and genealogies of current epidemiological anxieties. Tracing the development of pharmacological, technoscientific, and biomedical discursive formations (Clarke et al. 2010) as well as providing new theoretical frameworks and analytics, we will engage opioids as an open question rather than a foregone and familiar conclusion. Refusing to conflate opioids with drugs in general, this panel will consider how specific chemical compositions, stigmatized social formations, and physiological effects constrain and enable the emergence and dissolution of ideologies, bodies, and biopolitical regimes.

In recent years, anthropologists have begun to question how opioids come to matter for both individuals and institutions (Garcia 2010; Garcia 2014; Knight 2015; Meyers 2013; Lovell 2013). Such anthropological obsessions with opioids, as well as the meditized moral panics of the biomedicalized and racialized War on Drugs (Hansen 2015; Netherland and Hansen 2016), have provided invaluable contributions to the field while at the same time calling for news ways of engaging with epidemiological reasoning (Seeberg and Meinert 2015). At stake in such research, of course, are broader questions of individual autonomy, necropolitics (Mbembe 2003), and narcopolitics (Garriott 2011).

As in the case of other kinds of highly mediatized epidemics studied in anthropology (Epstein 1998; Briggs and Mantini-Briggs 2003; Briggs and Hallin 2016), understanding the contemporary opioid epidemic in the United States and other parts of the world requires anthropologists to consider how journalists, researchers, physicians, and public health authorities collaborate and construct durable notions of addiction, harm, pain, and pleasure. Considering the affective, material, and symbolic registers of opioids and their antagonists as well as recent trends in anthropology and STS (Pine 2016; Sunder Rajan 2017; Murphy 2017), the panel will consider how opioids transform the topographies and temporalities of social worlds using conceptual tools adequate to the task of understanding the coproduction of subjects and objects (Jasanoff 2004). We will direct critical attention to the ways that some narratives and voices emerge and predominate while others are erased (Briggs and Mantini-Briggs 2003; Briggs and Hallin 2016) in the fraught nexus of race, death, and desire (Ronell 2004) that characterizes engagements with opioids. News coverage of the opioid epidemic across media outlets in recent years—subsequently posted and disseminated widely across social media platforms—has consistently foregrounded certain interests, grievances, and demands at the expense of others. These interests, grievances and demands have served to frame the relevant data and ground the increasingly urgent statements issued by the CDC and Surgeon General in regards to the opioid epidemic. Our panel seeks to scrutinize how such substances mobilize new ways of being, living, and dying in the world while attending to the asymmetrical power relations, genealogies, and histories that frame the political urgency and expediency of an emergency or epidemic.

We invite interested panelists to submit a paper title, abstract (250 words max), current affiliation and contact info to Mauricio Najarro (mauriciojnajarro@berkeley.edu) and Laura Meek (lameek@ucdavis.edu) by April 14, 2018 at 5pm PDT. Decisions about acceptance of abstracts for these panels will be emailed by April 15, 2018.