San Francisco, CA, November 14-18, 2012

Drug (Ab)use: Border constructions and crossings in the anthropology of
psychoactive substances

Co-organizers: Tazin Karim, Roland Moore, Gilbert Quintero, Lee Hoffer, and
Daniel Lende on behalf of the Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco Study Group of the
Society for Medical Anthropology

This panel invites papers that explore the ideological, legal, and physical
borders between sanctioned and illicit drug use through ethnography. We
argue that the examination of drug behaviors is particularly salient to
anthropology because they traverse and influence many culturally constructed
boundaries between work/play, ethical/unethical, mind/body, etc. In
particular, the recent development and repurposing of certain psychoactive
substances has acted to blur the lines between recreation, medication,
addiction, and enhancement. Street drugs like marijuana and certain
psychedelics are now being reconceptualized as treatments, while
prescription stimulants and narcotics continue to become objects of misuse
and abuse. Changing prescription practices and the growth of new grey
markets further obscure the space between acceptable and improper drug use

This panel explicitly asks: what criteria do individuals, populations, and
governments use to define appropriate use of these substances?  How do
substances move within the space between what is acceptable/useful and what
is illegal/immoral? In what ways do these values influence access and
encourage behaviors necessary to navigate these new borders? How do these
beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors construct cultural configurations of
health, agency, and identity?

This panel also seeks to shed light on the experience of drug ethnographers
as they trace the social lives of drugs through various cycles. How do we as
anthropologists and researchers understand and traverse these borders
ourselves? How does this influence our interactions with subjects, law
enforcement, policy makers and health professionals? In what ways does this
influence the overall quality and content of drug ethnography?

Topics might include:

§  Drug free zones and trafficking across local/global borders

§  Online pharmacies/grey markets

§  Changing prescription practices

§  E-cigarettes, nicotine patches, etc.

§  Prescription drugs v. recreational drugs

§  Legalization of marijuana or psychedelics

§  Prescription drugs as enhancers

§  Drug ethnography and research

Please send titles and 250 word abstracts to: Taz Karim (

DEADLINE: February 26, 2012

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