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Winter 2020

Drugs: Culture, history, politics

This course meets M, T, W, Th - 3:30 - 4:50pm

This class considers the way in which ‘drugs’—ranging from botanical commodities such as sugar, tobacco, and cannabis, to processed goods like cocaine, opiates, and LSD—have participated in constructing the modern world. The course explores the ways in which these drugs shape trade, law, economies, and both national and international politics. We will also consider the ideas people come to carry with them about these global goods. We will be tracing these relationships through object histories, history, and comparative political analysis.

Possible readings include:

Possible films Include:


Ana Arjona is Associate Professor of Political Science. Her academic interests include violence and conflict, the foundations of political order, state building, local governance, drug trafficking, and drug policy. Her current research projects investigate the causes and consequences of institutional change and individual agency in contexts of violence. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Colombia and has also carried out field research in Kosovo. At Northwestern she teaches on civil war, research design, and the relation between illegal drugs and politics. Her work has been funded by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, SSRC, the United States Institute of Peace, Yale University, and Columbia University in the U.S.; the International Development Research Centre in Canada; the Folke Bernadotte Academy in Sweden; and the Department for International Development and the Economic and Social Research Council in the U.K.

Lina Britto is a historian of modern Latin America and the Caribbean. Her work situates the emergence and consolidation of illegal drug smuggling networks in the Caribbean and Andean regions of Colombia in the context of a growing articulation between the South American country and the United States during the Cold War. She was awarded grants from the Tinker Foundation, New York University, the Social Science Research Council, the American Council of Learned Societies and Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Harvard University. She has published in Revista Contemporánea (Uruguay), the Hispanic American Historical ReviewNorth American Congress on Latin America-NACLA, and El Espectador (Colombia). Her book on Colombia’s marijuana boom in the 1970s will be published by the University of California Press (2020).

Mark Hauser is an historical archaeologist who specializes in materiality, slavery and inequality. These key themes intersect in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries Atlantic and Indian Oceans and form a foundation on his research on the African Diaspora and Colonial Contexts. As an archaeologist who studies how people adapt to landscapes of inequality and contribute to those landscapes in material ways, he employs ethnohistorical, archaeological, and archaeometric approaches. His current fieldwork is based in the Eastern Caribbean and has focused on two communities in Dominica- Portsmouth and Soufriere. He also has research interests in 18th century Southern India and 19th century North America.


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