essays on drugs and contemporary culture
By the age of 24, half the population of Britain has used illegal drugs - The Face 17th June1998
Recent developments in social and cultural scholarship have demanded attention to issues of difference and diversity, to identities "outside the normative framework of white, European, heterosexual masculinity within which academic disciplines tacitly operated" (Roseneil and Seymour Practising Identities 1999).
Feminist theory, postcolonial theory and queer theory have each contested prevailing assumptions of normality, difference and deviance. It is remarkable, given contemporary estimates of illegal drug use across a wide range of social groups and the clearly considerable influence of drugs on literary, cultural, artistic, musical and academic production, that no unified body of critical analysis has developed which similarly challenges the normative dominance of anti-drug discourses.
"The true object of propaganda", wrote Leonard Schapiro (although in reference to Stalin rather than Nixon’s War on Drugs), "is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought reveals itself as a jarring dissonance".
The ideological dominance of anti-drugs crusaders, the continuing illegality of much drug use and the discrediting stigma of a declared interest in the subject have inhibited, with a handful of notable exceptions, the articulation by academics of "that literally outlawed voice - the user’s ... that forbidden focus, the user’s point of view" (David Lenson On Drugs 1995). The recent relaxation of UK law on cannabis, perhaps the first step toward its eventual legalisation, prompts a long-overdue and wide-ranging scholarly analysis of the social and cultural impact of extensive illegal drug use, its evolution in the 20th century from the margins to the cultural mainstream, and its evident contribution to postmodernism.
This edited collection aims to explore the impact of illicit drug use on the intellectual and cultural landscape of the 20th Century and will consist of approximately 15 articles of about 5-6,000 words each, an introductory essay written by the editors, notes on contributors and index. A contract to publish this edition is currently being sought from several academic publishers.
The aim of the proposed collection of interdisciplinary essays, however, is not to reiterate familiar arguments defending or challenging the right of the State to police the bloodstream of the body politic – but rather to offer fresh and unorthodox perspectives in academic writing on drugs, recognising that illicit drug use is a key site of political and cultural resistance and of choices which structure identity, style and consciousness.
The elaboration of Queer Theory, in particular, since the early 1990’s offers a model for precluded user perspectives, suggesting an approach which similarly avoids normative binary presumptions about ‘users’ and ‘straights’, and emphasises experience, subjectivity and criticality. Indeed, the collection is seen as a starting point for the development of a theoretical perspective which validates what Lenson terms "diversity of consciousness".
Accordingly, we invite from scholars working in a range of disciplines, offers of papers, which explore the reflection of widespread and increasing illegal drug use in, for example, contemporary writing, music, fashion, software, film and visual arts ; on contemporary identities, religion, spirituality, philosophy and psychology ; on social and cultural theory, linguistics, politics and popular culture. Papers offering comparative, historical and anthropological perspectives are also welcomed, although the emphasis of the volume will be on Europe (particularly Britain) and North America.
Proposed titles and abstracts of approximately 250 words should be sent to
Ian Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Meg Barker (email@example.com) at the address below by 1st March 2002.
The deadline for receipt of final articles (max. 6000 words) is June 30th 2002.
School of Health and Social Sciences
University of Gloucestershire
Francis Close Hall Campus
Cheltenham GL50 4AX
U.K. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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