Drugs in the Americas

Recent special issues and articles in Hispanic American Historical Review and Comparative Literature include studies of drugs and drug culture in history and literature.

ddhahr_95_1An issue of Hispanic American Historical Review entitled “The New Drug History of the Americas” brings the study of Latin American drug trades and cultures into conversation with the region’s historiography. Special issue editors Paul Gootenberg and Isaac Campos argue for “a new drug history of the Americas:”

We argue here that the fetishization of drugs by prohibitionists and enthusiasts alike has been no accident. Whether due to the resemblance between drug-induced and spiritually inspired ecstasy, or the way that drugs can undermine the razón on which Western civilization has supposedly hinged, or their life-and-death medicinal implications, these are no ordinary goods. Thus drugs also possess, we believe, extraordinary potential for expanding historical study.

The issue includes articles by Valeria Manzano, Lina Britto, and Alexander S. Dawson on such topics as youth culture in Argentina, marijuana traffic in Colombia, and psychedelic psychiatry. Read the full introduction here.

ddclj_66_3In “Imagining the U.S.-Mexico Drug War: The Critical Limits of Narconarratives,” Oswaldo Zavala analyzes narconarratives, interrelated corpus of texts, films, music, and conceptual art focusing on the drug trade. He argues, “with the exception of a few Mexican novels, only a particular narrative trend of fiction and non-fiction published in the United States has been able to articulate a necessary, critical, and subversive view of the official discourse on drug trafficking and its related organizations in both countries.” Read an excerpt:

With their romantic focus on death as an ontological destiny and their emphasis on an imagined narcocultura that makes victims of the official institutions of justice, most narconarratives propagate an illusory enemy that the Mexican state relies upon in order to legitimize its actions in the drug war. In short, most of the narconarratives written during the last decade in Mexico reify the simulacrum of truth constructed by official propaganda. Only through the articulation of deliberately political counternarratives can light be shed on drug trafficking as one of the many dimensions of official power in both countries. To achieve this, critical narconarratives must abandon the exhausted myths of drug lords and their fantastic kingdoms and stop objectifying drug trafficking as a problem external to official power in Mexico and the U.S. and instead propose a careful historical revision of its place inside that power: drug trafficking as power itself.

To read the full article, made freely available, click here.

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