Cocaine: Global Histories

Cocaine: Global Histories

Cocaine: Global Histories

Cocaine: Global Histories

Synopsis

Cocaine examines the rise and fall of this notorious substance from its legitimate use by scientists and medics in the nineteenth century to the international prohibitionist regimes and drug gangs of today. Themes explored include:* Amsterdam's complex cocaine culture* the manufacture, sale and control of cocaine in the United States* Japan and the Southeast Asian cocaine industry* export of cocaine prohibitions to Peru* sex, drugs and race in early modern London Cocaine unveils new primary sources and covert social, cultural and political transformations to shed light on cocaine's hidden history.

Excerpt

During the late 1980s-precisely one decade ago-cocaine became something of a national obsession in the United States. The war on drugs, rhetorically dormant since the Nixon Administration, found a new life in cocaine. TV "news" programs reported day after day on drug enforcement operations, "crack babies," and "cocaine-related" acts of violence. News magazines put it on their covers. President Bush gave a nationally televised speech to the nation on the cocaine threat. Public opinion polls pointed to drugs-notably cocaine-as the "number one" concern of American citizens. Outside of the United States, Colombia reminded some of Chicago during Prohibition, albeit on a much more substantial and deadly scale. Bolivia and Peru were implicated as well as producers and exporters of the raw and semi-refined coca materials used to produce cocaine. Elsewhere, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and beyond, cocaine was largely a non-issue, though some cocaine "scares" were to erupt there, too.

Drug crazes typically come and go, never lasting too long. They usually focus on a single drug, one that either is new or seems new. The rapid spread of crack-a smokeable form of cocaine-was new. Cocaine itself was not, but few Americans knew anything of its history. There were, in effect, few reality checks on depictions or perceptions of cocaine. Anything could be said, and almost anything was, about the drug's unique powers to destroy the bodies and souls of United States citizens and South American nations, or how the problem had emerged. Now the rage about cocaine has mostly passed in the United States, even as cocaine markets expand in other parts of the world.

Drug histories-particularly those of the scholarly caliber exemplified in this volume-rarely reflect well upon either contemporary drug warriors or their predecessors. Drug warriors, and the panics they stimulate, tend to focus on the drugs per se as a singular or at least dominant cause of multiple ills. They tend to portray all use of a particular drug as aberrant and destructive. They assume both the necessity of prohibitionist laws and the immorality of using particular drugs. And they rely heavily on simplistic caricatures of participants in drug markets. Drug histories, by contrast, tend to emphasize complexity and nuance: causal relationships become cloudier; political motivations more complicated; and drug-use patterns more diverse and interesting. Both drug use and drug

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