EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Tobacco and the anthropological imagination

Location Arts Classhall A
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 16:30


Roland Moore (Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation) email
Andrew Russell (Durham University) email
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Long Abstract

The prospect of an exponential rise in mortality due to tobacco use, primarily in the 'Global South', gives a renewed sense of urgency to those working in the field of tobacco control, and the invitation to imagine a world without tobacco. Such a scenario may seem utopian, yet the movement towards what is termed the denormalization of tobacco in many countries around the world arguably makes its accomplishment more plausible. There is a growing sense amongst public health practitioners and policy makers that a broad spectrum approach to tobacco, looking at all facets of its production, distribution and consumption, is necessary if its demise is to be achieved. Such holistic perspectives, and the need to understand the complex socio-cultural and political-economic contexts and configurations of tobacco, are indicative of increasingly anthropological approaches, collaborations and engagements in much public health thinking and practice. This session invites anthropologists, particularly those working in the field of public health, to consider the role of tobacco in local, national or global public health discourses, and the ways in which the anthropological imagination encourages public health communities to think 'outside the box' in addressing the issue. This panel gives participants the opportunity to explore and reflect not only on all facets of the tobacco pandemic but also its relationship and relevance to other public health concerns, some deriving from similar patterns of transnational corporate activity, and the dangers of failing in the imaginative quest to make tobacco 'history'.

Chair: Andrew Russell
Discussant: Ciara Kierans

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Tobacco, infectious disease, and global public health

Author: Peter Benson (Washington University)  email
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Long Abstract

Although tobacco is far more associated with chronic disease than infectious disease, the anthropology of international tobacco leaf production is an essential context for understanding the expansion and clustering of infectious diseases in developing countries. This paper takes into account the colonial and postcolonial organization of land use geared to intensive tobacco export production, and shows how this political economy helped make the social conditions around infectious disease. The paper shows how the environmental, social, and health problems that are related to tobacco cultivation in postcolonial contexts are also crucial supports for the development of infectious disease vectors and important challenges to the public health. I conclude with a discussion of why emerging alternative livelihoods interventions, rural mental health surveillance and treatment efforts, and environmental labor standards are central issues for tobacco control in this century, and the relevance of agricultural and medical anthropology for studying them.

Social values and cultural imagination: approaches to tobacco prevention among Asian migrants and immigrants

Authors: Roland Moore (Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation)  email
Juliet Lee (Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation)  email
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Long Abstract

Tobacco control laws in the US have been shown to both reflect and hasten smoking denormalization among the general population. Our ethnographic researches on tobacco use among Asian migrants and Asian American immigrants in California indicate that tobacco's social aspects may impede the adoption of new norms and policies for these groups. Traditional values regarding respect and shame conflicted with new norms and policies restricting tobacco use in many public and some private contexts. The exchange value of tobacco in social and ritual settings conflicted with new images of tobacco as "poison." We draw on the example of Native American tobacco control programs that effectively focus on commercialized tobacco separate from ritual use, and suggest that a similar culturally-nuanced approach to prevention and policy among migrants from Asia can honor traditional norms about tobacco even as new norms restricting tobacco use can be fostered.

'They used to save me twos and that, but they never gave us fags': morality and access to cigarettes among adolescents in the Midlands, UK

Author: Jude Robinson (University of Liverpool)  email
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Long Abstract

Despite targeted public health interventions throughout England in health care, community and school settings, an estimated 6% of young people aged 11-15 years are regular smokers, with girls more likely to smoke than boys. Drawing on focus group and some observational data with 85 young people aged 12 - 15 years of age living in the Midlands, England, we explore how young people access cigarettes and how and why they 'became smokers'. What is evident from their accounts is the importance of social networks to obtain cigarettes, not only through gifts and resale, but through social support and the transmission of knowledge to support proxy sales and direct sales in shops. However there was also an undercurrent of morality in the accounts that shapes access to cigarettes and starting smoking, suggesting new ways of conceptualising young people's attitudes that could usefully inform the development of future interventions to reduce smoking uptake.

Making smoking history for our children? Imagined futures versus situated presents in the North East of England

Authors: Sue Lewis (Durham University)  email
Andrew Russell (Durham University)  email
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Long Abstract

The tagline of recent tobacco control campaigns in England reads 'let's make smoking history for our children'. It is a call for everyone to engage in an imaginative quest and, in the North East of England, to stop approximately 10,000 smokers aged 11 to 15 becoming the adult smokers of tomorrow. In UK public health terms, for our more deprived communities failure would constitute a crisis of continuing disease, loss of quality life years and of increasing health inequalities.

Grounded in comparative ethnographic research conducted with young people in the region, this paper will consider some of the challenges to success in achieving a tobacco free future. In addition to mundane matters such as peer pressure, examples include the impact of post-industrialisation and the local community as apparently willing participant in the global trade in illicit tobacco. When such macro forces stand as potential barriers, what can the imagination achieve?

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.