The anthropology of drug policy: a way to diversify the field of drug studies?

Vibeke Asmussen Frank (Århus University)
Axel Klein (University of Swansea)
Steffen Jöhncke (University of Aarhus)
Vibeke Asmussen Frank
Start time:
28 August, 2008 at 11:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The workshop takes a starting point in the Anthropology of Policy as put forward by Shore and Wright (1997) and aims at exploring new ways of studying the politics and practices of psychoactive drugs. The purpose is to discuss how anthropology can help diversify the study of drug use and drug policy.

Long abstract:

Ethnographic studies of the uses and the users of psychoactive drugs have generally shown the complexity of the meanings of drugs across time and space. In this manner, ethnography has contributed to the problematisation of beliefs and policies that rely on simplistic notions of drugs and drug users. But by focusing primarily on the users, ethnography has also - perhaps inadvertently - contributed to the idea that drug users are indeed the ethnographic Others that we need to study, rather than, for instance, the policy-makers, the police, prison staff, prevention workers, staff of treatment institutions, or some of all the other groups of people involved in the formulation and implementation of drug policies. In this workshop we take a starting point in the Anthropology of Policy as put forward by Shore and Wright (1997) and invite all anthropologists - academic or applied - who are involved in the study of or work with drugs and drug policies to join us in order to explore issues pertinent for the development of an anthropology of drug policy. Among the issues we suggest be considered are the impact of the drugs' illegality on users and on societies, the development and practice of harm reduction policies, the ethnographic study of treatment facilities, and the uneven development of drug policies internationally (heroin used in treatment, general testing schemes of employees and school children). Where is drug policy on a global scale going, and how may anthropology help explore it?