Accepted paper:

Dangerous movements: historical and cross-cultural perspectives on tobacco craving

Author:

Andrew Russell (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores tobacco craving historically and cross-culturally as an interoceptive force that plays an important and anthropologically underestimated role in generating and maintaining tobacco-human hybridity in long-term users.

Paper long abstract:

A footnote in Mac Marshall's 'Drinking Smoke' (2013) recounts the tragic tale of a 1950 Micronesian canoe party lost at sea during a journey from Namoluk to Chuuk in search of cigarettes. This presentation interrogates cravings, the interoceptive sensations ('feelings generated by the central nervous system that originate from the interiors of the body') engendered by long-term tobacco-human hybridity that became such a feature of 20th century life and continues to be in the 21st century, particularly in low and middle income countries such as Micronesia. What it is about tobacco that, to quote the 17th century Scottish madrigalist Tobias Hume, 'makes men sail from shore to shore'? The historian E.H. Carr uses the example of a man "crossing the road to buy cigarettes" who is killed by a drunk driver in a car with defective brakes. Such scenarios resonate, anthropologically speaking, with theories of agency, witchcraft and enchantment. Tobacco is often attributed with the agency to make people do things - produce, distribute, use, control and research it. Yet terms like agency and dependence are perhaps too anodyne to capture the reality of tobacco craving for many long-term users, underestimating what Matthew Kohrman (2008) describes as "the biochemical grip that cigarettes can have over people". In this paper, I plan to use a variety of historical and cross-cultural examples to reinstate the importance of tobacco craving as an interoceptive, bewitching force that causes people to move in ways that increase their likelihood of coming to an untimely end.

panel P069
Movement, stasis and interoception: unsettling the body [Medical Anthropology Network]