First Seminar on the Narco-Imaginary (ACLA 2011, Vancouver, B.C., Mar. 31-Apr. 3)

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Ramsey Scott
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Narcotics repeatedly emerge as central elements in the history of colonization and global capitalism. "Legal" or "illegal," state-sanctioned or unsanctioned, the drug trade is fundamental to numerous historical developments, from the European "discovery" of tobacco in the New World, to the Anglo-Chinese Wars over the opium trade, to the interventions of the United States in Vietnam, Laos, Afghanistan, Columbia, Panama, Nicaragua…

Accordingly, a long history of literary and cultural production traffics in the representation of drug use: the opium-laced visions of Coleridge and De Quincey, the mushroom-induced chants of María Sabina, Freud's cocaine dreams, Benjamin's experiments with hashish, Warhol's speed-driven Factory, Huxley's hallucinogenic visions, the LSD-laced improvisations of Jimmy Hendrix…

At the same time that evidence of the cultural influence wielded by the "narco-imaginary" abounds, the term also points to patterns of violence that emerge alongside the use of narcotics: racial profiling, stereotyping, scapegoating, the "war on drugs." In the U.S., the expansion of anti-drug legislation following the demise of the New Left suggests that the narco-imaginary might also serve as a tool for police-state propaganda.

This seminar seeks to explore what has been (and what might remain) intoxicating about the creative rendering of intoxication. What is at stake—politically, socially, culturally, aesthetically—in the imagination of intoxication, and for whom? How has the narcotics trade influenced subaltern subjects and identities? How is this influence represented in cultural products emerging from various locales, cultures, conflicts, and contexts?

Please see the ACLA conference website for details on how to submit paper proposals for participation in a seminar: