STS.062J / 21A.344J Drugs, Politics, and Culture

Spring 2006

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sets seized cocaine ablaze.
Cocaine seized aboard The Macel ship in December 2001 totaled 9,291 kilograms. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration set the cocaine ablaze to ensure the drug never reached the street. (Image courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Administration.)

Course Highlights

This course features exemplary student papers and a detailed description of the assignments. A partial set of lecture notes is also available.

Course Description

This class examines the relationship between a number of mind-altering substances and cultural processes. We look at the relationship between drugs and such phenomena as poverty, religion, technology, inter-generational conflict, colonialism, and global capitalism. We read about the physiological and psychological effects of these substances -- ranging from alcohol to LSD, cocaine and ecstasy -- and ask why different societies prohibit and sanction different drugs. We examine the use of mind-altering substances in a number of "traditional" societies, and follow the development of a global trade in such substances as sugar, coffee, tea, nicotine, cocaine, and marijuana concurrent with the evolution of global capitalism. We look at the use of LSD as a mind-control substance by the CIA and as a mind-altering substance in the 1960's counter-culture, and we look at the rise of Prozac® and Viagra® as popular, if controversial, pharmaceutical products in recent years. Finally, we evaluate America's current drug laws.
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Prof. Hugh Gusterson

Course Meeting Times

One session / week
3 hours / session

One session / week
1 hour / session