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Historisches Seminar

Drugs and the 'Industrial Situation'

Workshop hosted at ETH Zurich, August 22–23, 2022
Building LEE E 101, Leonhardstrasse 21, 8092 Zürich

Scientific and technological revolutions, including the isolation of alkaloids and the invention of machines, allowed the mass production and long-distance distribution of drugs from the early nineteenth century onwards. The rise of the pharmaceutical industry affected economic structures, styles of life and public health policies in Europe and North America. However, there has been a neglect of the ‘industrial situation’ in other world regions. Drug factories and laboratories in Latin America, Africa or Asia competed with European and North American pharmaceutical centers. They emerged to early platforms of multinational entrepreneurship with the support of governments, and simultaneously shaped an illicit global drug economy, local consumption patterns and views on natural and processed drugs.

Monday, August 22



Elife Biçer-Deveci, ETH Zurich
Judith Vitale, UZH

Welcome remarks


Manufacturing Processes

Tomás Bartoletti, ETH Zurich
Parallel Histories? Cocaïna and the Bolivian-Italian Missing Link

Benjamin Breen, UC Santa Cruz
The Industrialization of Ethnobotany: Anthropologists, Chemists, and the Early Histories of Amphetamine and Mescaline, 1860-1940 Discussant: Harald Fischer-Tiné, ETH Zurich



Jim Mills, University of Strathclyde
The Asian Cocaine Crisis: Colonialism, Capitalism, and Consumption in South and East Asia, c. 1890–1945


Invisible and Licit Commodity Chains

Diana Kim, Georgetown University
The “Evil Spectators”: Opium and its Colonial Stakeholders across Twentieth-Century Asia

Chris Duvall, The University of New Mexico
The Mostly Invisible Transport of Psychoactive Cannabis across the Atlantic before 1925

Discussant: Miriam Kingsberg, University of Colorado Boulder

Tuesday, August 23


Export Countries and their Domestic Markets

Peter-Paul Bänziger, University of Basel
A History of Opiate Retailing in Industrialization Era Switzerland, c. 1780-1930

Judith Vitale, University of Zurich
Morphine Geishas: The Japanese Drug Industry in the 1920s Discussant: Oleg Benesch, University of York


Drugs in the Middle East

Elife Biçer-Deveci, ETH Zurich
The Issue of Drugs in Turkey: A Nexus between Pharmaceutical Industry, the League of Nations and Nationalist Policies

Haggai Ram, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Israel and the Dialectics of the War on Drugs: Detoxicating “Outsiders Within,” Intoxicating Foreign Enemies

Discussant: Liat Kozma, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

16:10–16:50 Concluding Remarks

Weiterführende Informationen


Drugs and the 'Industrial Situation' 1800s–1960s

Bildnachweis: “Cocaine dreams” (kokain no yume), in Umehara Hokumei, “Sekai ahen kidan,” Gurotesuku – Grotesque 2:4 (1929).


Elife Biçer-Deveci

Judith Vitale

Tomás Bartoletti