$6 – $14

The Age of Intoxication: Psychoactive Drugs in World History

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Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

102 Kroeber Hall, University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA 94720

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Event description
How have perceptions of drugs changed over time? This lecture will explore the history of drugs in the colonial era and beyond.

About this Event

The Lounge Lecture series, hosted alongside the current exhibit Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Mind-Altering Substances, provides an opportunity to explore contemporary subjects related to mind-altering substances with leading experts in their fields. This December, join Benjamin Breen for an exploration of the history of drugs in the colonial era and beyond.

Eating the flesh of an Egyptian mummy prevents the plague. Distilled poppies reduce melancholy. A Turkish drink called coffee increases alertness. Tobacco cures cancer. Such beliefs circulated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, an era when the term “drug” encompassed everything from herbs and spices—like nutmeg, cinnamon, and chamomile—to such deadly poisons as lead, mercury, and arsenic. Focusing on the tropical colonies of the Portuguese and British empires, this talk examines the process by which novel drugs were located, commodified, and consumed. The history of drugs in the colonial era offers a glimpse into a time when drugs were not yet divided into distinct categories—illicit and licit, recreational and medicinal, modern and traditional—and there was no clear boundary between the drug dealer and the pharmacist. But it also highlights the ways that centuries-old biases and preconceptions have carried over into contemporary debates about drug policy.

About the Speaker

Benjamin Breen is an Assistant Professor of History at UC Santa Cruz. Previously, he was a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in history at Columbia University. He received his PhD from UT Austin in 2015. His book The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in December, 2019.

Accessibility

The Museum’s newly renovated Gallery strives to provide excellence in accessibility for all visitors. The entrance and all exhibit spaces are wheelchair accessible and located on a single floor. Automatic door push-buttons are available at the front entrance. Content is provided at standard heights with all text in large, legible fonts. A variety of furniture is provided throughout the Gallery to provide resting points for all guests. All exhibit cases and displays are cane detectable. Public restrooms are located near the Gallery. With advance notice, we are happy to provide additional support for guests with specific needs. Please email pahma-gallery@berkeley.edu for more info.

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Date and Time

Location

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

102 Kroeber Hall, University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA 94720

View Map

Refund Policy

Contact the organizer to request a refund.

Eventbrite's fee is nonrefundable.

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