Research Questions

  • Is addiction still a useful concept?
  • Are alcoholism and addiction the same thing?
  • How have people described, controlled and treated habitual alcohol and/or drug use in different historical settings?
  • How have changing interpretations of ‘temperance’ influenced social, cultural and political life?
  • What can we learn from the user’s experience of “addiction”?
  • How did popular and scientific notions of disease, treatment and cure differ?
  • How have those notions influenced public policy?
  • Which substances were/are “addictive”?
  • How did behaviors like gambling come to be labeled “addictions”?
  • How does the new “brain disease” paradigm challenge historical understanding?
  • Do medical and penal approaches to addiction reinforce or contradict one another?
  • How are any of these questions inflected by race, class, gender, sexuality and/or age difference?
  • How are any of these questions inflected by differing national, regional or ethnic historical contexts?

By gathering a set of geographically and temporally diverse answers to these questions and others, the conference will urge comparative analysis of the way that ideas and practices circulate globally, beyond and beneath the powerful institutions of the nation state that often occupy international approaches to historical investigation.