New Course: Narcotic Geographies: Drugs, Drug Wars, and Racial Capitalism in Historical Perspective

Co-Taught by Filip Stabrowski (GC/EES) and Karen Miller (GC/MALS). Both faculty are also affiliated with LaGuardia Community College. In-person at the GC in Spring 2024 (Course # 81620).

This graduate seminar will explore the historical-geographical relationship between drugs and racial capitalism in the modern era. The course will consider how the extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and regulation (including prohibition) of psychoactive substances of various sorts have intersected with the expansion, consolidation, and (potential) unsettling of capitalist social relations of production across the globe. Through a selection of commodity-based case studies exploring the material and cultural production of a range of drugs (including sugar, tea, coffee, opium, alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, and legalized pharmaceuticals), the course will address topics such as: the role of drugs production and regulation in historical processes of state- and empire-building; il/legality as a political/historical construction rather than natural category; drugs, racial capitalism, and the carceral state; the state/corporate nexus of international drugs production and trafficking; cannabis prohibition and post-prohibition; drugs and consumer/counter cultures; and alternative drug futures. Though the focus will largely be historical, the course will adopt an interdisciplinary approach to the topic and will include the work of historians, geographers, and anthropologists, among others. To receive full credit, participants will be expected to write a research proposal (or other appropriate project) and to participate actively in reading and responding to fellow participants’ work. 


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309