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Since affective expectations and aversions haunt scholarly work beneath its performed “objectivity,” fear of the possible delusion of the idea of the self-conscious subject might have played a part in the disavowal of Ortiz’s most obvious idea. There has also been, in part, a rather narrow secularism in Latin American scholars’ turn to cultural studies, which has led to the prevalent association of narcotics and stimulants with those irrational spheres that belonged to religion or vanity but not modern culture. If, on the other hand, readers of Ortiz’s book had taken note of Walter Benjamin’s “Capitalism as Religion” and “Surrealism,” and especially of his far-reaching concept-figure of a “dialectics of intoxication,” See Hermann Herlinghaus, Violence Without Guilt: Ethical Narratives From the Global South (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 11-19. different ideas about modernity’s inherent transgressions and singular counterpoints of psychoactives offered to the West by peripheral cultures might have come our way several decades sooner.

The shifting relationships among psychoactives, modernity, and globalization cannot be understood simply by looking into the heated vocabulary related to “illicit flows and criminal things” (to use van Schendel and Abraham’s recent book title Willem van Schendel and Itty Abraham (eds.), Illicit Flows and Criminal Things: States, Borders, and the Other Side of Globalization (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005). ), the narcotics economy, or the “war on drugs.” According to DeGrandpre’s The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World’s Most Troubled Drug Culture (2006), Richard DeGrandpre, The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World’s Most Troubled Drug Culture (Durham–London: Duke University Press, 2006). a cultic view came to reign in the twentieth century under the allegedly objective label of pharmacology, which classified drugs as either angels or demons (ibid., viii). “The pharmaceutical industry, the tobacco industry, modern biological psychiatry, the biomedical sciences, the drug enforcement agencies, and the American judicial system… have come to embrace a cult of pharmacology, not as a conspiracy but as a de-facto religious belief system” (ibid.). Here we have the first paradox: science on the one hand and belief or fear on the other, each coupled with powerful interests. In the course of his study, DeGrandpre points to the establishment of a discursive order that resembles Edward Said’s idea of orientalism. At issue is a mechanism for making Otherness available to judgment by affectively constructing it in the first place. In Said’s case, colonial discourse provided a dark, mysterious Orient, which eventually served colonialism’s practical interests and deepest drives. DeGrandpre applies the figure of “orientalism,” common among postcolonial scholars, to the trajectories of mystification that have come to characterize a main part of the modern history of narcotics. Psychoactives have become, by means of social and ideological imagination, a hyperbole—a symbol for excess—qualifying their cultivators and users as a dangerous “Other” that calls for moral scrutiny, restriction, and even coercion. This mode of trivial judgment must be reconsidered, though the task is complex and there seems to be no central vantage point.

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Source:  OpenStax, Emerging disciplines: shaping new fields of scholarly inquiry in and beyond the humanities. OpenStax CNX. May 13, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11201/1.1
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