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2021 Summer Kreminar—Opiates & Opioids

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

2021 Kreminar Social Card

Mark your calendars for the 2021 Edward Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy & Drugs. The Summer 2021 “Kreminar” explores the theme of Opiates & Opioids and will feature six virtual seminars, presentations, and discussions by scholars and practitioners researching and writing about the history and the contemporary status of opiates, opioids, and addiction.

The Summer 2021 Kreminar will consist of streaming online Zoom presentations from 1:00–2:30 Eastern time (12:00–1:30 Central time) on six consecutive Thursdays in May or June. Kreminar presenters will be Dr. Benjamin Breen (May 13th), Dr. Diana S. Kim (May 20th), Dr. Daniel Skinner with Kerri Mongenel (May 27th), Dr. Nancy Campbell and Dr. David Herzberg (June 3rd), Dr. James Bradford (June 10th), and Maia Szalavitz (June 17th).

Participants are required to preregister for each presentation. Visit the 2021 Kreminar home page or see below for more information and registration links for all six Kreminars.

The hosts and sponsors of the 2021 Kreminar are:

2021 Summer Kreminar Schedule of Presentations

May 13—Dr. Benjamin Breen: “Three Ways of Looking at Opium: Flower, Latex, Pharmaceutical.” Click here to register for Dr. Breen’s presentation (opens in a new tab).

Age of Intoxication cover

Brief Abstract: This talk by Benjamin Breen, the the author of The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade (University of Pennsylvania, 2019), investigates the changing social and medical roles of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) over the past five centuries. By the early decades of the nineteenth century, medicines derived from Papaver somniferum had bifurcated into categories that mapped onto the imperialism of the era: on the one hand, the increasingly racialized and Orientalized opium latex; on the other, “purified” pharmaceuticals like morphine. Mapping these three ways of looking at opium—from flower, to latex, to pharmaceutical—can tell us much about the unspoken assumptions and colonial legacies that continue to shape contemporary debates about drugs.


May 20—Dr. Diana S. Kim: “Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition Across Southeast Asia.” Click here to register for Dr. Kim’s presentation (opens in a new tab).

Empires of Vice cover

Brief Abstract: This talk by Diana S. Kim, the author of Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition across Southeast Asia (Princeton University Press, 2020), challenges the conventional wisdom about opium prohibition. During the late nineteenth century, opium was integral to European colonial rule in Southeast Asia. The taxation of opium was a major source of revenue for British and French colonizers, who also derived moral authority from imposing a tax on a peculiar vice of their non-European subjects. Yet between the 1890s and the 1940s, colonial states began to ban opium, upsetting the very foundations of overseas rule—how did this happen? This talk explores the history of this dramatic reversal and colonial legacies that set the stage for the region’s drug problems today.


May 27—Dr. Daniel Skinner in conversation with Kerri Mongenel: “The Humanity of Addiction: What We Can Learn from Families, Educators, and Practitioners” Click here to register for Dr. Skinner and Ms. Mongenel’s presentation (opens in a new tab).

Not Far From Me cover

Brief Abstract: In this session, Kerri Mongenel, a children services caseworker, and Daniel Skinner, a health policy researcher, offer their perspectives on the changing dynamics of addiction in Ohio. Far more than a merely technical problem that could be solved by a single policy solution, Ohio’s addiction crisis is a far-reaching sociological phenomenon, with consequences for virtually every social group and institution in Ohio, including families, schools, places of employment and faith, and beyond. Dan and Kerri talk about their own work on the opioid crisis. Kerri will reflect on her work with children and their families, but also her own processing of her daily work. Dan, the co-editor of the recent book, Not Far From Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio (Ohio State University Press, 2019), will share reflections on his work as a researcher and medical educator, including his work as a scholar of public humanities.


June 3—Dr. Nancy Campbell and Dr. David Herzberg: “Unexpected Histories of Opioids and Overdose.” Click here to register for Dr. Campbell and Dr. Herzberg’s presentation (opens in a new tab).

OD cover
White Market Drugs cover

Brief Abstract: Until recently, historians who studied opioids studied criminalized heroin markets and their participants. Dr. Nancy Campbell, the author of OD: Naloxone and the Politics of Overdose (MIT Press, 2020), and Dr. David Herzberg, author of White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America (University of Chicago Press, 2020), argue that we can’t understand prohibition markets unless we also understand the history of (much larger) pharmaceutical markets. Why did certain pharmaceutical opioids, and opioid antagonists, come to matter the way they did, when they did—particularly during the social and political ferment of the early 21st century’s “opioid crisis”? How does incorporating the story of pharmaceuticals change our understanding of the history of opioids, addiction, and overdose?


June 10—Dr. James Bradford: “Poppy Politics: Drugs in Afghanistan, Past and Present.” Click here to register for Dr. Bradford’s presentation (opens in a new tab).

Politics Poppies Power cover

Brief Abstract: During this talk, Dr. James Bradford will show that drugs, especially opium, were critical components in the formation and failure of the Afghan state. He will unveil how the country moved from licit supply of the global opium trade to one of the major suppliers of illicit hashish and opium. Poppies, Politics, and Power: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy (Cornell University Press, 2019) breaks the conventional modes of national histories that fail to fully encapsulate the global nature of the drug trade by explaining how Afghanistan’s emergence as a major supplier of illicit drugs is tied to broader changes to the global drug market and international drug control.

Undoing Drugs cover

June 17—Maia Szalavitz: “Undoing Drugs: Harm Reduction, Opioids and the Future of Addiction.” Click here to register for Ms. Szalavitz’s presentation (opens in a new tab).

This Q&A about Maia Szalavitz’s forthcoming book, Undoing Drugs: The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction (Hachette Books, 2021) will explore the history of harm reduction and what it suggests about dealing with the current overdose crisis. It will examine the false narrative that now drives opioid policy and how harm reduction offers both a more accurate and a more effective way to manage drug problems.


Who was Edward Kremers?

Edward Kremers in 1935

Edward Kremers in 1935

Edward Kremers (1864-1941) was the second Director of the University of Wisconsin Department of Pharmacy (later the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy) and a co-founder of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. Throughout his career, he strongly believed in the importance of history and the value of humanistic research in pharmacy and the health sciences. Kremers also encouraged critical thought about drug consumption and control in the United States, encouraging the news media, political leaders, and pharmacy leaders to think about the meanings associated with words like “drug,” “narcotics,” and “medicine.” He opposed prohibitionist impulses and groups, arguing that that restrictive measures would not solve the misuse of certain substances. Kremers also resisted language and policies that placed blame on foreigners for drug addiction or crime.


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