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Call for Papers: Tonics, Elixirs, and Poisons: Psychoactive Substances in European History and Cultu

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

For a Conference 8-9 September 2012, the Antipodean East European Study Group at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, seeks proposals for papers that engage with the following.

Wanted: Context, Meaning, Nuance

Psychoactive substances, whether narcotics, stimulants or hallucinogens, affect their users as individuals, yet their social context informs their cultural significance. At different times and in different places, different substances have become a locus of fascination or anxiety, praise or opprobrium, patriotism or prohibition. We seek papers examining psychoactive substances in a specific cultural context. How, when, and why did substances such as alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, cocaine, opium, tea, and tobacco acquire the cultural meanings that they did? How have consumers of psychoactive substances crossed the border between medical and recreational use, and how has society responded to any perceived transgressions? How have these substances been represented in literary, journalistic, legal, or scientific texts?

We seek papers undertaking a detailed study of a specific substance in a specific time and place, and particularly encourage case studies of less-commonly studied societies, e.g. in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Baltic, or the Balkans.

We expect to have a small budget to defray accommodation costs, but we will not be able to pay for plane tickets from Europe or North America. We can, however, send letters of invitation if necessary.

The Journal of Social History has also expressed interest in publishing a themed issue of selected papers. All papers will go through a standard peer-review process. For journal submissions, please follow the style guide for the Journal of Social History (Chicago-style end-notes, not in-text citations). Your paper can be considered for the themed issue even if you are unable to attend the conference; similarly, you may attend the conference without submitting a paper to the themed issue. When sending an abstract, please specify whether you wish to be considered for the conference, the journal, or both. Send an abstract as soon as possible, but no later than 30 July 2012. Final papers will be due at the end of January 2013.

The conference will take place at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The conference will have no registration fee, and will be open to the public. For further information, contact Alexander Maxwell ( or Richard Millington (

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