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Conference: Drugs and the ‘Industrial Situation’ 1800s-1960s

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

On 22nd-23rd August 2022 Universität Zurich are hosting a conference: Drugs and the ‘Industrial Situation’ 1800s-1960s. Find out more about the conference and its program below.

Conference Synopsis

Scientific and technological revolutions, including the isolation of alkaloids and the invention of machines, allowed the mass production and long-distance distribution of drugs from the early nineteenth century onwards. The rise of the pharmaceutical industry affected societies in Europe and North America in terms of economic structures, styles of life and conceptualizations of public health. Yet, there has been a neglect of the ‘industrial situation’ – a term echoing Georges Balandier’s ‘colonial situation’ which he believed to be total – in other world regions. Drug factories and laboratories in Latin America, or Korea and Taiwan competed with German, Swiss, and British pharmaceutical centers, and turned into early platforms of multinational entrepreneurship with the support of states in the early twentieth century. Also, shifting consumption patterns and views on drugs that resulted from the rise of globally active pharmaceutical companies occurred not only in European and North American consumer societies, but also in the Near East, or East Asia. In sum, this workshop understands drugs as a vehicle by which to shed light on the global economic and social changes brought about by the industrial situation.

Conference Program

The two-day conference program is available to view here.

Contact details

For all other queries, please contact:

Elife Biçer-Deveci at; or

Judith Vitale at


Feature image: “Cocaine dreams”, in Umehara Hokumei, “Sekai ahen kidan,” Gurotesuku – Grotesque 2:4 (1929).



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