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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2009

T C 357 • Prohibition and Drug Wars - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43820 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
CRD 007A

Course Description

Americans' relationship with drugs has always been a curious one. As staunch individualists we have pronounced our right to control our body in whatever way we please. Yet, simultaneously, we recognize the potential power drugs have to take away this very same individuality. We treat our addiction alternately as a consequence of our environment and then as free choice. Such duality leads to cyclical periods of Americans declaring that drugs are the ultimate evil and then stating that drugs do no harm at all. Consequently, American society has witnessed a number of historical periods which merit the appellation "drug war" followed by times of relative calm.

This class explores two of those periods: the time of alcohol prohibition beginning around the 1880's and in existence from 1919 to 1933 and the present scattershot, unrestrained movement to eliminate all “street” drugs. These periods have a number of things in common: lawlessness and disrespect for the law, increased price and demand for drug,s; moralistic rhetoric, and huge increases in prison population. Yet, political and cultural opposition to alcohol prohibition always existed as did support for it. The historical use of alcohol in American society served as a normalizing function. Yet illegal drugs today do not have such support. Does this mean that this cycle will go on forever, and we will continue to pour money down this sinkhole? Is there a possibility that America can transcend history and achieve a truly drug-free age? Or, indeed, do prohibition movements take place only under certain historical circumstances and will this drug war end with a change in circumstances?

Grading Policy

This class contains a substantial writing component.

Two reading quizzes: 20%
One short paper (3-5 pages): 10%
Class participation: 30%
One research paper (15-20 pages): 40%


John Crowley and William White, Drunkard's Refuge: The Lessons of the New York State Inebriate Asylum
Thomas Pegram, Battling Demon Rum
Joseph Spillaine, Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States
Craig Reinarmann and Harry G. Levine, Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice
Michael Massing, The Fix: Under the Nixon Administration America Had an Effective Drug Policy
Charles Bowden, Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family
Five scheduled in-class films
Course Packet of about 250 pages

About the Professor

Mark Smith teaches in the American Studies and History departments. Before coming to the University of Texas, he taught for a number of years overseas in Germany and Japan. In addition to his degrees in American Studies, he has a masters degree in Social Work from the University of Texas and has worked as an alcohol and drug counselor. He has written Social Science in the Crucible: The American Debate over Objectivity and Purpose, 1918-1941 and is currently working on a study of 20th century American resistance to the demonization of drug use and users. He has won several teaching and advising awards from the college and university. He admits to living and dying with the Boston Red Sox.


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