Skye Niles

Early U.S. Drug Policy as a Method of Racial, Gender, and Sexual Control

My research focuses on the social conditions through which the first U.S. drug prohibition policies were produced and how these drug policies police minority groups. I ask, how are early drug policies not only methods of drug control, but also of racial, sexual, and gender control? I analyze how opium smoking became associated with anti-Chinese policies and sentiment even while other forms of opiates such as morphine remained unregulated. I draw off of Nayan Shah’s notion of how opium “dens” can be considered semi-public spaces of “queer relations” where men experience pleasure together and where interracial and interclass contact occurs to look at how anti-opium policies also became ways of regulating non-normative sexual, racial, and gender interactions (95). I also critique how the imagined notion of white women’s purity is used as a rationale for regulating opium and opium users. Through understanding some of the basis for the earliest U.S. drug policies, I aim to contribute to the current conversations on drug policy as a historically based and ongoing method of population control with racialized, gendered and sexualized effects.

Works Cited:

Shah, Nayan. Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s

Chinatown. Berkeley: University of California, 2001. Print.