2014 Conference

Event Title

Panel 9: "War on the Poor: Subalternality and Drug Prohibition in the United States and Mexico, 1870-2012"

Presenter Information

Todd Jolly, University of Wyoming

Location

Business Building, Room #8

Start Date

4-12-2014 12:45 PM

End Date

4-12-2014 2:00 PM

Description

This paper explores the relationship between subaltern populations and state drug prohibition in the United States and Mexico at the end of the nineteenth century through elections in both countries in 2012. Analysis of primary documents from newspaper articles, political cartoons and government testimonies discussing the prohibition of cocaine, marijuana, opium and other substances reveals an association of drug use with marginalized citizens in society, including people of color, prostitutes, and, perhaps most significantly, the poor. Similarly, as drug prohibition evolved into the more ambitious and expansive “War on Drugs” in the early 1970s through the twenty-first century, the same groups of people were disproportionately targeted for violations of said drug laws and incarcerated accordingly. In fact, some scholars claim that due to the War on Drugs, there are more African Americans under the control of the U.S. justice system in some form than were enslaved before the Civil War. In Mexico, the War on Drugs has resulted in the deaths of more than 55,000 civilians as of 2012 in a conflict going back to the late 1990s, most all of them subaltern peoples.

Parallel to shifts in public sentiment and public policy in the United States and other parts of Latin America, it appears that the War on Drugs and drug prohibition are viewed as increasingly ineffective and destructive policies, especially towards minorities and the poor. As society holds an important debate on drug policy, it is important that we understand the origins and effects of drug prohibition, so that we may have a more nuanced understanding from which to base policy in the future.

Comments

Panel Chair: Dr. Messenger

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Apr 12th, 12:45 PM Apr 12th, 2:00 PM

Panel 9: "War on the Poor: Subalternality and Drug Prohibition in the United States and Mexico, 1870-2012"

Business Building, Room #8

This paper explores the relationship between subaltern populations and state drug prohibition in the United States and Mexico at the end of the nineteenth century through elections in both countries in 2012. Analysis of primary documents from newspaper articles, political cartoons and government testimonies discussing the prohibition of cocaine, marijuana, opium and other substances reveals an association of drug use with marginalized citizens in society, including people of color, prostitutes, and, perhaps most significantly, the poor. Similarly, as drug prohibition evolved into the more ambitious and expansive “War on Drugs” in the early 1970s through the twenty-first century, the same groups of people were disproportionately targeted for violations of said drug laws and incarcerated accordingly. In fact, some scholars claim that due to the War on Drugs, there are more African Americans under the control of the U.S. justice system in some form than were enslaved before the Civil War. In Mexico, the War on Drugs has resulted in the deaths of more than 55,000 civilians as of 2012 in a conflict going back to the late 1990s, most all of them subaltern peoples.

Parallel to shifts in public sentiment and public policy in the United States and other parts of Latin America, it appears that the War on Drugs and drug prohibition are viewed as increasingly ineffective and destructive policies, especially towards minorities and the poor. As society holds an important debate on drug policy, it is important that we understand the origins and effects of drug prohibition, so that we may have a more nuanced understanding from which to base policy in the future.