ANTH Colloquium - Helena Hansen (NYU)

Monday, September 30, 2019 - 12:00pm
3260 South Street, Penn Museum Rm 345

White Opioids: Neuroscience, Racial Capital and the U.S. War on Drugs that Wasn't

In the United States, the unspoken, implicit white racial logic of the emerging brain disease model of addiction is based on the image of seemingly universal, disembodied brains devoid of social or environmental influences. The brain disease model was selectively deployed among the white middle class that had long accessed narcotics from clinics. In turn, new treatments for opioid addiction were racially marketed to the same white clientele, tapping into a consumer base that has long benefitted from legally protected, racially segregated clinical spaces for narcotics consumption. Four ‘technologies of whiteness’ (neuroscience, biotechnology, regulation and marketing) thus converged around the current opioid crisis, to create a separate, biomedical system for categorizing and disciplining drug use among whites, leaving intact more punitive systems to govern the drug use of people of color.