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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: Sociology of Intoxication (SCIL10054)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course examines what intoxication is, why people seek it out, and why it is often seen as a problem. It covers all licit and illicit drugs, and any other substances taken with the intention of altering the user's consciousness. In the course you will explore harm and risk, pleasure, deviance, illicit leisure, socially obligatory drinking, extreme intoxication, taste and social distinction, the cultural construction of public problems, addiction and alcoholism, and enhancement. You will use evidence from around the world and will compare different cultures and contexts. You will conduct your own small research and analysis tasks which you will discuss in class and write up for assessment. These tasks include: analysing drug and alcohol policy, interpreting research data, and conducting ethnographic observation. Class discussions are led by the topics, themes and examples that students come up with and your contributions from the readings.
Course description a. Academic Description

Political and media discourses only consider intoxication when it manifests as a social problem, treating its effects as accidental or incidental. This course aims to address two significant gaps in our thinking on this topic. First, we mostly think of the experience of intoxication - being drunk, getting high and so on - as happening largely at physiological and psychological levels. The content and construction of the experience of intoxication itself seems to be thought of as off-limits to sociological investigation and theorising, as irrelevant, or as an unfortunate and unwanted side effect. The course will explore the social factors involved in the generation of different experiences of intoxication. Second, when we do consider intoxication as worthy of study we turn it into a problem, rather than seeing it as a normal social practice, as much bounded by rules and norms as any other activity. This course draws on sociology, anthropology, history, psychology, neuroscience and other disciplines to encourage you to examine intoxication as a practice embedded in social life

b. Outline content

1. Introduction: Why doesn't everyone use drugs?
In this session we will ask the questions: What is a drug? Why do people use them? How do some substances become drugs and others do not? What is intoxication?
We will be conducting an experiment in class so let me know if you are allergic to alcohol.

2. Harm and policy
Guest lecture by Anna Ross. In this seminar we will be exploring the social construction of drug problem and examining whose morality underpins the regulation of intoxication and illicit drug use. The question we will be addressing is "what is the relationship between risk and morality?"

3. Should we have the right to use drugs?
In this lecture we discuss the regulation and criminalisation of drugs, drug use places and drug users. This ranges from micro-regulation through to the global system of drug control.

4. What¿s the use of drugs?
In this session we examine the uses to which intoxicants are put and the ways their effects are shaped by material culture

5. Enhancement drugs
This session examines the use of drugs for enhancement and so-called smart drug use.

6. Addiction and cure
This lecture looks at the concept of disease and the uses of drugs to cure drug related problems.

7. Hanging out
This lecture examines different intoxication spaces

8. Ethnography in the zone
In this session we examine ethnographies with heroin and crack users. We discuss why heroin and crack are especially stigmatised drugs, the different subcultures that surround them, and the limits of research with users.

9. The problem of supply
This session examines drug trades on the darknet cryptomarkets and the motivations people have for using them.

10. Intoxication and global flows
In this session we continue our study of the darknet to discuss the present and future of the drug trade.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Sociology or closely related courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will examine the patterns and practices of drug, alcohol and tobacco use in the UK and internationally
  2. Students will have the ability to evaluate different approaches to drug and alcohol control
  3. Students will be able to critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of various sociological, psychological, biological and anthropological approaches to and theories of substance use
  4. Students will be able to produce their own research on drug and alcohol use, in the form of a Research journal
  5. Students will be able to apply their knowledge to emerging problems and challenges in the field
Reading List
I encourage you to read across disciplines, and some of the best work on intoxication is historical, anthropological and journalistic. A few examples are: Marshall, Mac (1979) Beliefs, Behaviors, & Alcoholic Beverages: A Cross-cultural Survey, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan; Schivelbusch, W. (1992) Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants, London, Vintage/Random House; Walton, Stuart (2001) Out of It: A Cultural History of Intoxication, London, Penguin; and Courtwright, David (2001) Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World, London, Harvard University Press.

Two good sociological texts on regulation and control of illicit drugs are Blackman, Shane (2004) Chilling Out: The Cultural Politics of Substance Consumption, Maidenhead, Open University Press; and Barton, Adam (2003) Illicit Drugs: Use and Control, London, Routledge. Two wide ranging edited collections are: Goldberg, Ray (ed.) (2008) Taking Sides: Clashing views in drugs and society, 8th ed. Boston, McGraw-Hill Higher Education; and Manning, Paul (2007) Drugs and Popular Culture: Drugs, Media and Identity in Contemporary Society, Cullompton, Willan Publishing. You can also look at Bancroft, Angus (2009) Drugs, Intoxication and Society, Cambridge, Polity Press, which emerged from teaching this course.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills You will learn the following skills:
Identify and analyse drug and alcohol problems and propose effective policy solutions
Interpret changing drug trends
Compare and evaluate research evidence
Collect your own data on the topic
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Angus Bancroft
Tel: (0131 6)50 6642
Course secretaryMiss Abby Gleave
Tel: (0131 6)51 1337
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