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Cultural Narratives of the War on Drugs

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Organizer: Fernando Esquivel-Suarez

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The 1980s became a period of inflection. The enforcement of international prohibitionist policies known as the “War on Drugs” (WoD) produced endless cycles of violence. One clear outcome has been the militarization of police forces and the resulting mass incarceration of members of disenfranchised Black and Brown communities throughout the Americas. Academics in the hemisphere have disregarded the transnational impact of the drug war on communities of color by confining their analyses within national and racial borders. Our proposed panel is transnational in scope and invites contributions that analyze popular and wide-ranging representations of the WoD. We seek to articulate and underscore commonalities around the effects of the drug war in Latinx and African American populations. Historically, cultural productions fragment the representation of the cocaine supply chain; for instance, the TV shows Narcos and The Wire homogenize and narrate particular aspects of Latin Americans’ and Black Americans’ involvement in the cocaine trade. This panel aims to attract approaches that bring together phenomena commonly narrated as separate experiences: for example, the aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca fields in Colombia and Peru; the social ramifications caused by mass incarceration in the United States; the rise of hyper-masculine subjectivities linked to the image of “the narco” in the Global South; Black and Brown communities’ experiences with drug-related racial stereotyping, surveillance, and policing; the weaponization of affects —shame for example— as deterrence from engaging in the illegal drug trade; studies and narrations of addiction; issues of pleasure and punishment; harm reduction approaches to consumption; the role of extracting industries and gentrification in the trade; issues of police brutality and corruption; the relationship between the WoD and migration as well as issues of the cultivation and consumption of sacred plants, indigeneity, and drug tourism. This panel aims to articulate mutual narratives and interpretations about the WoD with the hope of building solidarity among the communities affected by it in the intersection of reciprocal gazes and cultural exchanges across marginalized communities.

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