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Cannabis and the Cultures of Colonialism: Government, medicine, ritual and pleasures in the history of an Asian drug (c. 1800 - c. 1895)

Mills, James (2009) Cannabis and the Cultures of Colonialism: Government, medicine, ritual and pleasures in the history of an Asian drug (c. 1800 - c. 1895). Zeitenblicke, 9 (3). ISSN 1619-0459

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Abstract

The paper examines attitudes towards cannabis evident in the colonial archives of British India. It identifies and historicizes both European and Asian perspectives on preparations of the plant. On the one hand the paper argues that even in societies that had long experience of cannabis, cultural practices and understandings surrounding the drug were never homogenous or static. On the other hand, it shows that even where the methods of 'modern' government are focused on the issue of cannabis, they bring no more clarity than the local cultural constructions that have grown out of experience. The conclusion is that cannabis eludes simple location in any cultural system, partly because the substance is complex and unpredictable in its effects on human physiology, and partly because its properties place it in an often ambiguous or unstable relationship with moral codes, government systems and social organisations.