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ATS1396: Drug cultures

Faculty of Arts

Drug cultures

Check the Handbook for the latest unit information.


Using anthropological and ethnographic studies, this unit focuses on the social and cultural contexts of legal and illegal drug use. In doing so it highlights the unique approaches and contribution of anthropology as a discipline to understanding behaviour. We will examine various approaches in anthropology to drug use, including the symbolism of drugs, ritual behaviours, economic and political factors influencing the use, production and distribution of drugs and the way in which these processes are enmeshed in local cultures and social networks and the global political economy. The unit will explore how patterns of drug use as well as dispositions towards use differ across cultural and social borders. Topics include: anthropological approaches to drugs as substances of value, power and desire; ethnomedicine and shamanism, bioprospecting and the trade in herbal medicines; international traffic in drugs and its relationship to regional politics and local tribal, peasant and commercial systems of production and exchange; drug tourism; youth culture and drugs in the West; cultures of intravenous drug use; the global political economy of pharmaceuticals, clinical drug trials; antimicrobial resistance, the anthropology of contraceptives, erectile dysfunction drugs; anti-retrovirals in the age of AIDS; Australian and Pacific indigenous drug use; drug trafficking on the internet.


1 - Quiz/Quizzes - 25% 2 - Analytical exercise - 15% 3 - Analytical exercise - 20% 4 - Essay - 40%


Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

Sustainable development goals

Adopted by the UN Member States in 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. Read more

This unit covers content related to the following SDGs:

3. Good Health and Well-Being