Critical Criminology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 41–56 | Cite as

“The Opium Wars”: The Biopolitics of Narcotic Control in the United States, 1914–1935

  • Saran GhatakEmail author


The emergence of the narcotic control regime in the early twentieth century US provides a historical case study of what Michel Foucault has called “biopolitics”. At the collective level, narcotic control policy emerged as a regulatory mechanism to secure the national population from the spread of addictive substances through an elaborate system of surveillance and control. At the individual level, the drug user emerged as a new criminal subject at the center of an array of medico-penal technologies that sought to understand the psychological and somatic dimensions of addiction, and to normalize the addicted person.


Drug User Addiction Treatment Crime Control Drug Problem Geneva Convention 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank Neil Brenner, Craig Calhoun, Troy Duster, Sarah Kaufman, Elizabeth Pacilio as well as the editor and the reviewers of this journal for their comments and criticisms. The research for this paper was partly made possible by a grant from the Rockefeller Archive Center.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyKeene State CollegeKeeneUSA

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