Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Paul Gootenberg

From a Q & A with Paul Gootenberg, author of Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug:

Q: Why cocaine? Why did you choose to write about this drug?

A: Well surely not from great personal experience with the drug: I was a hardworking, sober, and impoverished grad student during the peak years of the U.S. cocaine boom in the early 1980s. However, I was also becoming at the time a kind of specialist on Andean export "commodities." My first two books, at least indirectly, dealt with 19th-century guano, a coveted fertilizer export to Europe found on islands of dried bird dung lying off the coast of Peru. Now, guano is a far more exotic good than cocaine, yet, in its time, it also integrated a faltering Andean nation into the world economy. When an old friend, a journalist reporting on drugs in the Andes, suggested to me in the early 1990s that little had been done on the history of cocaine, I got very curious. As I realized the number of interesting fields I'd learn about investigating such a history -- medical and cultural history, economic botany and sociology of the illicit, and so on -- I got hooked.

Q: Why is cocaine's history so dramatic and significant?
A: It's dramatic because cocaine, in a relatively short time, illustrates the phases that virtually all illicit drugs have passed through: first embraced as a miracle drug and promising commodity, then shunned by medical opinion, and finally transformed from the impact of legal prohibition into an illicit good. Cocaine's illicit rebirth was particularly dramatic after 1950 because it had barely registered before as a menacing drug.

It is also...[read on]
Learn more about Andean Cocaine at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Andean Cocaine.

--Marshal Zeringue