Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Charles Ambler


This dissertation explores the origins of the language of drug addiction and drug control in the American hemisphere during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by analyzing the intersection between the scientific study of race and eugenics and the cultural and political reaction to the Chinese global diaspora across the Pacific. I argue that Chinese immigrants perfectly embodied European "scientific" ideas of national or racial degeneration in the minds of scientific and medical elites while exemplifying the publicâ??s predominant stereotypes of addiction. Chinese immigrants became the first and perhaps most powerful symbol that intrinsically associated drug consumption with degeneracy. Motivated by irrational fears of miscegenation, biological contamination, and national decline, a broad alliance of scientists, public intellectuals, humanitarian crusaders, and politicians adopted, simplified, and reshaped ideas in the emerging fields of biological heredity and eugenics to oppose Asian immigration and to extend the emerging global system of drug regulation to the Americas. The rise of Chinese immigration in the late nineteenth century triggered a nativist, anti-Asian reaction across the Americas that drew upon European race science to elaborate and rationalize a series of repressive measures aimed explicitly at ethnic Chinese people and other Asians.

The stereotypes that coalesced around this reaction centrally involved the narcotics trade and drug use, specifically opium. These stereotypes, collectively comprising what I refer to as the "Oriental Drug Myth," sustained a decades-long movement across the Americas to restrict or prohibit Asian immigration and a parallel campaign to advance national hygiene through a series of public health measures often promoted through pressure or direct intervention from the United States. Critical among these measures were efforts to restrict the drug trade and limit drug consumption. A number of scholars have explored various aspects of this history, but very few have given serious attention to the pivotal role of drugs.




Recieved from ProQuest

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Rights Holder

Freddy Mauricio Jaimes Jaimes

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