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Opium and Logistical Nightmares

Opium and Logistical Nightmares This essay argues that opium’s pivotal role in nineteenth-century political economy and aesthetics constructed addiction as a relationship between labor and capital that has persisted throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Nineteenth-century discourses on opium addiction frame it as a crisis of sovereignty for individuals and masses in ways that veil its relationships to labor, collectivity, and community. Yet addiction arises within broad systems as much as it does within individuals: in this exemplary case, of labor, empire, opium, and logistics. This essay rereads nineteenth-century discourses of opium addiction through “the logistical sublime,” in which all manufacturing and distribution processes go smoothly, and “the logistical nightmare,” in which they descend into chaos. It reframes opium addiction as a logistical technique that secured and maintained the preeminence of British, and later, Chinese and US imperial capital. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png English Language Notes Duke University Press

Opium and Logistical Nightmares

English Language Notes , Volume 60 (1) – Apr 1, 2022

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Copyright
Copyright © 2022 Regents of the University of Colorado
ISSN
0013-8282
eISSN
2573-3575
DOI
10.1215/00138282-9560254
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This essay argues that opium’s pivotal role in nineteenth-century political economy and aesthetics constructed addiction as a relationship between labor and capital that has persisted throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Nineteenth-century discourses on opium addiction frame it as a crisis of sovereignty for individuals and masses in ways that veil its relationships to labor, collectivity, and community. Yet addiction arises within broad systems as much as it does within individuals: in this exemplary case, of labor, empire, opium, and logistics. This essay rereads nineteenth-century discourses of opium addiction through “the logistical sublime,” in which all manufacturing and distribution processes go smoothly, and “the logistical nightmare,” in which they descend into chaos. It reframes opium addiction as a logistical technique that secured and maintained the preeminence of British, and later, Chinese and US imperial capital.

Journal

English Language NotesDuke University Press

Published: Apr 1, 2022

References