ATS1396 - Drug cultures - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit


Chief examiner(s)

Dr Paul Mason


Dr Paul Mason

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2018 (On-campus)


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.


Upon successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. recognise how different anthropological concepts and methods provide insight into a common social issue;
  2. apply concepts and theories to analyse the broader social and cultural context of drug use across cultures;
  3. approach and analyse the international issue of drugs through the eyes and interests of specific communities and actors, and not just through the singular lens of universalism;
  4. explain the significance of culture and difference in the development of solutions to challenges affecting individuals, collectives and environments;
  5. read, think and write reflectively and critically about basic anthropological concepts and issues;
  6. use prescribed academic research skills to locate, analyse and communicate information.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

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. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study