Saturday, June 23, 2012

Toxicological Anthropology

Came across this while digging around the internet for something the other day-- it's an article on childhood alcoholism from the Revue Internationale de Médecine et de Chirurgie, translated from the French in No 1, Vol 40 of the Pacific Medical Journal, published in January 1897, available for your perusal online here.
M. Lancereaux, at a recent meeting of the Academy of Medicine, reported two very important observations showing the pernicious influence of alcoholism in children upon their development. One case was that of a girl between thirteen and fourteen years of age, whose parents were drunkards, and who had been accustomed to drink half a litre of wine daily ever since she was three years old. She had the appearance of a child of eight years. ... The other case was likewise that of a daughter of alcoholic parents. ... From an early age she had habitually drunk wine diluted with water, from her seventh year she was accustomed to drink chartreuse and other liquors, "to fortify her stomach." ...she showed manifest signs of a neuritis with atrophy of the lower extremities. Laboratory experiments upon the young of rabbits have fully confirmed this action of alcohol upon the growth, and this special effect should be remembered and included with the influences of alcoholism upon the increase of crime, idiocy, and insanity.
I've often said that if I couldn't have been a Russian and East European Studies major, I would've gone to the American studies department because it's the only place I could imagine writing a senior thesis on what I've dubbed "tobacco anthropology". As I get older I find this fascination with the cultures, norms, etc, that grow up around poisons extending very thoroughly to alcohol. 

I was trying to think of a name for the study of histories, mythologies, and cultures surrounding popular poisons but didn't get much farther than toxicology, which quite stupidly has already been claimed by something much less interesting. I also came to the unfortunate realization that if I went around calling myself an amateur toxicologist people would get all kinds of wrong ideas.

In any case, I come bearing tidings of yet another new diversion of mine, somewhat related to the above: the Drunk Shoe. It's a very simple project, and the idea wasn't even my own: pair up alcohol and shoes, take a picture. It's been a lot of fun for me thus far, so I hope you check it out.
The glare on this one drives me mad (working with a very...low tech set-up), but I  do love that owl.

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