Tobacco: Shape Shifting Substance from South America

31 January 2020, 3.30 PM - 31 January 2020, 5.00 PM

Professor Andrew Russell

Tobacco Factory, Theatre Bar, Raleigh Rd, Bristol, BS3 1TF

What have been some of the relationships between tobacco and people, past and present and worldwide? What happens when these different relationships are brought into dialogue with one another?

From its evolutionary origins and ‘deep history’ among indigenous communities in South America, tobacco has spread rapidly worldwide during the past 500 years. This has been fuelled by its addictive properties, a murky colonial history and its contemporary exploitation by the forces of corporate and state-sponsored capitalism.

Coinciding with the publication of his book Anthropology of Tobacco: Ethnographic Adventures in Non-Human Worlds (Routledge 2019), Andrew Russell will present tobacco as a plant with agency and the ability to assume different shapes according to its diverse political, economic and human contexts. How has an apparently humble plant managed to achieve such world domination and how successful are tobacco control efforts to counter it?

What are the latest manifestations of its shape-shifting abilities? What needs to happen if we are ever to put this particular genie back in its lamp and consider seriously ‘a world without tobacco’?

Andrew Russell is a Professor of Medical Anthropology at Durham University and a collaborator on the Wellcome Trust funded Life of Breath project. He is also CoI of an Academy of Medical Sciences’ Global Challenges Research Fund network looking at current and alternative livelihoods among bidi workers in Tamil Nadu, India.

An active member of Durham’s Anthropology of Health Research Group and degree tutor for the MSc in Medical Anthropology, he is interested in interdisciplinary and participatory research approaches to public health issues, particularly tobacco control, in which he has conducted research at local, regional, national and international levels.

He works collaboratively with Fresh Smoke Free North East, the UK’s first tobacco control office, and with the Framework Convention Alliance, the civil society consortium supporting the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

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