2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Pharmakon and Opium Regimes

Der-liang Chiou

Graduate Institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University

This article understands the book Opium Regimes: China, Britain, and Japan, 1839-1952 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), edited by Timothy Brook and Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, to be an examination of the history of the relationship between opium and the various political and non-political regimes at that time. I propose another reading based on this book: opium is not only the means of establishing specific regimes but itself a (kind of) regime.? Beginning with the explanation of the basic concepts such as opium, regimes, and pharmakon, the article considers opium regimes in the follow aspects: 1) political and non-political regimes, 2) a way of social life, and 3) a historical narrative regime of truth, to argue that not only opium but the three kinds of opium regimes stated above could be pharmakons. The profits from opium could allow for the building of the regime, but this opium regime could also be a poison.? As a conspicuous feature of social life in traditional Chinese society, opium smoking was scapegoated for the failures of that society and expelled, especially after 1900 by the “new” Chinese nation-state.? This article finally asks if the Chinese national historical narrative (another historical narrative of the opium regime of truth), based on the historical question of opium, could also be a kind of pharmakon?


Keywords: opium, regime, pharmakon