The Post-1950s Rise of Illegal Opium in Asia

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2022 / The Oxford Handbook of Global Drug History.

Opium, the ancient narcotic, has fascinated the West where tastes for the exotic arose alongside British and French colonialism. The mystery of poppy origins is equaled by the opacity of the two largest illegal opium-producing regions that emerged after 1950: the so-called Golden Triangle, in Burma (Myanmar) in mainland Southeast Asia; and Golden Crescent, in Afghanistan, in Southwest Asia. Illegal opium production in these two regions developed as part of the deep historical, geographic, and political complexity that explain their remoteness, lawlessness, and protracted armed conflicts. As a result, scholars of various disciplines have long researched opium production, trade, consumption, and traditions. This chapter examines the causes and dynamics of illegal opium production, including how illegal opium production has benefited from the turmoil of Asian history and geopolitics, from synergies between war economies and drug economies, from underdevelopment and poverty, and from decades of failed often-counterproductive anti-drug policies.

Illegal cannabis cultivation in the world, and as a subject in academic research

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2019 / EchoGéo.

Illegal cannabis cultivation as a worldwide phenomenon is the theme of this edition of EchoGéo. The authors who contributed to this edition have conducted research on a variety of countries and regions (by order of appearance: the world, the African continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Afghanistan, the United States of America, Europe).

Cannabis cultivation in the world: heritages, trends and challenges

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2019 / Echogéo.

Despite cannabis being the most common illegal drug crop in the world and its worldwide presence, very little is known about its production, trade, and consumption at the global scale. This is due mostly to over a century of global prohibition and the dangers associated to researching illegal drug crop production. Worse, the limited data available about cannabis cultivation is most often inaccurate, unreliable, and highly controversial. While this has always been problematic, in terms of sheer knowledge and informed policy-making, it has now become even more acute of an issue as global trends towards decriminalisation and legalisation are already provoking negative unintended consequences in poor producing countries. This article is an effort to present the state of the current knowledge and the present and future stakes of the fast-changing cannabis industry and legislation.

Territorial control and the scope and resilience of cannabis and other illegal drug crop cultivation

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2019 / EchoGéo.

As revealed by the examples of Morocco, northeast India, Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, and the United States of America, degrees of politico-territorial control or law-enforcement deficit by the state can explain, to some extent, the existence of large expanses of illegal drug cultivation. Causes of politico-territorial control deficit are many and non-exclusive. They include armed conflicts, corruption, loosely integrated territories, and lack of financial, human and material means of asserting state control. Large-scale illegal drug crop cultivation can take place according to three main scenarios: that of a full-fledged but inefficient war on drugs; that of toleration, for various motives, of illegal drug plant cultivation by the state (which can amount to negotiated but effective control); and that of the militarily-challenged state that cannot exert full control over its territory. The fact that total politico-territorial control by the state, no matter how powerful and resourceful, is deemed impossible, shows that the war on drugs is doomed to fail despite how many battles were won. Eventually, the very limits of the state’s politico-territorial control, when applied to counter-narcotics and law enforcement, implicitly question the illegality of a practice that is considered legitimate by many.

La géographie à l’épreuve de la drogue

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2017 / Université de la réunion.

Après deux décennies de recherches portant sur la production illégale et le trafic de drogues, le temps était venu d’opérer un retour réflexif sur des thématiques, des problématiques, des méthodologies et des pratiques de terrain propres à l’étude de l’objet drogue. Un tel retour était bien sûr d’autant plus important que la drogue demeure encore aujourd’hui un impensé géographique et que tant les remarques et les questions de certains collègues que la teneur de certaines évaluations de mes articles, ne laissaient aucun doute sur les incompréhensions et la méfiance qui existent toujours à propos des recherches portant sur la drogue. Quel meilleur format, dès lors, que celui de l’HDR pour aborder longuement et librement les tenants et les aboutissants d’une telle recherche ?

L’opium dans la mondialisation: le cas du triangle d’or

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2016 / Drogues, santé, société.

La géographie et l’histoire des drogues illégales sont profondément ancrées dans les dynamiques anciennes et actuelles du processus de mondialisation, ainsi que le montre la géohistoire du pavot à opium en Asie. Le pavot à opium parce qu’il fournit un exemple éloquent des relations dynamiques qui ont existé et qui persistent entre l’économie politique et la géographie des drogues illégales d’une part et la mondialisation d’autre part. L’Asie, quant à elle, fournit un espace géographique de référence riche d’enseignement parce que l’on peut estimer que le narcotrafic international y est né et que la plus importante toxicomanie de masse s’y est développée (l’opiomanie chinoise)...