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Addiction genealogy has tended to center isolated figures of diseased will and the disciplinary powers that seek to reform them. Yet advances in the governance of habit in the late nineteenth-century US did not always single out discrete persons. Local and national drug control regimes were first developed in response to a racialized scene of contagious appetites—the opium den. It was the effort to regulate group scenes, more than the drama of lost mastery encased in the figure of the addict, that accounts for the criminalization of drug habits. To reassemble that other history of addiction, this essay tracks the shifting arrangement of opium scenes in medical theory, state regulatory profiles, and narcotourist mediascapes. Across these archives there emerge strategies of aesthetic containment, but also a logic of moral panic incited by transsensory drift. Both aimed to restrict the transit of appetite to settler capitalist circuits of accumulation and the cycles of chronic dispossession on which they rest. Although unable to dissolve those circuits, I argue that opium joints could nonetheless shelter the transient uncoiling of appetite from the reproduction of settler-national time.

Figure 1. Profile of a "fiend" reposing in the ruins of an opium joint. (Arnold Genthe, "The 'Hop Fiend,'" ca. 1906, film transparency, 5 x 7 in. or smaller, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC. .)
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Figure 1.

Profile of a "fiend" reposing in the ruins of an opium joint. (Arnold Genthe, "The 'Hop Fiend,'" ca. 1906, film transparency, 5 x 7 in. or smaller, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC.

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Antidrug campaigns have now served to propagate state racist violence against dispossessed people in the United States for nearly a century and a half. Obliquely registered in the above profile (fig. 1) are some of the aesthetic protocols of that ongoing drug war.1 As if to proxy the eye of the state, the photograph isolates a figure of abject craving, captioned "The 'Hop Fiend,'" against a ruined void. Just a few years earlier this had been a scene of more pleasurable transience—an opium joint known as "The Devil's Kitchen," desolated by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Arnold Genthe and Will Irwin salvaged several views of the joint for a book-length photo essay titled Pictures of Old Chinatown (1908). They describe it as a "show-place" where Euro-American tourists could pay a quarter to "'see the hop fiends.'" Narcotourism had kept the place "going for years, in spite of the Health Board," they reminisce.2 Municipal authorities had been tightening controls on the Chinatown opium scene since at least 1875. Legislatively, that year marks both an intensification of federal immigration restrictions, via the Page Act, and the first attempts at outlawing opium dens in San Francisco. Altered-state profiling soon became a nationwide tactic in the criminalization of migrant lives and living conditions under the regime of Chinese Exclusion (1882–1943).3 Moral panics about opium smoking reinforced that regime by multiplying alarm over the epidemic spread of "alien" vice over borders and through the transnational enclaves of US cities. After 1882 such panics would help secure the common sense of time elapsing uniformly throughout those cities, states, and territories that the nation had yet to enclose in its totalizing co-presence.4 Lingering on opium scenes then came to look like the unfixed languishing of a "fiend"—that is, a body too inert to keep its senses in touch and appetites in sync with the reproduction of the settler-national present.

Against that personifying logic, the object of this essay is to rejoin figures of opium addiction to the scenes of inertia they once inhabited. Inertia refers, in physics, to a body's resistance to changes in its current state of rest or constant motion. Like inertia, addiction represents a compulsive stasis. Addicted bodies, by this logic, are those that have lost normative receptivity to changes in the form, substance, and timing of satisfaction—who suffer, in short, from implasticity of appetite. Nonetheless, as theorists of habit from William James to Catherine Malabou have observed, the same automatisms that rigidify addiction also remain vital to the free exercise of self-possessed personhood. James poises habit between the plasticity and the inertia of a nervous system that must both shape its pathways to new functions and recur to those detours in the future.5 Nervous inertia opposes plasticity in the present so that the system may persist in its modifications over time. Malabou understands [End Page 814] habit as hexis, a virtual "having" or disposition whereby the body holds and reverses energetic impressions toward its own ends. But while habit may feel like a personal reserve of potential energy, it always requires more than any one person can retain. If the nervous system's reflexive operations depend on the habits of other bodies, then the inertia of that system never exactly reduces to its own implasticity.6 As inertia, habit coheres not in the substance of each individual body but in the forces that hold multiple bodies to adjoining loops of craving and replenishment. Just such an inertia structured the recurrent moment of sensory and spatiotemporal alteration sought by those who frequented opium dens. Narcosis not only enfolded the senses in anesthetic softness but could also relax, dilate, or even nullify co-presence to a space and time already bounded by the nation. Yet, far from regressing to a static dreamworld outside or beyond the settler-national present, I argue that the inertia of appetites for opium held open zones of transient relationality in the joints and disjunctures of that present.

It was the criminalization of Chinatown opium scenes, not the disciplinary production of addict identity, where state agencies first converged on the habits we now call addictions.7 To account for that convergence, the present essay emphasizes the relationality of the opium appetite and the biopolitical logics that came to profile its transmission through groups and populations. Many genealogies of addiction reprise an individuating narrative that isolates both the force of habit and the locus of intervention in figures of volitional disorder.8 It was the appearance of "the addict" in case histories and other confessional genres, some would argue, that subjected drug habits to penal, clinical, and time-disciplinary governance during the nineteenth century. Michael Warner, for one, asserts that addiction first emerged in the US from the mass self-relations promoted by the temperance movement in the 1830s and 1840s. Liberal fantasies of a self integrated by its mobility across voluntary associative networks, Warner holds, thereafter framed addiction as a mode of public "self-contemplation" that lets censured pleasures leak through "an abandonment newly regarded as expressive."9 Along similar lines, Susan Zieger claims that "the new human character of the addict" irrupted from the "incomplete medicalization" of temperance in the 1870s and 1880s. Metaphors of self-enslavement shifted to a disease model in the wake of the Civil War, Zieger finds, displacing the ruin of the slavocracy into anxieties about the exhaustion and emasculation of white male bodies.10 Addiction discourse, when exemplified by genres in which habitués narrate the divestment and redemption of white citizen-subjecthood, would thus seem to have originally concerned those subject to a dialectic of alienated desire and disordered will. [End Page 815] Neither version of this genealogy examines the genres of investigative vigilance and xenophobic panic that circulated around scenes of psychotropic sociability, however.11 And, consequently, neither accounts for how protocols of exposure and containment aligned state regulatory agencies, narcotourist mediascapes, and the human sciences in the profiling of those scenes.12 I contend that this nexus of aesthetic regulation was crucial to advancing the racist governance of drug use from the first municipal opium den bans of the mid-1870s to the federal Opium Exclusion Act in 1909.

My argument unfolds in three parts. Its overarching aim is to decenter those personifying logics that would identify addiction with the repetitive collapse of a freely willing citizen-subject. To that end, the first part of this essay tracks a shift from physiological to neurological models of habit between 1868 and 1890. If the former sorted the opium habit between the racialized figures of the habitué and the fiend, the latter traced it to the inertia that loops nervous systems into circuits of energetic uptake and discharge. As the second part demonstrates, physiological models of habit shaped the profiling of opium scenes from the 1870s on. Narcotourist mediascapes and state agencies further racialized those models, however, by stressing the contagious toxicity of smoked opium. Anti-opium panic coordinated informal and official investigations in the drive to control the boundaries of Chinatown by exposing and recontaining transsensory drift. But the aesthetic regulation of opium scenes did not only rely on the terrorizing work of sociospatial apartheid. With the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, a new sense of temporal disjuncture began to split opium scenes. In the final part of this essay, I turn to three exposés from that period to elaborate how opium joints arranged scenes of appetitive and sensorial inertia. Opium smoking would seem, in these inquiries, to unfasten attachments to conscious sociality. Yet transient relations could also float on the looseness of association this very indifference sustained.

Habitués, Fiends, and the Inertia of Appetite

Addiction has never been a unified diagnostic. Nor can its emergence be ascribed solely to the medicalization of willpower in an abstract citizen-subject. Medical theory in the US did not consolidate the diagnostic type of the addict until the early twentieth century. Late nineteenth-century treatises on appetitive disorder occasionally refer to addiction, but more often they classify the disorder either as a mania (for opium, cocaine, morphia, chloral, etc.) or under the more general category "morbid craving."13 No matter the nosology, though, almost every study sorted the opium habit between two physiological [End Page 816] profiles: there was the disease suffered by the white habitué, who ate opium, and the vice indulged by racialized fiends, who smoked it. Between the two there operated a dynamic "logic of personification," as Timothy Hickman has observed.14 Lapses of self-possessed personhood pushed the habitué to the brink of racial abjection, but also measured the distance between curable illness and constitutional depravity. Iyko Day's work on Asian racialization, though not directly concerned with opium fiends, allows us to relink their figural constitution to the chronobiopolitical formations they encode. With the completion of the US transcontinental railroad in 1869, Day contends, Chinese bodies came to personify the abstract movements of "labor time" through settler capitalist circuits of accumulation. More specifically, these bodies stood for the inhuman mobility of capital insofar as their "mode of efficiency" indicated a "perverse temporality of domestic and social reproduction."15 If habitués narrated cases of toxic accumulation in the insoluble time of prognosis, then fiends typified the unfeeling endurance of degraded living conditions previously associated with the Chinese "coolie."16 Later theories of the opium habit complicate this personifying logic, however. Neurological models of the habit, exemplified here by the work of William James, locate it not in a degeneration of personal substance but in the inertia of appetite as it courses through impersonal circuits of accumulation and expenditure.

Among the earliest US-based studies to racialize the physiology of the habitué was a therapeutic treatise titled The Opium Habit (1868). Race determines susceptibility to the effects of the drug, here. Opium "seldom, perhaps never, intoxicates the European," the volume asserts, though "it seems habitually to intoxicate the Oriental" and to thereby "distort the person." Initially the pleasureless compulsiveness of opium eating would seem to exempt Euro-Americans from the sensual excess that disfigures their Chinese counterparts. Nonetheless, the prognoses given by The Opium Habit warn that even opium eaters must eventually suffer distortions of white personhood. Addressing a "hopeless" case in the second person, a hypothetical physician explains that, as "'your very personal substance'" continues to amass foreign toxins, metabolic processes will begin to shut down from "'fatal conservation of the tissues.'" Over time, deposits of "inert" or "'effete'" matter will block off every excretory outlet but the skin, staining the entire body gradually "'yellower.'" As body and toxin merge ever more intimately, the effeteness of opium progressively exhausts, unmans, and discolors the habitué. Soon he must keep to a precise dosing schedule just to avoid the "languor and impotence one feels from abstaining."17 Cycling between abstention and relapse at some point causes multiple body systems to collapse entirely. By physicalizing the disorder, The [End Page 817] Opium Habit thus promises a degree of biosocial immunity to those who would identify their habits as diseases.18 At the same time, though, it premises that immunity on the diseased person's captivation by a fatal spiral toward chronic energy loss, body-substance degendering, and racial degradation.

Quite the contrary for fiends: opium smoking configured their bodies as sites not of enervation but of perverse efficiency. Rather than induce a visceral decline in energetic capacities, that is, the habit of smoking opium indexed the abstracted drives and debased social reproduction of Chinese laborers. Kathleen Auerhahn has shown how the Workingmen's Party of California promulgated this racist ideology throughout the 1870s. Anti-opium propaganda, impelled by the fantasy that opium inured Chinese bodies to living conditions too "degraded" for whites, was one means by which the WPC leveraged state racism to restrict and expel "labor market competition."19 That ideology spread with particular virulence in the buildup to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In 1882, for instance, the physician H. H. Kane claimed that Chinese opium smokers are by no means "incapacitated for work" but indeed outperform Euro-Americans in the most strenuous mining operations.20 Likening migrant laborers to a "wage-reducing machine," Roswell P. Flower drew on the same racist physiology to voice his opposition to the "cooly system" in the congressional hearings that would pass the Exclusion Act that same year. Against the political autonomy enjoyed by a naturalized white citizenry, Flower counterposes the machinic subsistence of "cooly" labor. "The freedom of an eating, drinking, opium-smoking, working automaton," he declares, "is not the freedom which our citizens enjoy."21 Not only does this image reduce migrant bodies to their physiological functions, but it also equates the survival of that functioning with a machinic indifference to unfreedom. As a hyperbolic incarnation of the perverse social reproductivity already personified in the "coolie," the opium fiend thus both screened and magnified the racist antagonisms segmenting the nation's industrializing labor force.

Less-stereotyped renderings of habit, derived from nervous systems rather than already racialized personae, started to displace the habitué–fiend dyad toward the end of the nineteenth century.22 In 1890 William James reconceived habit as a form of inertia that stores and expends energy through the body's recurrence to sensorimotor pathways. Inertia sets a constitutive limit to what James calls plasticity. Matter enjoys plasticity when its structure is "weak enough to yield to an influence, but strong enough not to yield all at once." Not yielding all at once defines the work of inertia. James sees this same dynamic at work in the habitual pathways that structure the nervous system. Nerve tissues conduct incoming stimuli to outgoing discharges along a "reflex arc." At first [End Page 818] the system resists, but with each recurrence the reflex yields more readily to its corresponding influence. Once habit takes hold, action becomes automatic. A willed or perceived "command to start" is all it takes for the system to start down a pathway: discharged energy (A), returning as stimulus (a), in turn yields discharge (B) and consequent stimulus (b) in a chain of reflexes that ends in the "idea" (G') of a completed effect. Living creatures comprise the total "system of paths" to which their nerve tissues have yielded in the past or may yield in the future. Nervous inertia maintains those reflexes by resisting the conduction of stimuli to other paths. Yet inertia also makes the system prone to relapse, as when one falls back into an "opium-indulgence."23 To wean oneself off such a habit, one must break unconscious automatisms down to the conscious sequences of action from which they derive. It becomes clear from this prescriptive moment that James seeks to enclose the inertia of opium craving between an executive act of will and the recognition of that act's efficacy. Because it enmeshes any given exercise of the will in a maze of automatisms, however, this inertia may always escape or oppose the subject it automatizes.

Modeling the habit-forming body as a system of nervous inertia allows James to diverge from a physiology that would substantiate disorder in racialized types. But it also leads him to recast social and geopolitical hierarchies as universal physical laws that bind everyone equally. Habit constitutes, for James, "the enormous fly-wheel of society." A fly-wheel is a mechanism that uses rotational inertia to concentrate and regulate intermittent energy sources.24 Nervous inertia, following this metaphor, ensures the smooth functioning of power relations by looping energy into closed circuits of accumulation and expenditure. Multiple scales of relation come under this segregatory order: habit "keeps different social strata from mixing," "saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor," "holds the miner in his darkness," and "protects us from invasion by the natives of the desert and the frozen zone."25 Just as it encases socioeconomic inequalities in a sense of immediacy and inevitability, so does habit naturalize the imperial violence that orders the planetary zoning and dislocation of subaltern peoples. Yet if habit may seem to hold up a sociophysical defense against "invasion," it also holds together somatic repertoires for reproducing lifeworlds in transit. Migration, as Arjun Appadurai understands it, carries the "social inertia of bodily techniques" out of predisposing social structures and compels the body to adapt, instead, to scripts circulated through deterritorialized mediascapes.26 While opium habituation marked Chinese migrants out for regulatory control, then, the inertia of that appetite also served as a base on which their bodies could improvise more ephemeral forms of relation. Archival work attuned to sensorial and [End Page 819] appetitive inertia, I propose, allows us to draw out temporalities resistant to the governance of habit: not only the dilated transience of time on opium but also the chronic maintenance of places where the appetite for opium could loop all sorts of bodies into the social reproduction of migrant lifeworlds.27

Opium Law and the Aesthetic Regulation of Chinatown

Around 1875 a new nexus of aesthetic regulations began to script Chinatown opium dens as scenes of contagion. Narcotourist mediascapes, state agencies, and the human sciences initiated a convergent effort, at this moment, to expose and recontain the transsensory drift of the dens. Most accounts of those scenes oscillate between prying curiosity about and violent revulsion at the orientalized sensuality of opium fiends. Narcotourists and other investigators plotted routes through the dens that typically featured tableaux of bodies of every age, race, sex, and class "scattered promiscuously" on bunks and couches, numb to any impropriety.28 Mary Ting Yi Lui retraces how guidebooks to New York City's opium joints used this "disheveled image" to arouse a sense of reprosexual crisis around the intermingling of white women and Chinese men.29 Likewise, in his work on opium dens in San Francisco, Nayan Shah finds that moral panics seized on scenes of "indiscriminate intimacy" because they hosted "cross-racial sexual liaisons" and excited pleasures that were too contagious, too enervating, or too queer to enter into the bioenergetic calculus of reproduction investing the white nuclear family.30 Mel Chen, drawing on Shah, examines how the white domestic imaginary at once concentrated the felt menace of opium dens in oral vectors of disease (the pipe) and dispersed it across the "transitivity" of racialized toxins.31 Rather than localize disorder in persons, investigations of the dens profiled the zones of habitual alteration that spread between depersonified sensoria. Although they could never fully withdraw from that nexus of aesthetic regulation, opium scenes could nonetheless loosen the aesthetic protocols used to restrict the transit of addicted appetites.

A model of habit keyed less to the prognostic arc of any one case than to the projected multiplication of disorder across cases guided investigations of Chinatown opium scenes. If in theory the Euro-American habitué and the "oriental" fiend embodied discrete types of physiological susceptibility, in regulatory practice the techniques, speeds, and loci of exposure were what racialized opium smoking. A "Report on Chinese Immigration" (1871) for the California State Board of Health exemplifies that investigative protocol. More than any other intoxicant, the report warns, smoked opium risks a deregulated assimilation of "our excitable [white] community" to the "depraving habits" of [End Page 820] Chinese migrants. It goes on to explain that opium smoking is "more readily communicated" than opium eating because the effects of inhalation are "almost instantaneous" compared with digestion.32 Within a few years of the report, in 1875, the city of San Francisco would attempt to outlaw any assembly "for the purposes of smoking opium, or inhaling the fumes of opium."33 Not coincidentally, that same year the US government implemented the Page Act, which authorized settler states to deport any "obnoxious person" whom the courts might assign to one of three classes: "cooly" laborers, "alien convict[s]," and women "imported for the purposes of prostitution" from "China, Japan, or any Oriental country."34 Noxiousness, though ascribed to moral and physical contaminants rather than persons, thus tied investigations of opium dens to national structures of xenophobic recoil. Just as immigration restrictions sought to preempt infiltrations of national territory, so too did anti-opium panic presuppose that ambient flows of sensation had already escaped aesthetic containment. But if the reciprocal amplification of these crises solicited a sense of acute threat, it could only do so by evoking an established interimperial imaginary. It will thus be necessary, before returning to the incipient logics of anti-opium panic in the US, to chart some shifts in opium's dispensations under British imperial rule.

To maintain work-discipline in its subjugated peripheries, the British Empire depended, for much of the nineteenth century, on the cultivation and administration of opium. Lisa Lowe and Curtis Marez have shown how the empire used opium to instill docility in colonized populations in India and entrap "coolie" laborers in predatory debt systems across the Asia-Pacific.35 Indian plantation workers in Benaras and Patna processed opium for export by the East India Company to British and American merchants, who then smuggled the drug into Qing China throughout the early nineteenth century.36 After the first Opium War (1839–42), the British used opium as a sort of chemical weapon to secure commercial–imperial control over Hong Kong and the ports seized by the Treaty of Nanking.37 Likewise, around half a century later in South Africa, British colonizers occupying the Transvaal (1902–10) would provision opium for Chinese migrants indentured to work in the Witwatersrand gold mines. According to Thembisa Waetjen, the colonial administration deployed the opium den as a "'special biochemical zone'" where "medical and penal machineries" could manipulate worker vitality. But the empire phased out that managerial logic to join an emerging system of international drug control in the early twentieth century.38 Medical and penal apparatuses had been reorganizing around a logic of criminalization since the 1890s, partly due to pressure from reform lobbies like the Society for the Suppression of [End Page 821] the Opium Trade. In 1895 the Royal Commission on Opium issued an investigative report that upheld the Indo-Chinese trade against the anti-opium campaigns. London's County Council did not regulate opium smoking until 1909, in keeping with the International Opium Commission convened in Shanghai that same year.39 A global drug control system only began to take shape in 1912, when the UK, along with nine other signatory nations, ratified the Hague Opium Convention.40

Metropolitan imaginaries had begun anxiously probing mainland dens some twenty years before the Royal Commission on Opium, however. Journalistic and fictional accounts of the dens in London's East End shaped the ideological shift underwriting reform movements from the 1870s on—namely, a shift from what Virginia Berridge calls an "air of realism" to an atmospherics that at once dilated curiosity around the den's exoticism and shrouded it in hallucinatory menace.41 Ashley Wright proposes that, amid this panicked curiosity, opium dens composed scenes of "bodily irregularity" where "Chinese, Indian and British consumers mingled outside of imperial hierarchy, and where British consumers could come under the thrall of a foreign substance."42 What made these scenes especially disturbing were the sexual opportunities they offered to white women and Asian men. Moral–physical contagion was, by the 1890s, the primary register in which anti-opium propaganda imagined the dens as nexuses of somatic disorder and reprosexual subversion. If opium dens abroad promised to contain and regenerate bodies laboring under imperial control, in the UK they raised the specter of those same bodies invading the metropole to degenerate the appetites and deregulate the self-rule of its white citizenry. Most broadly, then, the opium den emplotted a zone of xenophobic reversal in the British imperial imaginary. Although the empire relied on opium to subdue and extract productivity from peripheral laborers, the drug's very potency as a tool of biochemical governance also seemed to risk the dissolution of racial–sexual apartheids.

A similar trajectory organized opium scenes under US settler society. Moral panics originating in western settlements like San Francisco and Virginia City, Nevada, started to attract regulatory oversight to the dens in the mid-1870s, mostly through public health policing. Laws banning opium dens soon followed. Their purpose was to reinforce the already virulent network of work restrictions, anti-miscegenation laws, discriminatory taxes, health codes, and "anti-coolie" terrorism that built up to the Chinese Exclusion Act.43 Nowhere was that network applied more visibly than in San Francisco, the port of entry for most Chinese migrants and a center of Chinese American life since the 1850s. As early as 1854, the San Francisco Board of Health had designated [End Page 822] Chinatown a source of miasma, a term used to indicate how sensations (smells especially) could transmit disease.44 City legislators made that association a jailable offense with the Cubic Air Ordinance of 1870. Police targeted residents of Chinese lodging houses for arrest and incarceration when enforcement began in 1873.45 Not long after, opium dens came under more direct attack. According to the historian Diana Ahmad, Virginia City passed the nation's first ordinance against opium dens in 1876. San Francisco succeeded in passing its own ban in 1878.46 Legislation in Utah Territory prohibited the keeping of opium dens in 1880. Montana Territory, the state of California, and the city of Chicago prohibited both keeping and frequenting in 1881. After 1882, laws against opium dens spread to cities in the East, South, and Midwest, and national security apparatuses rapidly expanded border controls on opium smuggling.47 The administration of opium dens would extend to the Philippines once the US established its colonial government there in 1902.48 By the time of the Shanghai Opium Commission and the Smoking Opium Exclusion Act seven years later, drug control had become a matter of international hegemony.

As the law expanded, so did strategies of aesthetic containment. Lurid exposés of opium dens not only impelled the law's eastward spread but also fed curiosity about the illicit sensations the dens might hold. If anti-opium panic targeted US Chinatowns for intensified boundary policing, it also incited traffic in spectacles of ethnic peculiarity.49 These aims were not antithetical but coextensive. Opium dens composed scenes of constraint where white citizens could go to thrill in their own free mobility. It was precisely the sociolegal marginalization of Chinatown, Raymond Rast argues, that promoted it as a "picturesque" reserve of premodern exotica. Nowhere did the fantasy of the enclave's backwardness operate more powerfully than in the opium den. Marketing the dens as "backstage areas," guides sold tourists on their proximity to the phantasmic core behind Chinatown's show-places.50 Like Rast, Carrie Tirado Bramen finds picturesque formulae at work throughout the genre she terms the "intra-urban walking tour." More than recycling images of backwardness, though, she argues that those formulae worked to recontain the "hermetic otherness" of Chinatown in a response that "transforms shock into mild surprise." An 1888 article by the journalist and activist Wong Chin Foo, titled "The Chinese in New York," exemplifies efforts to rescript the "racial sublime" as "charming curiosity." Wong turns away from the conventional topos of the opium den to explore a more "innocent" interest in food, Bramen suggests, because the latter could be publicly enjoyed, unlike opium.51 Not only does the opium den here insinuate a scene of guilty indulgence, but it also marks the threshold beyond which picturesque formulae cease to work their [End Page 823] domesticating charm and start to relapse into an exoticizing sublimity. Apprehended as a site of both obscene surplus pleasure and cryptic self-enclosure, the atmosphere of the opium den would thus seem to reduce to the static object of the tour's scopophilic drive.

Aesthetic containment was rarely that successful, however. Nor did it need to be. Moral panics generated alarm precisely from the failure to grasp the transsensory drift of opium scenes on a sublime-picturesque spectrum. One of the earliest opium den tour stories in the US, Benjamin Lloyd's "A Night Stroll through Chinatown" (1875) set the protocol for this kind of tactical infelicity. Before he descends into the opium den, the white guide pauses to catalog a series of hypersensitive recoils. Just walking through the streets, he complains, left him "shocked" by "savage noises," "pestilential odors," and sights "which may have awakened symptoms of the most dreadful diseases." None of these miasmatic accesses compare, however, to the sight of opium smokers "sprawled out in all manner of pose, and in all stages of stupor or idiocy." At first the guide tries to seal their "ecstatic stage of somnolence" into a kind of solipsistic insensibility: seen from above the influence, the den's "blissful clime" collapses into the mute vacancy of each smoker's "limp and lifeless" body. Yet, by the end of the episode, there remains an undifferentiated tangle of bodies—"a number of young men and women," emphatically "not Chinese," strung out in the "miscellaneous confusion" of an all-too-Chinese setting. Most "startling," here, is the ambient communicability of the sensation to which the smokers seem to have fallen victim: as pleasurable as it is toxic, their "experiment" easily "glides into the habit" for which "death is the only cure."52 Neither end of the spectrum presented above succeeds in circumscribing the slippage of habit through the social field arranged by the smokers' promiscuous sleep. Just as their miscellany throws any picturesque domestication into disarray, so too do their ecstasies splay out of sublime self-enclosure. To the extent that the scene solicits panic, the logic of that panic requires the breakdown of scopic pleasure in a safely delimited spectacle.

On this scene there emerges a contagion model of habit that redistributes the personifying logics discussed in the first part of this essay. Narcotourist mediascapes, state regulatory agencies, and medical theory used that model to intensify the profiling of opium scenes throughout the 1880s. One scene from 1883, for instance, imagines the den as a place where any number of bodies may "breathe each other's emanations" and thereby succumb to "the effects of foul air, strongly saturated with intoxicating opium."53 Reporting on "The Condition of Chinatown" in San Francisco two years later, a supervisory committee led by Willard Farwell describes the "poisonous atmosphere" of opium dens [End Page 824] as a medium of habitual toxicity.54 Likewise, an 1886 Medical Bulletin article stresses the danger of contracting the opium habit from the "moral contagia which float about … in the social atmosphere of cities and towns."55 By 1887 a medical article on "The Opium Habit" could track the contagion from the "forced debasement of China" by the Opium Wars, through Chinese immigration to California and Nevada, and from there across America "along the route of the railroads."56 Not even James's diagrams of nervous inertia, though just as attentive to the variable scale of habit, could adequately render the sensory transfers envisioned by the contagion model. Atmospheric sensation, instead of enclosing bodies in stratified circuits of energetic uptake and discharge, here envelops them in a common inertia. Yet, to track the communicability of this inertia, the aesthetic regulation of opium scenes required more than a strategy of spatial restriction. It would also come to articulate time-sensitive profiles of how those scenes staged and reproduced transient relations.

Transience in the Joints, circa 1882

Opium scenes underwent a curious lexical split around the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Throughout the 1870s, investigators had almost uniformly referred to these spaces as opium dens. But in the succeeding decade they would also begin to call them opium joints and, later, hop joints. The mass-cultural emergence of the slang form traces back most directly to three inquiries from the years surrounding the act: two medical treatises, The Morphine Eater in 1881 (Leslie Keeley) and Opium-Smoking in America and China in 1882 (H. H. Kane), followed by a journalistic exposé, The Demon of the Orient, and His Satellite Fiends of the Joints, in 1883 (Allen Williams). As the instruments of an epidemic mediascape, these texts both registered and reinforced the criminalization of Chinese neighborhoods. Moral panic logics drive these investigations to amplify a sense of crisis around anesthetic departures from conscious sociality. Lapses of propriety in the joints signaled disorder for individual bodies and dissolution for the white bourgeois home's nucleus of private property, patriarchal kinship, and possessive heteroerotics.57 With each rotation of the opium pipe, smokers might drift farther out of industrial time disciplines and the segregatory forms of social reproduction they compelled. Yet if exposure to opium habits could loop people into a common inertia, the allure of that inertia consisted in its ability to decelerate, break simultaneity with, or estrange the sense of inhabiting a shared present. New forms of asynchronous feeling, momentary affinity, and "unsexing" conviviality came to repose on these loci of temporal distortion. If they never fully dissolved capitalist circuits of accumulation [End Page 825] or the chronic dispossessions on which they rest, opium joints could nonetheless shelter the transient uncoiling of appetite from cycles of settler-national reproductivity.

Keeley was among the first medical theorists to frame the opium joint as a scene set apart from public temporality. Juxtaposing the "prostrate, silent human forms" assembled there with "the hurrying rush and roar of traffic along the streets without," The Morphine Eater exhibits the joint in a kind of cutaway view. Adjacent to but a world away from street-level commerce, this scene would seem to unveil a zone of exemption from the everyday punctualities and aspirational business of city life. Underground and under the influence, even "'respectable' ladies, and actresses of note, may be found mingled with outcasts of their own, and with all classes of the other sex in this unlively, silent fellowship." Loss of voice and vivacity in this tableau of downward immobility accents the women's simultaneous exteriority to domestic space and reclusion from public time. Insofar as their common repose defamiliarizes habits of class stratification, it also figures dissociation: "The opium smoker," Keeley proclaims, "drops out of real life." As he understands it, real life entails the partitioning of "dreams" from consensus reality, but also the proper integration of downtime into cycles of domestic social reproduction. Dreamily gathering in the interstices of a bustling public world, the women's "silent fellowship" slips out of that loop, however temporarily. Much of this slippage Keeley attributes to the suppression of sexual appetites. On opium, "all dangerous passions are dulled and absorbed in the one over-mastering appetite for the narcotic intoxication."58 If collective inertia comes to look like pathological stasis, here, it is not only because the joint drifts out of sync with domestic time disciplines but also because it attenuates reprosexual vitality.

Kane uses the term opium joint much the way Keeley does: as shorthand for a scene of distorted temporality and the perverse forms of social reproduction it engenders. Yet where the latter had traced the sense of crisis to the impassivity of opium narcosis, the former would focus panic on the specter of sexual transgression. Visitors to the opium joints in New York City's Chinatown were generally not there to sleep, Kane observes in an 1881 Harper's Weekly article. Most of the people he saw in the joints formed "parties of two or three … either listlessly thinking, cooking, and smoking, or chatting quietly and indolently with each other."59 Instead of sinking into abyssal self-enclosure, the scene's gradient of insensibility reaches idly outward, toward a languid sort of sociability. Ambient feeling emplots the joint as an epicenter of repro-sexual precarity, racial degradation, and "national decay" in Opium-Smoking in America and China. Keeping pace with the eastward migration of Chinese [End Page 826] migrants, the joints assemble smokers into a "standing army" that "take[s] a morbid delight in converting others," Kane imagines. Most vulnerable to this strange evangelism are young white women, on whom opium was supposed to act as a virtue-ruining aphrodisiac.60 If the drug arouses novices, however, in habitués it inevitably depletes reprosexual capacity. Linking up these contradictory effects, opium joints thus come to bear an overdetermined nexus of social pathology—at once "a fertile cause of crime," "a sunderer of family ties," and "a breeder of sensuality" terminating in "impotence."61 National vitality degenerates in the joints, for Kane, because their strange overfertility both inhibits and outstrips the reproduction of white domestic space.

More explicitly than its precursors, The Demon of the Orient trains its gaze on the impassionate attractions that distort time in opium joints. Lured through the streets of Lower Manhattan by a young "fiend" named Frank, Williams lays out an occult social field, or "fiendish society," circulating between the Chinese joint run by "Tun Gee" and an American-run "palace joint." In the former, Williams skims a frisson from the "uncanny scene" of Frank and Tun Gee's "latent fierce desire" to transmute "twining gold threads" of boiling opium into "the anticipated elysium." As the exposé cruises from the alchemical homoerotics of Tun Gee's place to the fetishistic pleasures of the American "opium palace," it reorganizes its gaze around one Viola Hardinge, the "'Queen of the Joint.'" When she first appears on the scene, assisted by a "Chinese attendant," Williams cannot tell whether Viola is a "girl" or a "woman." In her indeterminacy she could easily instance the moral ruin invoked at the end of the chapter, where Williams poses opium as a "most powerful aphrodisiac" used to "entice virtuous women and girls." But for now Viola embodies "the freedom born … of the peculiar unsexing influence of the joints." As a "centre of attraction," she focalizes the "weird social intercourse" engendered by the joint's ability to satisfy any number of appetites in a single neutralizing pleasure. Much of the attraction would seem to lie, for Williams, in how her cosmopolitan "freedom" mediates the American joint's co-optation of its Chinese counterpart. Viola magnetizes desire for a whitewashed "Oriental luxury" when, for example, she "pass[es] some fragrant cigarettes of Turkish tobacco around the circle."62 Her freedom here depends on the reification of the Orient and the social marginalization of Chinese people (i.e., the inhabitants of Tun Gee's place, the attendant). Yet the aura of "unsexing influence," even when routed through this segregatory xenophilia, at the same time indicates how the joints could diffuse appetites for sex into a polymorphous sensuality.

Loosening sociability around an appetite that was thought to subsume every other "vicious impulse" under one pathological cycle, the opium joint [End Page 827] would seem, for Williams, to cocoon smokers in a "perfect harmony," even as it slowly engulfs them in "Circean enthrallment." All-night joints stretch that synchronizing bind towards a kind of void horizon, at once wasting time and decelerating sensation by shutting out the punctual rhythms of public life. "To one under the God Opien's influence," Williams asserts, "time is nil. So long as his money holds out, he will 'hang out.'" Notwithstanding its ephemeral regressions into "perfect harmony," however, this null time fails to reduce to a picturesque scene of premodern timelessness. Suspended between the transcendence and the dissipation of habitual drives, the joints unloop from the linear time of capital accumulation.63 But the distorting effects of that dissociation do not only hinge on the suspension of futurity. Multiplying across populations, opium joints also harbor a looming overproximity to the present. As if to confirm Kane's epidemic forecasts, Williams claims that "there can scarcely be a town of above ten thousand inhabitants in the United States where a sociable smoke of opium may not be had." It was the expansion of rail infrastructure across North America, on this account, that allowed the vice to "[sow] its seed" so rapidly and "[strike] its roots" so widely.64 One of the nation's primary means of synchronizing territory, the transcontinental railroad, is here seen to propagate cravings that void national simultaneity. Latent in yet splitting off from that simultaneity, the joint's inert downtime paradoxically accelerates into the near-futural immediacy of contagion.

Across these inquiries, opium joints come to figure the dissolution of national reproductivity insofar as they slow down sociability in the present and thereby block out incitements to live for the future. Kane's crisis report summons a pornotropic scenario to provoke racially menaced curiosity about the opium joint's contagious pleasures.65 Joints are dangerous for Keeley, by contrast, not because they host passional excesses but because they let declassed bodies slip into indifference to anything but the appetite for opium. A curious ambivalence shapes the convergence of these positions in Williams's investigations of the opium scene's "peculiar social character." Warning that the vice "will, if not legally crushed out, or stringently restricted, rapidly ensnare Young America," the preface to The Demon of the Orient aligns itself with the paranoid biopolitics codified by Kane.66 Yet the observations logged in the body of the text reveal just the opposite: rather than exciting sexual vice, the opium joint licenses new forms of unsexed sociability. Much like Keeley's theory that opium appetites soak up "all dangerous passions" in one perverse drive, here the "unsexing" pleasure in opium opens an interval between anesthetic stasis and transsensory contagion. As urgently as The Demon of the Orient pursues a prohibitionist [End Page 828] agenda against the seductive conviviality spread by opium joints, then, it just as fervently invests in the fantasy of their strange exemption from normative circuits of accumulation and expenditure.

Only in the early twentieth century would profiles of drug peril decisively attach these contradictions to the lapsed self-control of a type known as "the addict." More than the disciplinary medicalization of the will was needed to consolidate that type. Not individual disorder but, above all, the chronic dis-juncture of collective scenes moved state agencies and narcotourist mediascapes to intervene in opium habits after 1882. Often these interventions equated temporal estrangement with regression to a racialized premodernity. "To the non-Chinese," Anthony W. Lee observes, the opium den held out a fantasy of "collective withdrawal to a dream space seemingly outside of time."67 But if opium joints screened fantasies of exception from the linear progression of capitalist time, their asynchrony never seamlessly folded into Western dreams of a space anterior to industrial time-discipline. Mass-cultural exercises in "aesthetic ethnography," Thomas Kim argues, did not simply project encounters with "the Orient" into an archaic past. To produce its "frisson," the orientalizing encounter could not freeze its subjects "out of time" but had to contact them through "disjunctive temporalities," however tenuous and distantiated.68 Just such a disjuncture held open the sensations of latent danger and repulsed fascination that profiles of opium joints sought to incite. If the joints appeared to subvert settler capitalist timeframes, it is because their inertia offered to overtake the habits binding appetitive bodies to chrononormative forms of life.69 Yet even as the texts discussed above apprehend opium joints as sites of xenophobic panic, they also register how transient forms of relationality sink out of public co-presence and split off from privileged routes to national kinship. In their collective indifference to simultaneity, these scenes of appetitive inertia not only recede from the present but also interfere with the reproduction of the settler-national future.

Matthew Boulette

Matthew Boulette is a PhD candidate in English language and literature at the University of Chicago, where they research the convergences of appetitive bodies, states of ecstasy, and structures of chronic dispossession in American settler capitalism. Their dissertation examines the protocols that came to apprehend and regulate disorders of appetite and retraces how altered states could potentiate scenes of alternate world-making over the long nineteenth century.


I would like to thank Lauren Berlant, Zach Samalin, Amanda Shubert, Gerónimo Sarmiento Cruz, Vinh Cam, the Gender and Sexuality Studies Workshop, and the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Centuries Atlantic Cultures Workshop for their critical attention and stimulating feedback on earlier drafts of this essay. I am also grateful to the American Quarterly Editorial Board, the editors of this special issue, Greta LaFleur and Kyla Schuller, and the anonymous reviewer for the support and insights they offered in the process of revision.

1. On the racialization of the long war on drugs, see Curtis Marez, Drug Wars: The Political Economy of Narcotics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004); and Doris Marie Provine, Unequal under the Law: Race in the War on Drugs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

2. Arnold Genthe and Will Irwin, Pictures of Old Chinatown (New York: Moffat, Yard, 1908), 32–33, 38–39.

3. Evelyn Nakano Glenn links the restriction of Chinese American neighborhoods to settler capitalist modes of dispossession in "Settler Colonialism as Structure: A Framework for Comparative Studies of U.S. Race and Gender Formation," Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1.1 (2015): 66–69. Exemplary histories of Chinese Exclusion and border security include Edna Bonacich and Lucie Cheng, Labor Immigration under Capitalism: Asian Workers in the United States before World War II (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); Lucy E. Salyer, Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); Erika Lee, At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); and Adam McKeown, Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

4. My sense of that co-presence comes from Benedict Anderson's analysis of the national "meanwhile," "a device for the presentation of simultaneity in 'homogeneous, empty time,'" in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 2006), 25.

5. See William James, "Habit," in The Principles of Psychology, vol. 1 (New York: Henry Holt, 1890), 105, 108.

6. Malabou sees habit as the medium through which the subject affects itself and thus attains synthetic continuity. Yet habit is always already folded into forces outside itself. Addiction, for her, merely amplifies the parasitism by which the auto-affective subject of habit acquires and maintains self-presence. See her preface to Of Habit, by Félix Ravaisson, trans. Clare Carlisle and Mark Sinclair (New York: Continuum, 2008), ix–x, xiv, xvii. On inertia as the "entropy" or "limit" of plasticity, see Malabou, "The Equivocity of Reparation: From Elasticity to Resilience," in The New Wounded: From Neurosis to Brain Damage, trans. Steven Miller (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012), 177–78.

7. Mariana Valverde demonstrates how habit, as "a way of governing that lies in the borderland between act and identity," channels forms of power that route through neither punishable acts nor disciplinary persons in Diseases of the Will: Alcohol and the Dilemmas of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 69, 143. Michel Foucault, too, understands the disciplinary person as just one "transfer point" within a distributed strategy of control in An Introduction, vol. 1 of The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1990), 103. It significantly complicates the logic of personification if we ask why the fiend never became a "case history," like the homosexual or the habitué, but only a contagious "type of life" (43). Maybe the most obvious answer is that these figures stood on opposed sides of a "biological-type caesura" upheld by state racism. See Foucault, "Society Must Be Defended": Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–76, ed. Arnold I. Davidson, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 1997), 255. Addiction epidemiology concerns disorders that communicate across that caesura and, as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues, multiply beyond the disciplinary relay between act and identity. See Sedgwick, "Epidemics of the Will," in Tendencies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 130–31.

8. See, e.g., Helen Keane, What's Wrong with Addiction? (New York: New York University Press, 2002). Keane focuses on how addiction discourses incite and normalize the "regulatory ideal of rational, autonomous subjecthood" (8), though she also gives less-contained renditions of body-substance relations, like Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's "ethological description" (34) of drug cravings. On the racialization of craving as repetitious attachment, see Jennifer L. Fleissner, "Earth-Eating, Addiction, Nostalgia: Charles Chesnutt's Diasporic Regionalism," Studies in Romanticism 49.2 (2010): 313–36. On the cultural logics of addiction, see Janet Farrell Brodie and Marc Redfield, eds., High Anxieties: Cultural Studies in Addiction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); and Timothy A. Hickman, The Secret Leprosy of Modern Days: Narcotic Addiction and Cultural Crisis in the United States, 1870–1920 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007). See also David T. Courtwright, Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).

9. Michael Warner, "Whitman Drunk," in Publics and Counterpublics (New York: Zone Books, 2005), 272, 280–81.

10. Susan Zieger, Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century British and American Literature (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 18, 22. Not until the turn of the century did the state begin to regulate "'drug undergrounds'" (234) as nodes of "social infection" (237), Zieger suggests in her afterword, "The Biopolitics of Drug Control."

11. A classic account of moral panics surrounding sexuality may be found in Gayle S. Rubin, "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality," in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 137–82. See also Bruce Burgett, "Sex, Panic, Nation," American Literary History 21.1 (2009): 67–86; Sean P. Hier, ed., Moral Panic and the Politics of Anxiety (New York: Routledge, 2011); and Miriam Kingsberg, Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013). My sense of the term psychotropic sociability is akin to what Nicholas Shapiro and Eben Kirksey call "chemosociality" in "Chemo-Ethnography: An Introduction," Cultural Anthropology 32.4 (2017): 481–93. Chemosociality refers for them to "the longstanding relationships and emergent social forms that arise from chemical exposures and dependencies" (484).

12. Mediascapes, as Arjun Appadurai defines the term, script national and translocal fantasies of others' worlds by extrapolating "prologemena to the desire for acquisition and movement" from "image-centered, narrative-based accounts of strips of reality" (Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996], 35).

13. Alonzo Calkins popularized the term morbid craving, which had been in circulation since at least the 1830s, in Opium and the Opium-Appetite: with Notices of Alcoholic Beverages, Cannabis Indica, Tobacco and Coca, and Tea and Coffee, in their Hygienic Aspects and Pathologic Relations (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1871), 20. The term attained its widest circulation after 1878, with the English translation of Edward Levinstein, Morbid Craving for Morphia (Die Morphiumsucht): A Monograph Founded on Personal Observation, trans. Charles Harrer (London: Smith, Elder, 1878).

14. Hickman, Secret Leprosy, 60. See also Joseph M. Gabriel on the bifurcation of consumer drug regulations in "Restricting the Sale of 'Deadly Poisons': Pharmacists, Drug Regulation, and Narratives of Suffering in the Gilded Age," Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 9.3 (2010): 328–34.

15. Iyko Day, Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 16.

16. On hope and hopelessness in prognosis, see Jasbir Puar, "Prognosis Time: Towards a Geopolitics of Affect, Debility, and Capacity" Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 19.2 (2009): 161–72. On the sensory constitution of the coolie in US race sciences, see Eric Hayot, "Chinese Bodies, Chinese Futures," Representations 99.1 (2007): 99–129. Hayot argues that the coolie figured a "biologically impossible body" whose inability to "experience monotony" portended the triumph of "mass production over unalienated, organic labor" (103).

17. Horace B. Day, The Opium Habit, with Suggestions as to the Remedy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1868), 8, 47, 219, 258, 281–82.

18. On biosocial immunity, see Priscilla Wald, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 57. See also Neel Ahuja on the "fluid materialization" of race across different scales and species in Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 6.

19. Kathleen Auerhahn, "The Split Labor Market and the Origins of Antidrug Legislation in the United States," Law & Social Inquiry 24.2 (1999): 413. See also Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975).

20. Harry Hubbell Kane, Opium-Smoking in China and America: A Study of Its Prevalence, and Effects, Immediate and Remote, on the Individual and the Nation (New York: G. P. Putnam's and Sons, 1882), 75.

21. Roswell P. Flower, "Chinese Immigration," in Remarks of Hon. Roswell P. Flower, in the House of Representatives, Forty-seventh Congress (Washington, DC, 1883), 11. This racist imagery was by no means idiosyncratic to Flower. Lucy Salyer cites California Senator John Miller's argument that Chinese laborers were hereditarily trained to become "'automatic engines of flesh and blood.'" See Salyer, Laws Harsh as Tigers, 15.

22. On the racialization and subsequent "biological universalism" of the opium habit, see Alan Baumler, "The International Campaign against Opium," in The Chinese and Opium under the Republic: Worse Than Floods and Wild Beasts (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007), 62–64.

23. James, "Habit," 105, 109, 116, 108, 106, 124. Kyla Schuller's arguments about the role of inertia in nineteenth-century race sciences are instructive here. As Schuller points out, evolutionary ontologies of race rest on an "animacy teleology" that opposes the pastness of "inert matter" to the futurity of "vital materiality" (The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century [Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018], 26). James sees inertia differently—not as a primitive state from which living processes evolve but as their ongoing structural condition of possibility.

24. James, "Habit," 121. "A fly-wheel serves to store up work, or to give it out when required, just as a mill-pond fed by a stream of variable discharge serves to store up water for the mill-wheel," William Dennis Marks explains in The Relative Proportions of the Steam-Engine: Being a Rational and Practical Discussion of the Dimensions of Every Detail of the Steam-Engine (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1884), 120. On inertia, see also Jennifer Fleissner, Women, Compulsion, Modernity: The Moment of American Naturalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 2–4.

25. James, "Habit," 121.

26. On "social inertia," see Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 67.

27. More specifically, the inertia of opium scenes resisted capture by a chronobiopolitics premised, as Dana Luciano puts it, on the "sexual arrangement of the time of life." See Arranging Grief: Sacred Time and the Body in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: New York University Press, 2007), 9. Opium appetites reroute the "exceptional loop" (74) that, Luciano argues, threads "timeless" affective rhythms of social reproduction through the progressive drive of capital accumulation.

28. Because they generally arise in the context of anti-Chinese propaganda, such images come freighted with racist antipathies. This quote is from Atwell Whitney, Almond-Eyed; A Story of the Day (San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft, 1878), 129.

29. Mary Ting Yi Lui, The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 30. I define the term reprosexual, following Luciano, as the domain of sexuality assessed by racialized norms of heterosexual reproduction. See Arranging Grief, 11, 136.

30. Nayan Shah, Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 97, 93. See also Marez on the opium den's "queer intimacy" in Drug Wars, 71.

31. Mel Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 170. If opium figured as the toxic object of racial panic, Chen speculates elsewhere, it also carried the biochemical efficacy of "involuting human temporalities and percepts." See Chen, "Unpacking Intoxication, Racialising Disability" Medical Humanities 41.1 (2015): 28.

32. Arthur B. Stout and Thomas Logan, "Report on Chinese Immigration," in First Biennial Report of the State Board of Health of California for the Years 1870 and 1871 (Sacramento: D. W. Gelwicks, State Printer, 1871), 55–56.

33. The text of the proposed ordinance may be found in "The Opium Dens. Action of the Board of Supervisors on the Evil—a Disgusting Recital of Facts," San Francisco Chronicle, November 16, 1875.

34. "Chap. 141.—An act supplementary to the acts in relation to immigration," The Statutes at Large of the United States from December, 1873, to March, 1875 and Recent Treaties, Conventions, and Executive Proclamations (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1875), 477–78. The Page Act was "the first federal legislation that enumerated specific types of people who were excluded from entry into the United States," Siobhan Somerville observes in "Notes toward a Queer History of Naturalization," American Quarterly 57.3 (2005): 666.

35. Lisa Lowe, The Intimacies of Four Continents (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), 133; and Marez, Drug Wars, 71.

36. See R. K. Newman, "Opium Smoking in Late Imperial China: A Reconsideration," Modern Asian Studies 29.4 (1995): 765–94; and Amar Farooqui, "Colonialism and Competing Addictions: Morphine Content as Historical Factor" Social Scientist 32.5–6 (2004): 21–31.

37. On the treaty, see Carl Trocki, Opium, Empire, and the Global Political Economy: A Study of the Asian Opium Trade, 1750–1950 (London: Routledge, 1999), 99–102.

38. Thembisa Waetjen, "Poppies and Gold: Opium and Lawmaking on the Witwatersrand, 1904–10," Journal of African History 57.3 (2016): 394, 415.

39. See Howard Padwa, Social Poison: The Culture and Politics of Opiate Control in Britain and France, 1821–1926 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2012), 66.

40. See William B. McAllister, Drug Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century: An International History (New York: Routledge, 2000), 33–35.

41. Virginia Berridge, Opium and the People: Opium Use and Drug Control Policy in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century England (London: Free Association Books, 1999), 196.

42. Ashley Wright, "Not Just a 'Place for the Smoking of Opium': The Indian Opium Den and Imperial Anxieties in the 1890s," Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 18.2 (2017),

43. See Saxton, Indispensable Enemy; and Lee, At America's Gates.

44. On the difference between miasma, contagion, and infection in multifactorial models of disease causality, see Margaret Pelling, "The Meaning of Contagion: Reproduction, Medicine and Metaphor," in Contagion: Historical and Cultural Studies, ed. Alison Bashford and Claire Hooker (New York: Routledge, 2001), 18–19.

45. Joshua S. Yang, "The Anti-Chinese Cubic Air Ordinance," American Journal of Public Health 99.3 (2009): 440.

46. Diana Ahmad, The Opium Debate and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the Nineteenth-Century American West (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2007), 57–58, 60.

47. See Courtwright, Dark Paradise, 77–79. See also Gabriel, "'Deadly Poisons,'" 331–32.

48. See James A. Leroy, "The Opium Question in the Philippines," Medical News, February 18, 1905.

49. On Exclusion-era "containment fields," see James S. Moy, Marginal Sights: Staging the Chinese in America (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1993), 65. See also David Palumbo-Liu, Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 17–42.

50. Raymond Rast, "The Cultural Politics of Tourism in San Francisco's Chinatown, 1882–1917," Pacific Historical Review 76.1 (2007): 38, 41–42. Xiaojing Zhou argues that the "controlling gaze of the flâneur" reinforced the ethnological profiling and aesthetic containment of Chinatown in San Francisco. See "'The Woman about Town': Transgressing Raced and Gendered Boundaries in Sui Sin Far's Writings," in Cities of Others: Reimagining Urban Spaces in Asian American Literature (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015), 31. Moving through opium dens under police escort, white guides sought out the "odor of abject social reality," as was typical of what Scott Herring calls "slumming literatures" in Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 7.

51. Carrie Tirado Bramen, "The Urban Picturesque and the Spectacle of Americanization," American Quarterly 52.3 (2000): 451, 468. Wong himself does not morally oppose the pleasures of opium to those of food. Opium smoking for him constitutes an "insidious social evil," but also a rather ordinary social lubricant. Under the influence people "become cheerful and communicative with those around them," he reports, and only sometimes lapse into the abandon seen in "'opium fiends.'" See Wong Chin Foo, "The Chinese in New York" Cosmopolitan, June 1888, 311.

52. Benjamin E. Lloyd, "A Night Stroll through Chinatown," in Lights and Shades in San Francisco (San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft, 1875), 261–62.

53. James W. Buel, "Chinese Prostitution and Opium Smoking," in Mysteries and Miseries of America's Great Cities (San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft, 1883), 280–81.

54. W. B. Farwell and John E. Kunkler, "Condition of the Chinese Quarter," in San Francisco Municipal Reports for the Fiscal Year 1884–5, Ending June 30, 1885 (San Francisco: W. M. Hinton, 1885), 180.

55. Edward C. Mann, "On the Nervous and Mental Deterioration Produced by the Opium Habit in the Higher Classes," Medical Bulletin 8.1 (1886): 12.

56. W. S. Whitwell, "The Opium Habit," Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal and Western Lancet 30.6 (1887): 323, 329.

57. Shah, Contagious Divides, 93–97.

58. Leslie E. Keeley, The Morphine Eater: or, From Bondage to Freedom. The Opium, Morphine, and Kindred Habits; Their Origin, Nature and Extent, Together with the Proper Method of Treatment to Be Adopted (Dwight: C. L. Palmer, 1881), 175–77.

59. Harry Hubbell Kane, "American Opium-Smokers II," Harper's Weekly, October 8, 1881, 683.

60. Kane, Opium-Smoking, 8. "Many females are so much excited sexually by the smoking of opium during the first few weeks," Kane writes, "that old smokers with the sole object of ruining them have taught them to smoke." Victor Jew gives historical context on moral panic about relations between Chinese men and white girls in "'Chinese Demons': The Violent Articulation of Chinese Otherness and Interracial Sexuality in the U.S. Midwest, 1885–1889," Journal of Social History 37.2 (2003): 389–410. On opium's aphrodisiac capacities in a Chinese context, see Yangwen Zheng, "The Volume of Smoke and Powder," in The Social Life of Opium in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 116–30.

61. Kane, Opium-Smoking, 147, 4, 8, 153.

62. Allen S. Williams, The Demon of the Orient, and His Satellite Fiends of the Joints: Our Opium Smokers as They Are in Tartar Hells and American Paradises (New York: Published by the Author, 1883), 8, 46, 18, 21–22, 30, 23, 25, 24.

63. On "linear-accumulative" time, see Luciano, Arranging Grief, 74.

64. Williams, Demon, 48, 56–57.

65. On pornotroping in the context of black chattel slavery, see Hortense J. Spillers, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book," Diacritics 17.2 (1987): 67.

66. Williams, Demon, 8.

67. Anthony W. Lee, "Photography and Opium in a Nineteenth-Century Port City," in A Companion to American Art, ed. John Davis, Jennifer A. Greenhill, and Jason D. LaFountain (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 590.

68. Thomas Kim, "Being Modern: The Circulation of Oriental Objects," American Quarterly 58.2 (2006): 388, 401, 398, 395.

69. Elizabeth Freeman defines "chrononormativity" as "the use of time to organize individual human bodies toward maximum productivity" in Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 3.

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