SOAS University of London

GCRF Drugs and (dis)order Research Project


This project will tackle some of the fundamental questions about the relationships between drugs, development and conflict through innovative and ground-breaking methodologies. These are built upon four pillars, or “strands”:

Strand 1: Histories and social transformations: the emergence of borderland drug economies: This aims to explore how drugs have shaped, and been shaped by patterns of mobility, kinship networks, processes of social change and gender dynamics over time and across space. It aims to build knowledge about the emergence and ongoing transformation of illicit economies rooted in social and cultural history from the ground up.

Strand 2: The contemporary political economy of drugs: To chart the political and economic networks that derive power from illicit economies and how these networks impact upon processes of development, how the state functions, local governance and war to peace transitions.

Strand 3: Health, livelihoods and vulnerabilities: To assess the health effects of drug production and drug use, and of policy and community actions in response, in the lives of borderland communities. This includes analysis of the gender dynamics surrounding drugs, including the gendered division of labour within the drugs economy and the different ways that men’s and women’s lives and livelihoods are shaped by drugs production, consumption and trafficking.

Strand 4: Organisational ethnographies and programmatic case studies: To understand how and why certain narratives around illicit drugs become hegemonic, how they are challenged and change over time, and how policy narratives and interventions are brokered by individuals and organisations between international, national and local levels.

Across all of these strands, a combination of mixed methods will be deployed. One of the most innovative aspects of the research is the use of GIS imagery produced by ALCIS and visual materials such as comic strips produced by Positive-Negatives.