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Uncovering the Politics of the Poppy

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy

ISBN 9780674051348

Publication date: 03/01/2010

Known to the Greeks as opos or opion, as afiun in Persian and Arabic, and fuyung in Chinese, opium is at once a palliative and a poison. Its exotic origins, its literary associations, and the properties that are, often erroneously, attributed to it have ensured an ongoing air of mystery.

Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy reveals the long and fascinating history of a powerful and addictive drug and explores the changing fortunes of the modern-day illicit opium trade, especially in the remote regions of Asia. He answers key questions: Why have anti-drug policies failed despite four decades of increasing effort? And what are the shortcomings and limitations of forced eradication, alternative development, "silver bullets," and other quick fixes? In answering these questions, Chouvy draws upon geography, anthropology, politics, and development studies. He shows that the history of opium production is unexpectedly linked to the history of Afghanistan.

A compelling account of a narcotic as old as humanity, Opium offers powerful insights into the complex politics and economics of the poppy in the world today.


  • In laying out the economics and politics that tend to accompany opium farming, Chouvy encourages us to reevaluate our drug policy to focus less on the trade itself and more on its root causes, arguing that not until Afghanistan enjoys economic growth and a stable government will it be possible to curtail the drug trade.

    —Sarah Halzack, Washington Post


  • Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy is a Research Fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris. He presented the opening speech at the G8 special meeting in Paris on drug routes in Central Asia. He is also the creator of the website

Book Details

  • 272 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press