Skip to main content


Celebrating Recent Work by Nicholas Bartlett

New Books in the Arts and Sciences

dateApril 8, 2022 timeFriday, 11:00am–12:15pm EDT locationVirtual Event
  • Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
  • The Department of Anthropology
  • East Asian Track at Barnard College
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Cover of Recovering Histories: Life and Labor After Heroin in Reform-Era China by Nicholas Bartlett

Recovering Histories: Life and Labor after Heroin in Reform-Era China
by: Nicholas Bartlett

Heroin first reached Gejiu, a Chinese city in southern Yunnan known as Tin Capital, in the 1980s. Widespread use of the drug, which for a short period became “easier to buy than vegetables,” coincided with radical changes in the local economy caused by the marketization of the mining industry. More than two decades later, both the heroin epidemic and the mining boom are often discussed as recent history. Middle-aged long-term heroin users, however, complain that they feel stuck in an earlier moment of the country’s rapid reforms, navigating a world that no longer resembles either the tightly knit Maoist work units of their childhood or the disorienting but opportunity-filled chaos of their early careers. Overcoming addiction in Gejiu has become inseparable from broader attempts to reimagine laboring lives in a rapidly shifting social world. Drawing on more than eighteen months of fieldwork, Nicholas Bartlett explores how individuals’ varying experiences of recovery highlight shared challenges of inhabiting China’s contested present.

Attendance and Registration Policy:

This event will take place virtually over Zoom. Registration is required.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs. This event will be recorded. By being electronically present, you consent to the SOF/Heyman using such video for promotional purposes.

About the Author:

Nicholas Bartlett is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Chinese Culture and Society at Barnard College, Columbia University. His first book, Recovering Histories: Life and Labor after Heroin in Reform-era China (University of California and Columbia Weatherhead 2020), offers a phenomenological account of long-term heroin users’ experiences recovering from addiction in a tin mining city. His current research explores the introduction of group relations conferences to China.

About the Speakers:

Charles Stewart is the Professor of Anthropology at University College London. He taught Modern Greek language and literature at Harvard University and social anthropology at Brunel University before joining UCL. His current research interests include the study of syncretism, creolization, dreaming, the anthropology of religion and topics in the borderland between anthropology and history such as continuity/change, temporality and historicity. He is the author of Dreaming and Historical Consciousness in Island Greece (University of Chicago Press, 2017).

Eugenia Lean is Professor of Chinese History at Columbia University. She is interested in a broad range of topics in late imperial and modern Chinese history with a particular focus on the history of science and industry, mass media, consumer culture, affect studies and gender, as well as law and urban society. She is the author of Public Passions: the Trial of Shi Jianqiao and the Rise of Popular Sympathy in Republican China (UC Press, 2007) and Vernacular Industrialism in China: Local Innovation and Translated Technologies in theMaking of a Cosmetics Empire, 1900-1940 (Columbia University Press, 2020).

Nadia Abu El-Haj is Ann Whitney Olin Professor in the Departments of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, Co-Director of the Center for Palestine Studies, and Chair of the Governing Board of the Society of Fellows/Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University. Abu El-Haj has published two books: Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (2001), which won the Albert Hourani Annual Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association in 2002, and The Genealogical Science: The Search for Jewish Origins and the Politics of Epistemology (2012).

D. Max Moerman is Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures. He is Co-Chair of the Columbia University Seminar in Buddhist Studies and an Associate Director of the Columbia Center for Buddhism and Asian Religions. He holds an A.B. from Columbia College and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. His research interests are in the visual and material culture of Japanese religions.