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Stephan Risi

After finishing my B.A in history at the University of Zurich, I entered the History PhD program in 2011 and have since been working on the history of drugs with a particular focus on smoking and addiction.

Drugs make for fascinating objects of historical inquiry because they are always located between the scientific and the cultural, the licit and illicit, the safe and the dangerous. I am interested in questions like: What does transcendence mean if it can be chemically induced? How do drugs shape notions of selfhood? What does it mean to be an addict, an acid-head, or a smoker? How can we understand addiction both as a universal neurochemical process and a specific, historically situated experience?

For my thesis, I investigate how, over the last sixty years, smoking became an addiction, and what role changing addiction paradigms and industry denialism have played in the process. How did industry lawyers, public health researchers, and individual smokers react to the emerging consensus that smoking is an addiction?

What I enjoy most about researching a topic like this is that it allows me to work interdisciplinarily and follow my interests in the biomedical sciences, medical anthropology, philosophy, and the digital humanities.