Narcotic Cities

ISBN 978-3-98612-000-9

ISBN 978-3-98612-000-9

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<strong>Narcotic</strong><br />


Mélina<br />

Germes,<br />

Luise<br />

Klaus,<br />

and Stefan<br />

Höhne<br />


<strong>Narcotic</strong><br />

<strong>Cities</strong><br />

Counter-<br />

Cartographies<br />

of<br />

Drugs<br />

and<br />


Table<br />

of Contents<br />


8 Acknowledgments<br />

12 Introduction<br />

Mélina Germes, Luise Klaus, and Stefan Höhne<br />

22 Don’t Map Drugs!<br />

Mélina Germes and Luise Klaus<br />


42 Numbering Babylon?<br />

Failed Attempts to Map British Drinking, 1817–1914<br />

James Kneale<br />

54 What’s in a (Police) Drug Map?<br />

A German Example<br />

Bernd Belina<br />

60 Behind a Berlin Needle Map<br />

Mélina Germes<br />

72 The Hotspot.<br />

An Exploration into the Mapping of Contaminated Urban Space<br />

Boris Michel and Frederieke Westerheide<br />

84 Blanks in the Maps.<br />

On the Relationship between Researchers, Participants, and their Maps<br />

Mélina Germes, Roxane Scavo, and Anna Dichtl<br />


96 Coca, Cattle, and the Forest.<br />

The Expansion of Coca Farming and Illicit Cattle Ranching in Colombia<br />

Paulo J. Murillo-Sandoval, John Kilbride, and Beth Tellman<br />

106 Anti-Drug Vigilante Killings in the Philippines.<br />

War on Drugs, Poverty, and Urbanity<br />

Francis Josef Gasgonia and Ragene Andrea Palma<br />


122 The Stockholm Smoking Bans.<br />

Intoxicating Spaces in Early Modern Europe<br />

Hanna Hodacs and Sarah Falk<br />

134 Taverns, Clubs, and Homes.<br />

Three Archetypes of Women Who Used Drugs in Nineteenthand<br />

Twentieth-Century Lisbon<br />

Cristiana Vale Pires<br />

142 Media and the Dystopian City.<br />

The Heroin “Crisis” in Madrid, 1980–1995<br />

María José León Robles<br />

154 “Map of Junkie Mokum”.<br />

A Humanitarian Narrative of Amsterdam from 1992<br />

Gemma Blok<br />

164 Small-Time Dealing.<br />

Apartment-Based Heroin Dealers in Paris, 1968–2000<br />

Aude Lalande


174 A Global Digital Market?<br />

About the Geography of “AlphaBay”<br />

Meropi Tzanetakis and Kai Reisser<br />

182 Substantiated Spaces.<br />

The Invisible Geographies of Erowid’s Vaults<br />

Francesca Valsecchi, Fabien Pfaender, and Fire Erowid<br />

194 Using Kratom.<br />

Online and Local Stories of North Americans<br />

Elli Schwarz<br />


208 Counter-Addiction Stories.<br />

Reflections from a Body Mapping Workshop in London<br />

Fay Dennis<br />

218 The Secret across the Street.<br />

How Addiction Transgresses Lines and Breaks Bonds in a Belgian City<br />

Eli<br />

224 (Post-)Lockdown Mapping.<br />

Drugs, Sociability, and Risks in Bogotá<br />

Maria Alejandra Medina, Vannesa Morris,<br />

and Estefania Villamizar, Échele Cabeza collective<br />

234 Party, Emotions, and Gender.<br />

Mapping Festive Spaces of Consumption in Bordeaux<br />

Roxane Scavo<br />

244 Traces.<br />

Playing Hide-and-Seek with a Night Owl in a Large French City<br />

Roxane Scavo and Mélina Germes<br />


254 Displaced.<br />

The Denial of Public Space and Everyday Resistance in Milan<br />

Sonia Bergamo, María de los Ángeles Briones, and Francesca Mauri<br />

266 Open-Air Fumoirs.<br />

Atypical Socio-geographical Places in Abidjan<br />

Jérôme Evanno and Ahouansou Stanislas Sonagnon Houndji<br />

274 Pyatak Drifters.<br />

The Making of Social and Cultural Places in Ukrainian <strong>Cities</strong><br />

Vladimir Stepanov and Alexandra Dmitrieva<br />

286 Weaving Drug Users’ Spaces of Care and Sociality in Vancouver<br />

and Paris<br />

Céline Debaulieu, Melora Koepke, Maddy Andrews, Elli Taylor,<br />

and Lauren Dixon, SoCS Collective<br />

298 An Ideal City for Marginalized Drug Users in Germany?<br />

Luise Klaus and Mélina Germes<br />

310 Contributors<br />

316 Table of Figures<br />

320 Imprint

Introduction<br />

Mélina Germes,<br />

Luise Klaus,<br />

and Stefan Höhne<br />


Drugs are fascinating—not only because of their effects on mind and<br />

body, but also because of our ideas and conceptions of them. While they<br />

have been part of human culture and everyday life for millennia, it is only<br />

recently, during the twentieth century, that the term “drug” has acquired<br />

a moral overtone combining fear of harm and addiction with contempt<br />

toward those who yield to it (Koram 2022). Psychoactive substances are<br />

used for a variety of purposes, such as exploring the self, altering<br />

moods, enhancing the senses, but also treating disease, escaping<br />

boredom and despair, enhancing social interaction, stimulating artistic<br />

creativity and performance, or coping with peer pressure (Rosen and<br />

Weil 2004). Yet what defines drugs is not their chemical properties but<br />

the way substances are categorized and labelled, and some uses<br />

condemned. While some products such as alcohol and tobacco are<br />

largely accepted and consumed all over the world, others are framed as<br />

dangerous and vile—from production to trade and consumption. Urban<br />

discourses associate drugs with crime, vice, and sickness, so much so<br />

that we share an urban imaginary consisting of neighborhoods eaten up<br />

by drug use and trafficking and of shiny party miles of ecstasy in the<br />

night-time economy.<br />

By exploring drug maps, we question the relationship between drugs,<br />

spaces, and their representation, thus dealing with both issues: the<br />

representation of drugs and the representation of space—most particularly<br />

cities. While the title <strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong> evokes images of urban<br />

spaces of crime, repressive law enforcement, and violence, our aim is<br />

rather to investigate these discourses and reframe the term narcotic by<br />

establishing and solidifying alternative images and knowledges, thereby<br />

representing a diversity of viewpoints. <strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong> traces the<br />

complex entanglements of drugs, institutions, and experiences with<br />

spaces and places, thus shedding new light on our cities.<br />


The way we deal with psychoactive substances is rooted in specific<br />

histories, beginning with ritual substance use and traditional farming.<br />

These include the history of war, genocide, and colonial regimes,<br />

including slavery and the exploitation of land, rural economies, and<br />

resources. They also include the history of the commodification and<br />

industrialization of what became an extremely profitable merchandise in<br />

the entertainment and well- being industries as well as in the enhancement<br />

of workforce productivity, so that nowadays, powerful industries<br />

and illegal organizations thrive on the exploitation of these commodified<br />

substances.<br />

The history of drug regulation also plays a significant role, by prohibiting,<br />

decriminalizing or legalizing substances, or introducing harm<br />

reduction approaches. Drug prohibition emerged a little over a century<br />

ago, with the International Opium Convention of 1912, enacted by the US<br />

to stop the British export of opium to China (Scheerer 2019). Further<br />

legislative measures quickly followed and were consolidated into the<br />

1961 United Nations Single Convention on <strong>Narcotic</strong> Drugs, which still<br />

remains the most important legal basis of international drug control. It is<br />

shaped by international power and trade interests, colonial ownership<br />

claims, and denial of Indigenous knowledge (Daniels et al. 2022, 4). This<br />

Single Convention failed to reduce international drug trade and use, and<br />

more substances such as cannabis, LSD, and heroine became popular in<br />

Western societies particularly after World War II (Hobson 2014). The US<br />

government responded in the nineteen-seventies with the War on Drugs<br />

campaign at an international level, fostering repression, as well as<br />

economic exploitation with major impacts on human rights worldwide.<br />

Illegalization lays the foundation for illegal economies, often entangled<br />

<strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong><br />

Intro duction<br />


with other criminalized activities, leading to a high concentration of<br />

profits on one side, and harsh working conditions, forced labor, and<br />

violence on the other.<br />

Yet prohibition is aimed less at chemical substances—that can be used,<br />

for example, in prescription medication—and more at social practices of<br />

drug use. Depending on the broader historical and geographic context,<br />

but also on the concrete circumstances and the recipient, the very same<br />

substance can be considered a harmless stimulant, a helpful pharmaceutical,<br />

or a dangerous narcotic. Law enforcement varies greatly<br />

depending on the criminal legislation in each country, but also on the<br />

social tolerance of law enforcement agencies, for whom the context of<br />

use and the attributed class, gender, race, and health of the person<br />

using—or “abusing”—such substances matters. These processes show<br />

that the prohibition and condemnation of each substance is less a<br />

matter of objective harms and more a matter of politics and power<br />

relationships. Drug prohibition and control has massively reinforced the<br />

global “color line” (Koram 2019) by impacting disproportionately on<br />

oppressed races, and serves as a way to govern the poor. It forms the<br />

means by which police access marginalized, racialized, and criminalized<br />

groups, that are stigmatized as deviant. The War on Drugs leads to<br />

millions of deaths, shapes social inequalities, and increases “havoc<br />

among vulnerable populations while extracting profit for the powerful”<br />

(Bourgois 2018).<br />

Despite these long-standing phenomena, the last few decades have<br />

marked a crucial moment in the history of psychoactive substances.<br />

Punitive approaches are increasingly regarded as ineffectual or even<br />

counterproductive. Similarly, the medical understanding of addiction as<br />

a disease and abstinence as a cure, has partially evolved with the HIV<br />

crisis, leading to an understanding of (public) health whereby the<br />

eradication of substance use is no longer the goal—or not the only one:<br />

instead, harm reduction has become a new tool of drug policies. Harm<br />

reduction is based on the acceptance of drug use, whether legal or not,<br />

and aims to minimize sanitary risks by containing the real epidemics that<br />

are AIDS, hepatitis, and many more. Today, activists, organizations, and<br />

researchers try to change the way we see and think about drugs, drug<br />

users, prohibition, and so on. Medical and legal approaches to drugs<br />

frame their use with moral reprobation as deviance from law and<br />

medicine, as a matter of crime and of sickness—and often, they result in<br />

controlling policies. In recent decades, there has been a shift away from<br />

this perspective. Sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, and<br />

many others in the realm of social sciences and humanities now<br />

understand drugs as a social, historical, and political construct, as well<br />

as the object of multiple social practices, around which power relationships<br />

unfold. Growing movements such as the International Network of<br />

People who Use Drugs (INPUD) or the International Drug Policy<br />

Consortium (IDPC) advocate for social justice around drugs on a global<br />

scale. There have been calls for an end to crop eradication as well as for<br />

consultation of local farming communities on land uses. Under the<br />

leadership of field activists in some Western European countries for<br />

example, different strategies for prevention and harm reduction are<br />

being increasingly mobilized to address health issues, such as substance<br />

and health information, drug checking, safer use campaigns, and<br />

distribution of sterile materials, in combination with street work by<br />

social and medical personnel. Different initiatives are emerging, working<br />

in favor of decriminalization of cannabis or psychedelics, but also<br />

against prohibition in general. These developments have uneven<br />

geographies: in other countries, activists are fighting the death penalty<br />

for sole drug possession.<br />

All these phenomena indicate an evolution in the way that many<br />

psychoactive substances are perceived, used, and governed. They vividly<br />

demonstrate that the laws, regulations, and imaginaries surrounding<br />

<strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong> Intro duction<br />


drugs, for example with regard to their legality and effects, are historically<br />

dynamic, subject to social power relations, and therefore<br />

changeable.<br />

In this context, representing issues around drugs appears a sensitive<br />

task. Mapping drugs is probably never a neutral gesture, but rather a<br />

stance. What kind of discourse do drug maps convey? What are the<br />

conceptual, technical, and ethical issues of representation that arise<br />

while mapping drugs? How can drug mapping contribute to these<br />

debates?<br />


Before we delve into cartography, let’s establish what mapping drugs is<br />

about: a way of tracing geographies, a way of figuring spaces.<br />

While the production and commerce of drugs involve a diversity of<br />

scales and places from rural areas to global trade, cities—understood as<br />

spaces of consumption—tend to be the last link of the value chain. They<br />

are a major scene of retail and use and, as such, are at the forefront of<br />

narcotic spaces. The display of drug practices attracts public attention,<br />

which leads to urban discourses of insecurity. Urban stereotypes such<br />

as “ghettos”, red-light districts, or other “spaces of fear”—and also<br />

stereotypical, often highly gendered and racialized characters such as<br />

“junkies”, migrants, sex workers, or dealers—permeate our cultural<br />

representations of the narcotic city. Drug maps often perpetuate these<br />

stereotypes.<br />

In response to the neoliberal appeal for public order in terms of drugs<br />

and the danger they pose, urban and mostly public spaces are monitored,<br />

inhabitants are controlled and space is governed by both repressive<br />

but also social policies. It is less a question of what drugs do to<br />

cities than of what drug policies do to cities. As institutions, cities, and<br />

metropolises—increasingly in charge of security, health, and social<br />

policies—are major enactors of drug policies and hence able to frame<br />

local landscapes. As centers of economic growth, cities are also places<br />

of colliding inequalities—a growing phenomenon which is mirrored by<br />

the geographies of drug consumption. These range from upper-class,<br />

private places of sociability and almost riskless use to impoverished<br />

neighborhoods where there are high rates of homelessness, little to no<br />

access to privacy, and sanitary and safety risks. Meanwhile, there is<br />

hardly any aspect of society not touched by drugs—even in the form of<br />

communities or spaces that define themselves by abstinence from<br />

psychoactive substances, be it for moral reasons or in the interests of<br />

recovery from addiction. In most countries, we can expect drug use, in<br />

one form or another, to occur almost everywhere, from universities and<br />

parliaments to offices and retirement homes. Indeed, a large majority of<br />

people use a psychoactive substance of some kind, be it for performance<br />

enhancement, recreation, or pain relief.<br />

Yet drug use doesn’t happen just anywhere—rather, where and how it<br />

happens reveals social structures and collective cultures. Zinberg (1984)<br />

shows that three different factors matter: drug, sets, and setting. The<br />

first (drug) refers to the substance and its mode of application, frequency,<br />

and dose. The set is the physical, psychological, and social<br />

makeup of individual users. But it is the setting that significantly affects<br />

how we experience, perceive, and categorize drug use. The notion of<br />

setting encompasses a multi-scalar understanding of space: political,<br />

legal, and economic frameworks; socio-cultural milieu—where, again,<br />

class, gender, race, and ability play a huge role; and also the actual place<br />

and time of consumption. To a great extent, it is the setting that explains<br />

<strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong><br />

Intro duction<br />


why the use of one specific substance can be either prescribed,<br />

recommended, tolerated, or prohibited and why the same product, used<br />

in different contexts, is not perceived, conceived, or handled in the same<br />

way.<br />

As such, this book is not an atlas giving answers to the question of<br />

where drugs are found, but much more an attempt at understanding the<br />

relationships between drugs, space, and their representation. Our<br />

understanding of space—as developed in the next chapter—is a constructivist<br />

one. Space is neither a given, nor an empty container, nor a<br />

determinant, nor an essence. Rather space, places, and cities are to be<br />

understood as multifold constructs, built by history, economies, power<br />

relationships, everyday life, emotions, and imaginations (Lefebvre 1991).<br />

There is no objective space, but rather a multitude of ways to describe<br />

and depict the ways social relationships exist within spaces and fold<br />

spatialities in their own way. Cartography is one of the countless<br />

possibilities of doing so, and offers infinite potential for the representation<br />

of space.<br />

Yet the cartography of drugs seems to be particularly problematic. Our<br />

spatial representations revolving around drugs are often structured by<br />

polarizations between Global North and Global South, domestic and<br />

foreign, private and public spaces, rural and urban, or citizens and<br />

deviants. Dominant discourses make space a part of the “drug problem”<br />

and, by spatializing it, make it appear tangible and more real. In their<br />

turn, cartographies make the “drug problem” visible and contribute to<br />

the questionable construction of drugs as a problem. Common cartographies<br />

of trade flows, of dangerous urban areas, or of regions affected by<br />

overdose epidemics often fail to map structural contexts and power<br />

relationships. They tend to make us believe that “the problem” is the<br />

ghetto, the South, or the substance itself. Yet we know that there would<br />

be no ghetto without the capitalist production of urban space and labor<br />

exploitation; no South without uneven development and postcolonial<br />

heritage; and no such spread in opioid overdoses with the existence of<br />

an intact and accessible healthcare system. Critical cartography is very<br />

helpful for the deconstruction of such maps.<br />

Our approach to the issue of representing space and cities is rooted in<br />

critical cartography, understood as, firstly, a praxis of critique of maps<br />

and, secondly, a praxis of mapping other maps. We aim to interrogate<br />

in depth what is at stake in a drug map and also how to engage in<br />

mapping drugs. We also ask how we can learn to discover new cities,<br />

new appropriations of space and new geographies with, or contrary to,<br />

drug maps. Since maps are instruments of power, they can also become<br />

instruments of counter-power, by overwriting dominant discourses<br />

about drugs and highlighting dissident perspectives, displacing the<br />

gaze, and visualizing other objects through other lenses. Concepts and<br />

tools from critical cartography as a discipline and counter-mapping as<br />

a set of practices are invaluable in order to understand what is at stake<br />

when one engages (or declines to engage) in drug cartography.<br />

Conceiving of this book as an experiment, we attach great importance<br />

to clarifying and reflecting on mapping processes. For this reason, we<br />

have developed something called a paramap. The paramap is the story<br />

around, about, and beyond the map that reflects how and by whom it<br />

was produced. It gives an insight into the sources, context of production,<br />

and methodologies of research, and explains graphic or conceptual<br />

choices. Each chapter includes a paramap; in order to distinguish it<br />

from the more thematic text, it is printed in a distinct layout and<br />

recognizable font.<br />

<strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong> Intro duction<br />



This book gathers together scholars and activists from a variety of<br />

backgrounds, working hand in hand with a team of cartographers,<br />

illustrators, designers, and artists. While scholars brought to bear their<br />

academic culture and the habits and methods of their discipline,<br />

activists shared a knowledge rooted in their political statements,<br />

expertise, and commitments. Map makers brought their imagination,<br />

their gift for seeing beyond mere words, and their numerous skills. Some<br />

contributions scrutinize drug maps from the perspective of critical<br />

cartography. Other contributions were devised and produced by map<br />

makers themselves. Around half of the contributors worked with a map<br />

maker for the first time. The result of an intense creative and scientific<br />

labor, this book presents a series of graphic essays exploring urban<br />

stories as well as histories, policies, communities, digital spaces, and<br />

pleasures associated with drugs. Graphic techniques range from<br />

satellite images and spatial analysis to amateur hand drawings and<br />

artistic weavings, with the idea of experimenting with different graphic<br />

languages. Writing styles range from personal memories, stories, and<br />

reports to essays and scientific papers. Contributors interpreted our<br />

editorial request to compose a paramap in their own ways, showing that<br />

there are incredibly diverse ways to do so. Providing reflexivity and<br />

explanations, the paramaps deal with issues linked to critical cartography<br />

and counter-mapping, granting a look behind the scenes of the<br />

maps, enhancing them as a contingent product, exposing mapping<br />

processes to questions, doubts, and criticisms, and laying bare their<br />

pitfalls. They explain the contributors’ intentions and methodologies as<br />

well as the background to their contributions. This rich mosaic of<br />

drug-related topics, perspectives, and knowledge shares the common<br />

denominator of non-judgment toward drug use, endorsing neither<br />

criminalization, nor medicalization, nor moralism.<br />

Paradoxical though it may seem, the first chapter “Don’t Map Drugs!”<br />

(→ 22) explains why and when it is crucial not to map drugs. It addresses<br />

more systematically the issues around critical cartographies of drugs<br />

and spaces outlined above. Based on our own experiences with mapping<br />

both in field research, in the editing of this book, and on accounts from<br />

critical cartography and counter-mapping, it presents the traps and<br />

pitfalls of mapping drugs, as well as what one should consider when<br />

mapping drugs.<br />

De-/Reconstructing<br />

The first part of the book investigates drug maps and the processes of<br />

their production, undoing, or even redoing. Questioning their construction,<br />

de-, and reconstruction, the chapters also suggest new ways of<br />

reading drug maps. Delving into the European context from the nineteenth<br />

to the twenty-first century, they problematize technicity, politics,<br />

and power. They address the way drug maps are embedded in the<br />

making of urban and regional policies, depicting “wet” and “dry”<br />

neighborhoods in London (“Numbering Babylon?” by James Kneale,<br />

→ 42), revealing the failure of prohibition but also the issue of racism in<br />

Germany (“What’s in a (Police) Drug Map?” by Bernd Belina, → 54), and<br />

highlighting the fetishization of discarded needle maps in Berlin<br />

(“Behind a Berlin Needle Map” by Mélina Germes, → 60). Technical and<br />

ethical issues around drug mapping are addressed through discussions<br />

of how spatial algorithms handle drug crime data (“The Hotspot” by<br />

Boris Michel and Frederieke Westerheide, → 72), and how research<br />

participants create blank spaces during mapping interviews (“Blanks in<br />

the Maps” by Mélina Germes et al., → 84). Altogether, these analyses<br />

rooted in critical cartography outline the way (urban) drug maps tend to<br />

depict cities as dangerous spaces, and are a means of securitization<br />

<strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong><br />

Intro duction<br />


that nevertheless involves prejudices, revealing numerous pitfalls and<br />

defects.<br />

Policies and Spaces<br />

That said, cartography and GIS (Geographical Information Systems) can<br />

be enlightening in terms of understanding drug policies and their impact<br />

on spaces—both in urban and rural contexts. Satellite images allow<br />

interpretation of built or cultivated landscapes, and are embedded in<br />

problematizations of the role of legislations and state institutions. Two<br />

contemporary case studies, on the cultivation of coca and environmental<br />

issues in Columbia (“Coca, Cattle, and the Forest” by Paulo J. Murillo-<br />

Sandoval et al., → 96) and on killings of drug users in the Philippines<br />

(“Anti-Drug Vigilante Killings in the Philippines” by Francis Josef<br />

Gasgonia and Ragene Andrea Palma, → 106) offer two contrasting<br />

insights into how the global War on Drugs creates different spatial<br />

patterns, whether in rural or urban spaces.<br />

Urban History<br />

Because the way we engage with drugs today has a long history, the<br />

third section of the book explores practices and representations which<br />

draw on European urban cases studies from the eighteenth to the end of<br />

the twentieth century. The regulation of intoxicants—colonial products<br />

such as tea, coffee, or tobacco—was first introduced back in the<br />

eighteenth century, when smoking bans in public spaces were issued<br />

(“The Stockholm Smoking Bans” by Hanna Hodacs and Sarah Falk,<br />

→ 122). Class and gender make a difference: in places such as taverns,<br />

nightclubs, or at home, the consumption of substances by women<br />

contravened the gendered expectation of a masculinist society in<br />

nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Lisbon (“Taverns, Clubs, and<br />

Homes” by Cristiana Vale Pires, → 134). Such dominant discourses were<br />

also led by the media, such as the Madrid newspaper ABC spreading<br />

discourses of fear in a context of gentrification in the 1980—90s<br />

(“Media and the Dystopian City” by María José León Robles, → 142). As<br />

a counterpart, in 1995 the artist Peter Pontiac painted a complex and<br />

intriguing map of Amsterdam (“Map of Junkie Mokum” by Gemma Blok,<br />

→ 154). Meanwhile, at-home dealers in eighties/nineties Paris were<br />

managing earnings and risks by doing precarious deals in the city<br />

(“Small-Time Dealing” by Aude Lalande, → 164). This third section<br />

highlights the social and cultural embedding of drugs through a series<br />

of maps that re-interpret the urban landscape of deviance from the<br />

eighteenth to the twentieth century, focusing on the way specific urban<br />

spaces are associated with the use of legally prohibited or morally<br />

reproved substances.<br />

Online Geographies<br />

In the twenty-first century the rise of the internet, by allowing massive<br />

peer-to-peer communication between remote, anonymous people, has<br />

transformed our geographies and cities, creating infinite possibilities of<br />

connecting people worldwide. So does the darknet, a hidden and secret,<br />

yet huge part of the internet, with platforms used for online drug<br />

end-user supply (“A Global Digital Market?” by Meropi Tzanetakis and<br />

Kai Reisser, → 174). But this trade has mostly concentrated on the<br />

Global North darknet, and the internet mirrors already known geographies<br />

of consumption. Other platforms build spaces of knowledge-<br />

<strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong> Intro duction<br />


sharing, like the self-reported psychedelic experiments of amateur<br />

psychonauts collected in the Erowid Vault (“Substantiated Spaces” by<br />

Francesca Valsecchi et al., → 182). These infrastructures provide North<br />

American users with knowledge about—and a marketplace for—kratom,<br />

a herb used to meet their (medical) needs (“Using Kratom” by Elli<br />

Schwarz, → 194). The internet has its own geography, which is closely<br />

interconnected with non-virtual geography and with digital divides, more<br />

often than not linking together those who are already geographically and<br />

relationally close. These maps reflect distance and proximity within or<br />

despite the a-spatial promises of the internet.<br />

Ambivalent Emotions<br />

While policies, histories, and infrastructure contribute to the production<br />

of space, subjectivities are also at play. Furthermore, emotions such as<br />

pleasure and relief are central to the question of why drugs are used and<br />

how. Five urban case studies ranging from Western Europe to Bogotá<br />

map what happens within us and also between us, dealing with risks,<br />

hurting, and healing, but also with harm, both to oneself and others.<br />

Self-representation in the context of addiction (narratives) is highlighted<br />

in the body map artwork of a London workshop participant (“Counter-<br />

Addiction Stories” by Fay Dennis, → 208) and in a childhood memory<br />

taking place in Belgium, between light and shadow (“The Secret across<br />

the Street” by Eli, → 218). Pleasure and the social construction of risks<br />

are addressed in the context of lasting changes following the COVID-19<br />

lockdown in Bogotá (“(Post-)Lockdown Mapping” by Maria Alejandra<br />

Medina et al., → 224), or of gendered approaches in two French cities,<br />

with the cautious itineraries of the partygoer Marie ( “Party, Emotions,<br />

and Gender” by Roxane Scavo, → 234) contrasting with the more<br />

entitled itineraries of Charles (“Traces” by Roxane Scavo and Mélina<br />

Germes, → 244). These maps experiment with representations of body,<br />

self, and subjectivities, and of intimate and social relationships. As such,<br />

they show very clearly how social positions and privilege matter, as<br />

exemplified by issues of gender and age, the status of urban night-time<br />

economy workers, or the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These<br />

chapters call for participants and interviewees to be allowed to draw<br />

and map their space, their city, how they feel, and what they think.<br />

Urban Struggles<br />

Contemporary cities are inhospitable places, the scene of growing inequalities<br />

where increasing ground rents foster homelessness. Despite<br />

large differences in legislation, law enforcement, and socio- medical<br />

intervention throughout the world, drug users—when they are visible in<br />

public and bear signs of their use—are marginalized, stigmatized, and repressed.<br />

What is seen by outsiders as a frightening “open drug scene” is<br />

a space of sociability, survival, and everyday life from an insider perspective.<br />

Referencing case studies from three continents, this section deals<br />

with urban struggles and attaches great importance to understanding<br />

these perspectives, which are often silenced or misrepresented, and<br />

also to showing what marginalized drug users make possible against all<br />

the odds. Their struggles relate not only to legislation and the issues<br />

of stigmatization and rejection, but also to city planning: urbanism is<br />

a tool of open drug scene displacement, as seen in Milan (“Displaced”<br />

by Sonia Bergamo et al., → 254). In Abidjan, the open drug scene is<br />

structured by informal yet well-established smoking rooms which are<br />

simultaneously protected and raided by the police (“Open-Air Fumoirs”<br />

by Jérôme Evanno and Ahouansou Stanislas Sonagnon Houndji, → 266).<br />

The creation of spaces of sociability is proving to be of the utmost importance,<br />

giving marginalized drug users real agency. In Ukrainian cities,<br />

pyataks were meeting places structuring everyday life (“Pyatak Drifters”<br />

by Vladimir Stepanov and Alexandra Dmitrieva, → 274). In Vancouver<br />

<strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong><br />

Intro duction<br />


and Paris, the dynamics of encampment and decampment, emplacement<br />

and displacement are captured through weaving “Weaving Drug<br />

Users’ Spaces of Care and Sociality in Vancouver and Paris” by Céline<br />

Debaulieu et al., → 286). In these circumstances, it is more important<br />

than ever to invent new futures and imagine a hospitable city—and why<br />

not an ideal one?—built on a claim to rights and dreams (“An Ideal City<br />

for Marginalized Drug Users in Germany?” by Luise Klaus and Mélina<br />

Germes, → 298). These last maps illustrate the city once more as a site<br />

of struggle and everyday resistance.<br />

Bibliography<br />

Bourgois, Philippe. 2018. “Decolonising drug studies in an era of<br />

predatory accumulation.” Third World Quarterly 39, no. 2: 385–398.<br />

DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2017.1411187.<br />

Daniels, Colleen; Aluso, Aggrey; Burke-Shyne, Naomi; Koram, Kojo;<br />

Rajagopalan, Suchitra; Robinson, Imani et al. 2021. “Decolonizing drug<br />

policy.” Harm Reduction Journal 18, no. 120: 1–8.<br />

DOI: 10.1186/s12954-021-00564-7.<br />

Hobson, Christopher. 2014. “Challenging ‘evil’: Continuity and change<br />

in the drug prohibition regime.” International Politics 51: 525–542.<br />

DOI: 10.1057/ip.2014.17<br />

Koram, Kojo. 2019. War on Drugs and the Global Colour Line. London:<br />

Pluto Press.<br />

Koram, Kojo. 2022. “Phantasmal commodities: law, violence and the<br />

juris-diction of drugs.” Third World Quarterly. DOI: 10.1080/01436597.<br />

2022.2079486.<br />

Lefebvre, Henry. 1991. The Production of Space. Translated by<br />

D. Nicholson- Smith. Oxford: Blackwell.<br />

Scheerer, Sebastian. 2019. “Internationales Drogenkontrollrecht:<br />

Ursprung, Expansion, Erosion.” Kriminologisches Journal 52, no. 3:<br />

315–335. DOI: 10.5771/0023-4834-2019-3-315.<br />

Winifred, Rosen and Andrew Weil. 2004. From chocolate to morphine.<br />

Everything you need to know about mind-altering drugs. Boston, MA:<br />

Houghton Mifflin.<br />

Zinberg, Norman E. 1984. Drug, set, and setting. The basis for controlled<br />

intoxicant use. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.<br />

<strong>Narcotic</strong> <strong>Cities</strong> Intro duction<br />


“Map of Junkie Mokum”.<br />

A Humanitarian<br />

Narrative of Amsterdam<br />

from 1992<br />

Gemma Blok<br />


This map of Amsterdam (popularly known as “Mokum”), depicting the daily experience of<br />

intensive drug users living in the Dutch capital, was created in 1992 by cartoonist Peter Pontiac<br />

(under the pseudonym of Petrus Josef Gerardus Pollmann, 1951–2015) (Figure 30). The map was<br />

in fact a poster, meant for readers and contacts of Mainline, a Dutch foundation for the advancement<br />

of harm reduction, founded in 1991. From the start, Pontiac worked for the Mainline<br />

magazine as an illustrator. The poster offers a bird’s eye view for the city as a place for drug<br />

users, overseen by crime, death, and the devil.<br />

Mainline was founded with financial support from the Dutch government, as well as from the city<br />

council and several organizations in Amsterdam. As such, Pontiac was probably paid for making<br />

the poster at least in part with government money, the Dutch taxpayer thus indirectly facilitating<br />

his imaginaries of the plight of the heroin addict. In giving a voice to drugs users, however,<br />

Mainline was still received with mixed feelings. As the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool wrote<br />

with some irony: “Drug users now also have their own lifestyle magazine. The glossy magazine is<br />

called Mainline and was distributed this week with a rigged cargo bike to the target group in the<br />

center of Amsterdam and the Bijlmermeer (Bosman 1991).”<br />

The new foundation and magazine were also criticized in the Dutch parliament. In 1993, one<br />

Member of Parliament asked the Minister of Health whether it was lawful for this magazine to<br />

publish an issue including a bag of blue poppy seeds, accompanied by an explanation of how to<br />

grow them and a recipe for extracting opium. According to the Minister, this was not lawful:<br />

Mainline had crossed a line here; propagating drug use was not what the magazine was meant to<br />

do. However, the Minister argued, “The broad health information in the journal generally contributes<br />

to harm reduction. The magazine seeks as much connection as possible with the daily<br />

environment of active (hard) drug users” (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal 1993).1<br />

Peter Pontiac, a cult figure of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, is considered the “godfather” of<br />

Dutch underground comics. He was the first Dutchman to draw autobiographical comics.<br />

Influenced by American cartoonists such as Robert Crumb and Bill Griffith, Pontiac not only drew<br />

stories about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but experienced this lifestyle first hand. Many of his<br />

comics analyzed weighty themes such as his own heroin addiction (The Amsterdam Connection,<br />

1977; Detoxiphobia, 1993) and his father’s wartime past as a Nazi collaborator and SS journalist<br />

(Kraut, 2000). Pontiac is also known for his illustrations for music magazines, posters, and album<br />

covers. In 2011, he received the Dutch Marten Toonder Prize of €25,000 for his oeuvre, reflecting<br />

broad acknowledgment of the innovative character and the importance of his work.<br />

Although Pontiac became known within the so-called hippie movement in the late sixties, he did<br />

not identify with the term “hippie”. At the time, Pontiac and his friends referred to themselves as<br />

“freaks” or “heads,” as he later said in an interview (Het Parool 1991). Pontiac started using<br />

opium, and later also heroin, around 1970, after an intensive period of LSD use. An art school<br />

drop-out, he was living at the time in a commune where drug use was quite common; after about<br />

twenty-five trips, he was feeling—in his own words—quite bad, very scared, sometimes hallucinating.<br />

Opium, which he bought from the Chinese community in Amsterdam, made him feel OK again,<br />

so good in fact that he started to cry, because he “could finally relax. It was like after many years,<br />

I was finally allowed to take off my tight shoes” (Berkeljon 2015). Also, he was inspired by the<br />

famous debut album of the Velvet Underground, especially by the song “I’m Waiting for the Man”.<br />

“I am a victim of Lou Reed,” Pontiac once jokingly stated (van Brummelen 2015a). He moved on to<br />

using heroin, as well as speed and cocaine, in the seventies and eighties, reinventing himself<br />

during the punk period of 1970–1980.<br />

By the time Pontiac drew the map, he himself was no longer a “junkie,” nor was he living in<br />

Amsterdam. He managed to quit the habit in 1984, when he also became a father and started a<br />

family (van Brummelen 2015b). Shortly after Peter Pontiac stopped taking heroin, the HIV/Aids<br />

epidemic broke out. For a long time he thought he had got out in time, but his years of using<br />

intravenously had caught up with him after all. In 2010, the doctor told him he was suffering from<br />

hepatitis C. Later, this was joined by cirrhosis of the liver. “It’s a pity, but I had it coming” (quoted<br />

in Berkeljon 2015), Pontiac said stoically shortly before he passed away, when he was still<br />

working on his (unfinished) final comic, Styx, about his own death.<br />

1 Question by Member of Parliament E. van Middelkoop (GPV) about Mainline Magazine<br />

(June 2, 1993). With answer by E. Hirsch Ballin, Minister for Wellbeing, Public Health,<br />

and Culture.<br />

Urban History<br />

“Map of Junkie Mokum”<br />


Figure 30<br />

Amsterdam Nation. Map of Junkie Mokum<br />

Urban History “Map of Junkie Mokum”<br />


Urban History<br />

“Map of Junkie Mokum”<br />



First of all, the poster Amsterdam Nation can be seen as part of the<br />

drug user movement of the second half of the twentieth century. In<br />

playfully using the term “junkie” in the poster’s subtitle (“Junkie<br />

Mokum”), Pontiac discursively joined a tradition of user activism where<br />

“junk” was a nickname, a badge of honor almost. The work of the<br />

American “beat” writer William Burroughs, with his influential novel<br />

Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict (1953), was<br />

instrumental in this process; in the Dutch early opiate scene to which<br />

Pontiac belonged, this book was well known.<br />

Junkie Unions, as they called themselves, emerged in Amsterdam,<br />

Rotterdam, and several other Dutch towns around 1980, rebelling<br />

against the abstinence-oriented treatment climate that dominated the<br />

approach to drug addiction at the time (Blok 2011b). This drug user<br />

movement can be interpreted as an embodied health social movement,<br />

defined by sociologist Phil Brown as a movement of people who criticize<br />

the knowledge and practice around a certain condition—in this case,<br />

opiate addiction—and who thereby use the biological body as a way to<br />

focus on the experience of the individual (Brown et. al. 2004).<br />

In his poster, Pontiac certainly highlighted the bodily experiences of<br />

opiate users. His poster can be perceived as a visual form of the<br />

“humanitarian narrative.” The literary aesthetic strategy of the humanitarian<br />

narrative was invented in the nineteenth century. Its aim was to<br />

generate compassion and move people to take action, using vivid<br />

descriptions of the suffering body. This narrative strategy was closely<br />

linked to the rise of social movements at the time, such as the anti-slavery<br />

movement. The anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example,<br />

contained evocative descriptions of the suffering of slaves who are<br />

beaten and abused. The body, in the words of cultural historian Thomas<br />

Laqueur—who coined the concept of the “humanitarian narrative”—is an<br />

effective imaginative vehicle for arousing solidarity and empathy.<br />

Through the physical dimension, all people are deeply connected to<br />

each other: every person can imagine what it’s like to experience pain,<br />

cold, or hunger.<br />

Pontiac’s visual style was aimed at making viewers aware of the social<br />

and physical hardship caused by opiate dependency. Their habits are<br />

depicted as depressing: they have to resort to taking their drugs in train<br />

toilets. They regularly suffer from cold turkey symptoms, hence the<br />

actual turkey on the shoulder of the skeleton hanging over “Junkie<br />

Mokum.” Behind Central Station at the De Ruijterkade, where many<br />

heavily addicted female drug users worked as prostitutes at the time,<br />

one of them is portrayed with angel wings, the customer being a<br />

faceless wad of guilders. A homeless person also lies asleep there,<br />

looking ragged, unhealthy, and unhappy, with—once again—a green can<br />

of beer in front of him.<br />

Clearly, Pontiac’s poster also seeks to make the point that both opiates<br />

and alcohol can create dependence and misery. Through this strong<br />

emphasis on the connection between drug policies and dependencies<br />

on the one hand, and alcohol policies and dependencies on the other,<br />

the map provokes the viewer to reflect critically on the way society deals<br />

with these two intoxicants: the one illegal, the other legal, but both with<br />

damaging effects on at least some of their users. This critique of the<br />

existing drug laws was also a key element of the broader Dutch drug<br />

user activism of the late twentieth century.<br />

In many ways, therefore, this map of “Junkie Mokum” can be considered<br />

as counter-mapping. First of all, it was clearly a critique of the role of<br />

the state and of the drug laws. In the Netherlands, opiates were illegal<br />

except for medical purposes from 1919 onward; the revised law of 1976<br />

Urban History “Map of Junkie Mokum”<br />


introduced stronger sentences for dealing in “hard drugs” such as<br />

heroin, although its users were framed as patients. Heroin was very<br />

expensive in the seventies, a gram costing about 300–400 guilders<br />

(roughly equivalent to the same amount in euros today), and even<br />

more in times of market crisis. On the top left of the poster, we see a<br />

criminal counting his money, and there is a bag of money in front of him<br />

marked Nederlandse bank, the Dutch central bank. Beside it is also a<br />

green beer can, a clear reference to the green cans of the famous Dutch<br />

brewery Heineken. The can is located on the map in the neighborhood of<br />

De Pijp, where the actual brewery is based. On the front of it is the word<br />

staat (state). The criminal’s money-counting is depicted as causing a<br />

kind of whirlwind or vortex reaching down to the city, as if he is sucking<br />

the money out of the city, its “junkies”, and urban residents in general,<br />

who are robbed, or have their bikes stolen. The subtext seems to be<br />

that, according to Pontiac, both organized crime and the state make<br />

huge profits from intoxicant use; criminals launder their money through<br />

the legitimate banking system, and taxes on alcohol make the state<br />

rich as well.<br />

The map can also be read as a critique of the connectedness of modern<br />

consumer society with the substance dependence of “junkies.” Near<br />

Central Station stands a farmer with a pig, asking for directions to the<br />

Wallen, the Red Light district; many prostitutes living there were heavy<br />

drug users. Near the hand of the skeleton, Pontiac depicts a drug user<br />

bringing a stolen TV to the Bank van Lening, the pawnshop, suggesting<br />

that a lot of goods stolen by users entered the legal economy this way.<br />

We see the city of Amsterdam profiting from vice tourism, too: on one of<br />

the trains, a passenger exclaims, “Sin city, here I come!” There is a lot of<br />

prostitution going on in the poster, especially in the alley Lange Niezel,<br />

from which a giant penis rises. Meanwhile, the police are mostly<br />

portrayed as a rather lazy institution, focused on the punishment of<br />

user-sellers. In the Warmoestraat, the police station closest to the open<br />

drug scene of the Zeedijk, a policeman has locked a culprit up in a cell<br />

and is leaning back in a relaxed manner.<br />

Furthermore, the map shows a hidden side of Amsterdam: not the<br />

tourist attractions, but the harsh nitty-gritty of the drug user’s life, and<br />

the places and spaces he or she would go to buy drugs or get help,<br />

treatment, shelter, or clean needles. Pontiac explicitly addresses these<br />

two worlds of the tourist on the one hand, and the drug user on the<br />

other—both very present social groups in the city center. Near Dam<br />

Square, a couple of tourists are taking a boat tour, unaware of the drug<br />

deals going on in a nearby alley. The map explicitly shows several early<br />

examples of shelters and drug consumption rooms that were present in<br />

Amsterdam in the seventies, like the Princenhof, the Junkieboot, and<br />

the HUK.<br />

The HUK in the Spuistraat was no longer in existence in 1992; this<br />

early experiment in harm reduction was started with the support of<br />

Amsterdam city council in 1974, as a user room for a group of some sixty<br />

to seventy chronic opiate and speed users, offering them free medical<br />

care, cheap food, clean needles, and a place to stay, use drugs, and<br />

hang out during the day. Support for the HUK was withdrawn by the<br />

city council in the early eighties, however, because the place allegedly<br />

caused nuisance and was dominated by criminal activities (Blok 2008).<br />

This is why Pontiac puts “v/h”, short for voorheen (“former”) in the text<br />

balloon next to the HUK. The Junkieboot near the Oosterdokskade—a<br />

drug consumption boat initiated by a group of urban residents in an<br />

effort to concentrate the drug scene and reduce nuisance in the neighborhood—was<br />

also defunct, following Amsterdam mayor Ed van Thijn’s<br />

project to “clean up” the Zeedijk area. The only drug consumption room<br />

left was the Princenhof.<br />

Urban History<br />

“Map of Junkie Mokum”<br />


The map also shows the methadonbus, which was a mobile methadone<br />

clinic for low-threshold maintenance treatment; this was introduced in<br />

Amsterdam in 1979, as an alternative to the abstinence-oriented<br />

treatment dominant in the seventies. Other points on the map are a<br />

“junkie priest” offering needle exchange; the “Junkiebond MDHG” near<br />

the Oude Waal; and the big red heart of the Salvation Army.<br />

With this bottom-up view of marginalized groups, drug users, and<br />

homeless people, the map argued that the city belonged to these groups<br />

as well, but their world was a hidden world: they were marginalized in<br />

spatial terms as well. It also made the point that the daily life of the drug<br />

user was not one long round of hedonistic, escapist fun, but was in fact<br />

hard work: it was about knowing where to get dope, shelter, food, help,<br />

and support; where to sell your stolen bikes or engage in prostitution to<br />

raise the money to buy drugs.<br />

In its raw depiction of the daily experience of drug users, the map aimed<br />

to look beyond the negative judgments and stereotypical images of<br />

“junkies” that were common in Dutch society at the time, and still are;<br />

addiction is a heavily stigmatized condition, in the Netherlands as<br />

elsewhere (van Boekel 2015). The new phenomenon of non-medical<br />

heroin use peaked in the mid-eighties and was still visibly present in<br />

towns throughout the Netherlands in the early nineties, when Pontiac<br />

created his poster. Reactions to heroin use were mixed, but often<br />

negative. Others were scared or annoyed by drug-related crime and the<br />

“visible nuisance” of “junkies” at railway stations, or on the train. In the<br />

poster, a passenger on one of the trains says: “Er zit ‘r een op het toilet<br />

conducteur” (“One of them is on the toilet, conductor.”) Near a bridge in<br />

the city center, famous at the time for the trade in stolen bikes, Pontiac<br />

shows a dialogue between a “junkie” and a member of the public: “Pst,<br />

fietsie kopen?” (“Hey, wanna buy a bike?”) the user asks; “Ga werken,<br />

sukkel” (“Get a job, loser!”) is the reply.<br />

In other aspects, however, Pontiac’s map was not simply a counter-map.<br />

His poster was part of the harm reduction paradigm that was in fact<br />

rapidly becoming the dominant one in Dutch addiction treatment at the<br />

time. Methadone maintenance treatment had been on the rise since the<br />

late seventies, in response to the concentrated open drug scenes in<br />

Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and other cities. In Amsterdam, the number of<br />

people receiving methadone maintenance treatment rose from 1466 in<br />

1981 to 3887 in 1984 (Blok 2011a). The local municipal health service<br />

coordinated a methadone program comprising mobile methadone clinics<br />

and district posts (Blok 2014). From the mid-eighties onward, needle<br />

exchange was available as well, through several care organizations and<br />

the municipal health services. The framing of addiction as a chronic<br />

disease was taking hold. Pontiac seems to agree with this view. The map<br />

seeks to counter any romantic image of drug use. The devil is grinning,<br />

the junkie is a skeleton with a turkey on his shoulder, and the dominant<br />

mood is one of suffering and anxiety. We should note that, by the time he<br />

made this map, Pontiac was no longer addicted himself, and looked back<br />

critically on his drug-using life. In an interview, he said:<br />

I thought it was really cool to be a junkie, a needle sticking out of<br />

my front pocket; the ritual of scoring drugs, the tension of walking<br />

up to the dealer on the street. In retrospect, you look back and<br />

realize that it was in fact a rather sad affair (Minneboo 2011).<br />

The map also shows how post colonial migration shaped the Amsterdam<br />

drug scene, and is inclusive in that it portrays the Dutch-Surinamese<br />

group of heroin users, although they are humanized less explicitly than<br />

white users. In the seventies, many residents of Surinam migrated to the<br />

Netherlands, as the colony gained independence in 1975 and its<br />

inhabitants could choose between a Dutch or Surinamese passport. A<br />

small number of the migrants from Surinam entered the street trade in<br />

Urban History “Map of Junkie Mokum”<br />


heroin and/or became addicted themselves. Within the heroin-using<br />

community, the Dutch-Surinamese user-sellers formed a relatively large<br />

group, accounting for about ten percent. They dominated the public<br />

trade in heroin at the head of the Zeedijk, from heroin bars like Emil’s<br />

Place. On the map, we can see a grinning black user-seller, dressed in<br />

SuperFly gangster style. Another black man is running away from the<br />

police, dressed in the green, red, and yellow colors of the Surinam flag.<br />

The suffering of Dutch-Surinamese users is less present in the poster: a<br />

substantial number of them were homeless, for instance, because of the<br />

toxic combination of structural discrimination in the job market, lack of<br />

affordable housing, police persecution of street dealers, and heroin<br />

dependence.<br />

The map does show the SOSA building, where a Surinamese care organization<br />

was founded, and where drug dealing also went on. In fact, the<br />

SOSA was shut down in 1978 for this reason, leaving a group of homeless<br />

Dutch-Surinamese heroin users, who had been living in the SOSA<br />

building, out on the streets. In the winter of 1979, the Doelengebouw, a<br />

large empty theatre building on the Kloveniersburgwal, was squatted by<br />

this group, with the help of a white Dutch Protestant minister. This was<br />

in fact a crucial phase in the history of heroin in Amsterdam, because<br />

when the city council evicted the Dutch-Surinamese users from the<br />

Doelengebouw the following spring, they introduced the first methadone<br />

bus (mobile methadone clinic) as a new treatment facility, originally<br />

meant especially for this particular group.<br />

However, this building, the events leading up to it being squatted, and<br />

the fact that a large group of Dutch-Surinamese heroin users was left<br />

homeless, are missing from the map. Given the long history of stereotypical<br />

portrayals of “evil” black dealers in Western popular culture<br />

(Coomber 2006), the map could have countered this dominant, stigmatizing<br />

visual narrative more explicitly. In this sense, Pontiac’s map,<br />

although it was extremely innovative, and highly inclusive and destigmatizing<br />

in its aims, also reflects the perspective of the white heroin user in<br />

Amsterdam in the seventies and eighties.<br />


I would like to thank the heirs of Petrus Josef Gerardus Pollmann for<br />

their kind permission to reprint Amsterdam Nation in this publication.<br />

Urban History<br />

“Map of Junkie Mokum”<br />


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Het Parool. 1991. “Peter Pontiac praat.” Het Parool, June 29, 1991.<br />

Minneboo, Michael. 2011. “Interview Peter Pontiac: Horro Vacui.”<br />

September 10, 2011. http://www.michaelminneboo.nl/2011/09/<br />

interview-peter-pontiac-horror-vacui/<br />

Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal. 1993. Aanhangsel van de<br />

Handelingen. Vragen gesteld door de leden der Kamer, met de daarop<br />

door de regering gegeven antwoorden. Vergaderjaar 1992–1993.<br />

Document 749. June 2, 1993: 1529. https://repository.overheid.nl/frbr/<br />

sgd/19921993/0000011983/1/pdf/SGD_19921993_0001611.pdf<br />

Urban History “Map of Junkie Mokum”<br />


The Secret across<br />

the Street.<br />

How Addiction<br />

Transgresses Lines<br />

and Breaks Bonds<br />

in a Belgian City<br />

Eli<br />


My name is Eli. It’s 1982 and I am eight years old. I live in a Belgian city<br />

surrounded by the country, forests, cows, and small villages with houses<br />

made of stone. Since we moved into a flat in the small city center, I have<br />

been allowed to walk to school on my own. My mom and dad care for me<br />

all the time. They go to the office to work every day with their briefcases<br />

and they do a lot of things. They are so kind, even if I have to eat green<br />

vegetables. Our home is on the second floor, above the garage, and<br />

there is a backyard where I can play ball and I have a lot of small cars<br />

and a city map to play on.<br />

On that day, my mom was due back very late after her yoga class—so late<br />

that I would be asleep by then. So only my father would be there to look<br />

after me at bedtime.<br />

I was lying in my bed in the dark, about to go to sleep, when he knocked<br />

and opened the door slightly.<br />

— Are you asleep?<br />

— Not yet.<br />

— Is everything alright?<br />

— Yes.<br />

— I’m just going to the pub over the road for a few minutes. I have something<br />

to deal with. I’ll be there in time before mom comes back, my dad<br />

says.<br />

— It’s nothing, just a few minutes. We’ll keep it a secret, OK? Don’t tell<br />

mom. It’s our dad-daughter secret. I’ll be back right away. Good night,<br />

sweet dreams!<br />

I am lying in my bed in the dark and hear the door being closed and<br />

footsteps going down the stairs.<br />

Something is wrong. I don’t know what exactly. But something, I’m sure.<br />

Because if it has to be a secret, then something is wrong. Dad and I do<br />

have secrets, like when he’s buying me a lemonade at the Saturday<br />

market. That’s what a fun secret is like. A play secret. Not a real one, not<br />

a dangerous one.<br />

Tonight, this is no fun. I’m home alone at night. I have no idea what kind<br />

of business my dad has in the pub next door. Something is wrong. I<br />

should sleep. Instead I wait. Why do my parents need to have secrets<br />

from each other? What are they doing that is sooo bad, so wrong that<br />

they need to keep it secret from each other? I’m alone and I worry.<br />

There is something wrong happening here, and I cannot let this happen,<br />

because it’s wrong. I have to make it right before mom comes home.<br />

Because how can dad be sure to be back in time before she comes? How<br />

is he going to know? I cannot let this happen so I have to do something.<br />

I switch on the small light and get up and pick up my dressing gown. I<br />

have to. I tie it very tight around me. I take my own keys to the flat. I have<br />

no choice, I have to do something. I go out of my room, I wait, trembling<br />

in the doorway, then go out of the flat, down the stairs and out of the<br />

building, the empty flat behind me.<br />

Outside, the street is dark. There is the street lighting, the light from the<br />

cars and the lights from the pub across the road. The pavement is a bit<br />

wet and shines. What do I do now? I have to go across the street, the<br />

one I cross back and forth the whole day long, running errands for my<br />

parents or whatever.<br />

Ambiva lent Emotions<br />

The Secret across the Street<br />


Figure 43<br />

Mapping a secret<br />

But it’s night and nobody knows I’m here and I have never been here<br />

alone at night and nobody must know that I’m here because it’s a secret.<br />

I’m scared that somebody will see me.<br />

I cross the street and stand outside the pub door. There is so much light<br />

inside. Lots of noise too. But I can’t see anything, I can’t see dad. I’m<br />

scared.<br />

I open the door of the pub, it’s heavy, it’s warm inside, and everyone<br />

stares at me. The old landlady. The men at the bar. My father is sitting<br />

here talking. I go straight up to him, grab his sleeve, and try to pull him<br />

out and say that he has to come home now, right now.<br />

He laughs. “Don’t worry. I’ll be home in a few minutes. I told you. Go back<br />

to bed, go back home.”<br />

I’m ashamed of myself, in my dressing gown and slippers in a pub full of<br />

old men in the middle of the night. But the shame doesn’t matter at all to<br />

me.<br />

Dad stays there. I turn and go back, out of the pub, across the street, up<br />

the stairs, into the flat and into my room. I’m scared.<br />

Ambiva lent Emotions The Secret across the Street<br />


A few minutes later I hear footsteps on the stairs; the door opens, it’s my<br />

dad. I can finally let myself fall asleep.<br />

Sometime after that, sometime after I found so many empty bottles and<br />

cans hidden in the garage, I go to mom. Dad is not there. She is busy<br />

with work. I tell her what I can, about dad and the bottles, my worries, no<br />

details. I cannot keep such a strange secret to myself. If there is<br />

something wrong then she ought to know. I have to tell her. She is<br />

always the one who explains things to me, who understands and tells,<br />

like when dad was feeling bad after grandma died years ago. She knows<br />

very well what’s right and wrong and she will know what to do. I don’t<br />

talk about the pub though, because I did something wrong that day.<br />

She looks up and says: “That’s nothing, dear. All adults drink now and<br />

then. They get tipsy, but they are fine. You might have heard that some<br />

people drink too much. Not your father. He drinks with meals, that’s<br />

normal. That’s nothing. Don’t you worry. Don’t be scared.”<br />

Many years later my dad is officially diagnosed as an alcoholic. Mom tells<br />

me she’s so sorry she didn’t believe me back then. Then, alcohol<br />

becomes the fourth member of our family and tears us apart with its<br />

passive aggressive ways and our combined powerlessness.<br />

Ambiva lent Emotions<br />

The Secret across the Street<br />



We have all been children once. We have doubtless had very diverse childhoods. But it is more<br />

often as adults that we have the concrete possibility and the ability to talk about our childhood<br />

and to reflect upon it. To talk about the time when we were not entirely the same person as we<br />

are now. Another self.<br />

I drew this map and wrote this text as an adult, reflecting on a fundamental memory from my<br />

childhood, in a tiny rural town in Belgium.<br />

Children have a very particular perception of the world around them, because of their tiny bodies,<br />

because of their need for care, attachment, and affection, because of their different kind of<br />

spatial experience, because of the huge potential they have for imagination, and for making up<br />

and telling stories.<br />

This map portrays one very particular moment in my existence as a child. It’s about a few short<br />

scenes which changed the way I perceived and interpreted the places I lived in and the people I<br />

lived with.<br />

In the foreground, there is the darkness of the night-time. In the background, there is alcoholism.<br />

Further back, what alcoholism did to us. Usually it’s not visible, so I painted it in red: shoes,<br />

buttons, key, steps, closed mouths, and closed ears.<br />

First, we see the child’s own bedroom, its protective and quiet darkness.<br />

I map a secret. I map a child being told to keep the secret of one parent from the other. The<br />

secret breaks the peaceful entanglement of the family, replacing it with gaps. A gap between the<br />

parents, who live in the same place but in different worlds. A gap between the tiny child and the<br />

huge father asking them to keep a secret. A gap between the child and the mother who must not<br />

be told.<br />

I map the lines that the child has to transgress in order to bring back some order to their broken<br />

world because of their father’s transgression. Staying up when it’s time to sleep, going out of the<br />

flat when it’s not appropriate to do so, going out of the building in the middle of a child’s night.<br />

So many lines.<br />

Second, we see the street, a familiar yet at night unknown territory, eerily dark yet illuminated by<br />

the waking activities of adults. The pub is the most illuminated and illuminating space, yet it is<br />

threatening to the child’s eyes. It’s foreign, it’s not the place for them to be. They have crossed<br />

many thresholds and many lines to get there, and they will have to cross even more.<br />

I map loving ones wanting to save loved ones from doing wrong. What I map is beyond any limit,<br />

it’s beyond the thinkable world of this child.<br />

Third, there is the very bright room of the pub, full of lights, reflections of light on glasses,<br />

laughter, noise, and many indistinguishable adults—only the father in the middle of them, who<br />

hears without listening.<br />

I map the gap between children’s and adults’ experiences of the world.<br />

Then there is the journey all the way back to the child’s room. This way back is not a way back to<br />

peace and an undoing of transgression. Once the line of transgression is crossed, it cannot be<br />

crossed a second time. It only has the appearance of normality, but what is transgressed cannot<br />

be undone.<br />

Then, when the child’s mom is told, another transgression happens, with the aim of undoing all<br />

previous transgressions: breaking the secret that broke the order of the world. Breaking the<br />

father’s secret without telling the child’s own secret. The child can’t tell their mother they went<br />

out into the street at night alone. That’s impossible.<br />

But then another transgression occurs: the mother doesn’t believe the child. Thus, we map the<br />

bond that is damaged when a parent does not believe their child.<br />

Ambiva lent Emotions The Secret across the Street<br />


I don’t map alcohol. It’s everywhere anyway. I don’t map addiction. It’s not mine to map. I don’t<br />

map prohibition. Alcohol is legal. I map transgressions of sacred limits through and around<br />

alcohol dependency, and the entanglement of these transgressions in the nuclear family context.<br />

I map the way addiction to substances interferes with relationships with loved ones. I map<br />

addiction from a child’s perspective, a child who is not only witness to, but entangled in, the<br />

addiction.<br />

Ambiva lent Emotions<br />

The Secret across the Street<br />


© 2023 by ovis Verlag GmbH<br />

Part of Walter De Gruyter<br />

GmbH, Berlin / Boston<br />

Pictures by kind permission of<br />

the photographers /<br />

holders of the picture rights.<br />

All rights reserved.<br />

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Sharon Howe<br />

Proofreading:<br />

Cecilia Tricker<br />

Design and setting:<br />

Floyd E. Schulze<br />

Lithography:<br />

Bild1Druck, Berlin<br />

Printed in the<br />

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