In the article, Double Consciousness and the Veil, W.E.B. DuBois considers the experience of being “other”. What did he describe and what did he hope to achieve by writing this essay? Please describe an experience where you have felt “othered” AND experience where you “othered” someone else and reflect on it.

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  • In the article, Double Consciousness and the Veil, W.E.B. DuBois considers the experience of being “other”. What did he describe and what did he hope to achieve by writing this essay? Please describe an experience where you have felt “othered” AND experience where you “othered” someone else and reflect on it.
  • NOTES:…
  • Howard Becker states a person must be taught to use marijuana. Explain what he means by that, describe his understanding of the process of becoming a user. (If we define the situation as real, it is real in it’s consequences). Describe the three phases of becoming a user. How does stigma relate to this process? Discuss why he makes this claim, think about his point and decide if you agree. Why/why not? What has changed since 1953 in terms of marijuana and our understanding of addiction?
  • Discuss the concept Stigma and how it relates to the article, Being Middle Eastern American: Identity Negotiation in the Context of the “War on Terror”. What are the four interpretive practices the author found regarding ways in which people who are stigmatized for their perceived ethnic identity cope?



Naming Experience 221 NAMING EXPERIENCE 20 Becoming a Marihuana User Howard S. Becker (1953) T he use of marihuana is and has been the focus of a good deal of attention on the part of both scientists and laymen. One of the major problems students of the practice have addressed themselves to has been the identification of those individual psychological traits which differentiate marihuana users from nonusers and which are assumed to account for the use of the drug.That approach,com­ mon in the study of behavior categorized as deviant, is based on the premise that the presence of a given kind of behavior in an individual can best be explained as the result of some trait which predis­ poses or motivates him to engage in the behavior.1 This study is likewise concerned with account­ ing for the presence or absence of marihuana use in an individual’s behavior. It starts, however, from a different premise: that the presence of a given kind of behavior is the result of a sequence of social experiences during which the person acquires a conception of the meaning of the behavior, and perceptions and judgments of objects and situa­ tions, all of which make the activity possible and desirable. Thus, the motivation or disposition to engage in the activity is built up in the course of learning to engage in it and does not antedate this learning process. For such a view it is not necessary to identify those“traits”which“cause”the behavior. Instead, the problem becomes one of describing the set of changes in the person’s conception of the activity and of the experience it provides for him.2 This paper seeks to describe the sequence of changes in attitude and experience which led to the use of marihuana for pleasure. Marihuana does not produce addiction, as do alcohol and the opiate drugs; there is no withdrawal sickness and no ineradicable craving for the drug.3 The most fre­ quent pattern of use might be termed“recreational.” The drug is used occasionally for the pleasure the user finds in it, a relatively casual kind of behavior in comparison with that connected with the use of addicting drugs. The term “use for pleasure” is meant to emphasize the noncompulsive and casual character of the behavior. It is also meant to elimi­ nate from consideration here those few cases in which marihuana is used for its prestige value only, as a symbol that one is a certain kind of person, with no pleasure at all being derived from its use. The analysis presented here is conceived of as demonstrating the greater explanatory usefulness of the kind of theory outlined above as opposed AUTHOR’S NOTE: This paper was read at the meetings of the Midwest Sociological Society in Omaha, Nebraska, April 25, 1953. The research on which this paper is based was done while I was a member of the staff of the Chicago Narcotics Survey, a study done by the Chicago Area Project, Inc., under a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. My thanks to Solomon Kobrin, Harold Finestone,Henry McKay, and Anselm Strauss, who read and discussed with me earlier versions of this paper. 222 PART IV � PRODUCING SOCIAL IDENTITIES AND SOCIAL SCRIPTS to the predispositional theories now current. This may be seen in two ways: (1) predispositional theories cannot account for that group of users (whose existence is admitted)4 who do not exhibit the trait or traits considered to cause the behavior and (2) such theories cannot account for the great variability over time of a given individual’s behav­ ior with reference to the drug.The same person will at one stage be unable to use the drug for pleasure, at a later stage be able and willing to do so, and still later, again be unable to use it in this way. These changes,difficult to explain from a predispositional or motivational theory, are readily understandable in terms of changes in the individual’s conception of the drug as is the existence of “normal” users. The study attempted to arrive at a general statement of the sequence of changes in individual attitude and experience which have always occurred when the individual has become willing and able to use marihuana for pleasure and which have not occurred or not been permanently main­ tained when this is not the case.This generalization is stated in universal terms in order that negative cases may be discovered and used to revise the explanatory hypothesis.5 Fifty interviews with marihuana users from a variety of social backgrounds and present posi­ tions in society constitute the data from which the generalization was constructed and against which it was tested.6 The interviews focused on the history of the person’s experience with the drug, seeking major changes in his attitude toward it and in his actual use of it, and the reasons for these changes. The final generalization is a state­ ment of that sequence of changes in attitude which occurred in every case known to me in which the person came to use marihuana for pleasure. Until a negative case is found, it may be considered as an explanation of all cases of marihuana use for plea­ sure. In addition, changes from use to nonuse are shown to be related to similar changes in concep­ tion, and in each case it is possible to explain vari­ ations in the individual’s behavior in these terms. This paper covers only a portion of the natural history of an individual’s use of marihuana,7 start­ ing with the person having arrived at the point of willingness to try marihuana. He knows that others use it to “get high,” but he does not know what this means in concrete terms. He is curious about the experience, ignorant of what it may turn out to be, and afraid that it may be more than he has bar­ gained for.The steps outlined below,if he undergoes them all and maintains the attitudes developed in them, leave him willing and able to use the drug for pleasure when the opportunity presents itself. I The novice does not ordinarily get high the first time he smokes marihuana, and several attempts are usually necessary to induce this state. One explanation of this may be that the drug is not smoked “properly,” that is, in a way that ensures sufficient dosage to produce real symptoms of intoxication. Most users agree that it cannot be smoked like tobacco if one is to get high: Take in a lot of air,you know,and . . . I don’t know how to describe it, you don’t smoke it like a cigarette, you draw in a lot of air and get it deep down in your system and then keep it there.Keep it there as long as you can. Without the use of some such technique8 the drug will produce no effects, and the user will be unable to get high: The trouble with people like that [who are not able to get high] is that they’re just not smoking it right, that’s all there is to it. Either they’re not holding it down long enough, or they’re getting too much air and not enough smoke, or the other way around or something like that. A lot of people just don’t smoke it right, so naturally nothing’s gonna happen. If nothing happens, it is manifestly impossible for the user to develop a conception of the drug as Naming Experience an object which can be used for pleasure, and use will therefore not continue. The first step in the sequence of events that must occur if the person is to become a user is that he must learn to use the proper smoking technique in order that his use of the drug will produce some effects in terms of which his conception of it can change. Such a change is, as might be expected, a result of the individual’s participation in groups in which marihuana is used. In them the individual learns the proper way to smoke the drug. This may occur through direct teaching: I was smoking like I did an ordinary cigarette. He said,“No, don’t do it like that.” He said,“Suck it, you know, draw in and hold it in your lungs till you . . . for a period of time.” I said,“Is there any limit of time to hold it?” He said,“No, just till you feel that you want to let it out, let it out.” So I did that three or four times. Many new users are ashamed to admit igno­ rance and, pretending to know already, must learn through the more indirect means of observation and imitation: I came on like I had turned on [smoked marihuana] many times before, you know. I didn’t want to seem like a punk to this cat. See, like I didn’t know the first thing about it—how to smoke it, or what was going to happen, or what. I just watched him like a hawk— I didn’t take my eyes off him for a second, because I wanted to do everything just as he did it. I watched how he held it, how he smoked it, and everything. Then when he gave it to me I just came on cool, as though I knew exactly what the score was. I held it like he did and took a poke just the way he did. No person continued marihuana use for pleasure without learning a technique that supplied sufficient dosage for the effects of the drug to appear.Only when this was learned was it possible for a conception of the drug as an object which could be used for pleasure to emerge. Without such a conception marihuana use was considered meaningless and did not continue. 223 II Even after he learns the proper smoking technique, the new user may not get high and thus not form a conception of the drug as something which can be used for pleasure. A remark made by a user sug­ gested the reason for this difficulty in getting high and pointed to the next necessary step on the road to being a user: I was told during an interview, “As a matter of fact, I’ve seen a guy who was high out of his mind and didn’t know it.” I expressed disbelief: “How can that be, man?” The interviewee said,“Well, it’s pretty strange, I’ll grant you that, but I’ve seen it. This guy got on with me, claiming that he’d never got high, one of those guys, and he got completely stoned. And he kept insisting that he wasn’t high. So I had to prove to him that he was.” What does this mean? It suggests that being high consists of two elements: the presence of symptoms caused by marihuana use and the recog­ nition of these symptoms and their connection by the user with his use of the drug. It is not enough, that is, that the effects be present; they alone do not automatically provide the experience of being high. The user must be able to point them out to himself and consciously connect them with his having smoked marihuana before he can have this experi­ ence. Otherwise, regardless of the actual effects produced, he considers that the drug has had no effect on him: “I figured it either had no effect on me or other people were exaggerating its effect on them, you know. I thought it was probably psycho­ logical, see.” Such persons believe that the whole thing is an illusion and that the wish to be high leads the user to deceive himself into believing that something is happening when, in fact, nothing is. They do not continue marihuana use, feeling that “it does nothing” for them. Typically,however,the novice has faith (developed from his observation of users who do get high) that 224 PART IV � PRODUCING SOCIAL IDENTITIES AND SOCIAL SCRIPTS the drug actually will produce some new experience and continues to experiment with it until it does. His failure to get high worries him, and he is likely to ask more experienced users or provoke comments from them about it. In such conversations he is made aware of specific details of his experience which he may not have noticed or may have noticed but failed to identify as symptoms of being high: I didn’t get high the first time . . . I don’t think I held it in long enough. I probably let it out, you know, you’re a little afraid. The second time I wasn’t sure, and he [smoking companion] told me, like I asked him for some of the symptoms or something, how would I know, you know. . . . So he told me to sit on a stool. I sat on—I think I sat on a bar stool—and he said, “Let your feet hang,” and then when I got down my feet were real cold, you know. And I started feeling it, you know. That was the first time. And then about a week after that, some­ time pretty close to it, I really got on. That was the first time I got on a big laughing kick, you know. Then I really knew I was on. One symptom of being high is an intense hunger. In the next case the novice becomes aware of this and gets high for the first time: They were just laughing the hell out of me because like I was eating so much. I just scoffed [ate] so much food, and they were just laughing at me, you know. Sometimes I’d be looking at them, you know, wondering why they’re laughing, you know, not knowing what I was doing. [Well, did they tell you why they were laughing eventually?] Yeah, yeah, I come back,“Hey, man, what’s happening?” Like, you know, like I’d ask, “What’s happening?” and all of a sudden I feel weird, you know. “Man, you’re on you know. You’re on pot [high on marihuana].” I said, “No, am I?” Like I don’t know what’s happening. The learning may occur in more indirect ways: I heard little remarks that were made by other people. Somebody said, “My legs are rubbery,” and I can’t remember all the remarks that were made because I was very attentively listening for all these cues for what I was supposed to feel like. The novice, then, eager to have this feeling, picks up from other users some concrete referents of the term “high” and applies these notions to his own experience. The new concepts make it possi­ ble for him to locate these symptoms among his own sensations and to point out to himself a “something different” in his experience that he connects with drug use. It is only when he can do this that he is high. In the next case, the contrast between two successive experiences of a user makes clear the crucial importance of the aware­ ness of the symptoms in being high and re­ emphasizes the important role of interaction with other users in acquiring the concepts that make this awareness possible: [Did you get high the first time you turned on?] Yeah, sure. Although, come to think of it, I guess I really didn’t. I mean, like that first time it was more or less of a mild drunk. I was happy, I guess, you know what I mean. But I didn’t really know I was high, you know what I mean. It was only after the second time I got high that I realized I was high the first time. Then I knew that something different was happening. [How did you know that?] How did I know? If what happened to me that night would of happened to you, you would’ve known, believe me. We played the first tune for almost two hours—one tune! Imagine, man! We got on the stand and played this one tune, we started at nine o’clock.When we got fin­ ished I looked at my watch, it’s a quarter to eleven. Almost two hours on one tune.And it didn’t seem like anything. I mean, you know, it does that to you. It’s like you have much more time or something.Anyway, when I saw that, man, it was too much. I knew I must really be high or something if anything like that could happen. See, and then they explained to me that that’s what it did to you, you had a different sense of time and everything. So I realized that that’s what it was. I knew then. Like the first time, I probably felt that way, you know, but I didn’t know what’s happening. Naming Experience It is only when the novice becomes able to get high in this sense that he will continue to use mari­ huana for pleasure. In every case in which use con­ tinued, the user had acquired the necessary concepts with which to express to himself the fact that he was experiencing new sensations caused by the drug. That is, for use to continue, it is necessary not only to use the drug so as to produce effects but also to learn to perceive these effects when they occur. In this way marihuana acquires meaning for the user as an object which can be used for pleasure. With increasing experience the user develops a greater appreciation of the drug’s effects; he continues to learn to get high. He examines suc­ ceeding experiences closely, looking for new effects, making sure the old ones are still there. Out of this there grows a stable set of categories for experiencing the drug’s effects whose presence enables the user to get high with ease. The ability to perceive the drug’s effects must be maintained if use is to continue; if it is lost, mari­ huana use ceases.Two kinds of evidence support this statement. First, people who become heavy users of alcohol, barbiturates, or opiates do not continue to smoke marihuana, largely because they lose the abil­ ity to distinguish between its effects and those of the other drugs.9 They no longer know whether the mar­ ihuana gets them high. Second, in those few cases in which an individual uses marihuana in such quanti­ ties that he is always high, he is apt to get this same feeling that the drug has no effect on him, since the essential element of a noticeable difference between feeling high and feeling normal is missing. In such a situation, use is likely to be given up completely, but temporarily,in order that the user may once again be able to perceive the difference. III One more step is necessary if the user who has now learned to get high is to continue use. He must learn to enjoy the effects he has just learned to 225 experience. Marihuana—produced sensations are not automatically or necessarily pleasurable. The taste for such experience is a socially acquired one, not different in kind from acquired tastes for oys­ ters or dry martinis. The user feels dizzy, thirsty; his scalp tingles; he misjudges time and distances; and so on. Are these things pleasurable? He isn’t sure. If he is to continue marihuana use, he must decide that they are. Otherwise, getting high, while a real enough experience, will be an unpleasant one he would rather avoid. The effects of the drug,when first perceived,may be physically unpleasant or at least ambiguous: It started taking effect, and I didn’t know what was happening, you know, what it was, and I was very sick. I walked around the room, walking around the room trying to get off, you know; it just scared me at first, you know. I wasn’t used to that kind of feeling. In addition, the novice’s naive interpretation of what is happening to him may further confuse and frighten him, particularly if he decides, as many do, that he is going insane: I felt I was insane, you know.Everything people done to me just wigged me. I couldn’t hold a conversation, and my mind would be wandering, and I was always thinking, oh, I don’t know, weird things, like hearing music different. . . . I get the feeling that I can’t talk to anyone. I’ll goof completely. Given these typically frightening and unpleas­ ant first experiences, the beginner will not con­ tinue use unless he learns to redefine the sensations as pleasurable: It was offered to me, and I tried it. I’ll tell you one thing. I never did enjoy it at all. I mean it was just nothing that I could enjoy. [Well, did you get high when you turned on?] Oh, yeah, I got definite feel­ ings from it. But I didn’t enjoy them. I mean I got plenty of reactions, but they were mostly reactions of fear. [You were frightened?] Yes, I didn’t enjoy it. 226 PART IV � PRODUCING SOCIAL IDENTITIES AND SOCIAL SCRIPTS I couldn’t seem to relax with it, you know. If you can’t relax with a thing, you can’t enjoy it, I don’t think. In other cases the first experiences were also definitely unpleasant, but the person did become a marihuana user. This occurred, however, only after a later experience enabled him to redefine the sensations as pleasurable: [This man’s first experience was extremely unpleas­ ant, involving distortion of spatial relationships and sounds, violent thirst, and panic produced by these sym …
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