Drug Researchers' Roundtable: That Other Opioid Epidemic: Documenting the History of the Opioid Crisis in New York's Puerto Rican and Latinx Communities

New York, NY

Shakti Castro’s presentation, "That Other Opioid Epidemic" builds on her research at the Smithsonian Latino Center and work at the BOOM! Health Harm Reduction Center. Shakti will discuss the collections plan she developed for the National Museum of American History to assist in documenting the history of substance abuse, harm reduction, and drug policy reform in New York City's Puerto Rican and Latinx communities. She will speak specifically to how archives, museums, and alternative history spaces can help in documenting, preserving, and disseminating difficult history. Shakti will address the ethical and practical issues of documenting "controversial" history through objects and oral interviews. How do these methodologies complicate the model of "celebratory history?" How has the opioid crisis unfolded in New York's Puerto Rican and Latinx communities over the last 40 years? What is the role that Puerto Ricans and Latinxs have played in harm reduction and drug policy reform? Shakti will touch on these questions and more, including the material culture of drug use and the role of the public historian in community organizations.


Shakti Castro is a public historian and harm reduction advocate. Shakti has worked as an oral historian and research assistant at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at CUNY, conducting over 30 oral history interviews. She holds a B.A. in English literature and Media Studies from Hunter College and a Master’s in History with a certificate in Public History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She completed a summer fellowship at the Smithsonian documenting the history of opioid use, harm reduction and drug policy reform in New York City's Puerto Rican and Latinx communities.

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