On January 6th Lisanne Walma successfully defended her dissertation: Between Morpheus and Mary: The Public Debate on Morphine in Dutch Newspapers, 1880-1939 at the Academiegebouw in Utrecht. Her dissertation focused on the development of the Dutch public debate on morphine between 1880 and 1939. Around 1900 morphine was known on the one hand as a medical ‘Morpheus’: an important painkiller. On the other, people knew the substance as ‘Mary’, a street drug used and sold nonmedically. Between 1900 and 1939 concern about the nonmedical use of narcotics greatly increased. Through an analysis of Dutch digitized newspapers and a comparison with the debate on cocaine and heroin, she showed how morphine kept its medical reputation during this time.
Part of her research showed that the United States played an important role as a reference culture in the Dutch debates on nonmedical narcotic use. In the 1920s Dutch depictions of narcotic abuse in the United States connected nonmedical narcotic use to social harm and crime, and she suggests that the adaptation of American rhetoric may have helped increase Dutch public concern about nonmedical narcotic use and raise support for stricter narcotic policies, even though the country considered itself mostly free from those problems.
The dissertation was supervised by prof. dr. Toine Pieters and dr. Hieke Huistra.