Unruly innovators: Outlaw Mycology, May 10-14, 2017

Outlaw mycology!

Unruly innovators, a panel at the BioFabbing Convergence: Fabrications and Fabulations, Geneva, Switzerland, May 10-14, 2017

In May, 2017, I traveled to Geneva to present in a panel that I put together, “Unruly innovators: illegal mushroom cultivation, DMT extraction, and homemade pharmaceuticals as comparative cases of outlaw user innovation,” with Johan Söderberg, a professor in the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics & Theory of Science at Göteborgs Universitet and Michael Laufer, Chief Spokesperson for Four Thieves Vinegar, for the BioFabbing Convergence: Fabrications and Fabulations.


This Convergence was organized by Bruno Strasser and Gabriela A. Sanchez at the University of Geneva, where they work with a number of scholars thinking about citizen science, the Citizen CyberlabHackuarium, and the Hackteria Network.  It was supported by the Do-it-Together Science (DITOs) EU Project by Horizon 2020. Michael and I were grateful to receive support from these organizers to help with the flight to Switzerland.

Biofabbing was a unique attempt to bring together both DIY (do-it-yourself) scientists and the academics that study them. It was informal and somewhat self-organized (under the direction of the tireless Marc Dusseiller from the Hackteria Network), with people from biohacking and bioart collectives from across Europe. My takeaway is that “biohacking”/”DIY Bio” (and perhaps “bioart” could be thrown in here too) refer to an array of social and cultural practices that are actually quite divergent, all of them very much in formation, bringing together people from different backgrounds and with different political and vocational commitments. All of these terms–whatever they refer too–are getting a ton of press these days thanks to their promissory aura of democratic science; they seem to be artificially unifying heterogeneous values and practices. Bruno, Gabi, and others say pretty much the same in their article on citizen science, forthcoming in Science & Technology Studies; Marc posted a provocative article from Aeon.co with another critical take on this topic. I suspect values and interests will ramify in this community in the coming years. I’m curious to see where it all goes, and to chart the lines of division, dissent, and alliance.

My short presentation was on “outlaw mycology.” I described how fungal morphology creates particular practical allowances–what might be understood as collaborative forms of evasion–for those cultivating or wild-crafting illegal psilocybin-active species. It’s a rich topic, one I hope to return to for my dissertation.

I forgot to mention that it was at CERN!! Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me smash any atoms but you do get  beam updates with your breakfast.

Psychoactivity Lecture Screenshot Spore Hat.png

A photo (via screenshot) from one of Paul Stamets’s early lectures, in 1998. In it, he discussed techniques that he, his friends, and peers used to spread Psilocybe spores on their way back from the psilocybin-rich region of Southern Mexico. They used to gather there with fellow psychedelic enthusiasts, mystics, ethnobotanists, and of course mycologists. In this photo, we can see giant caps of Psilocybe mushrooms being spore-printed on a wide-brimmed hat.



Hiro’s DIY aryuveda.



Thierry Bardini, from the University of Montreal, presenting on work at Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, California, which was also one of my field sites. (I know Mary!)


BEAM SETUP. At the CERN dining hall.



Bruno Strasser gives the opening lecture on the history of citizen science and populist cooptations of expert knowledge and production of counter-expertise.