Author:
Emma Stamm Farmingdale State College, United States

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I participated in Psychedemia 2012 as an attendee and Psychedemia 2022 as a speaker. The first was a formative experience: I was twenty-three years old and had never been to a scholarly meeting before that weekend. Six months later, a classmate would tell me that the main point of conferences was to inflate scholars' egos. We were in our first year of grad school, and I was beginning to realize that academia consists of much more than the production of knowledge. It's a culture as much as it is a vocation; it gives its members an identity so complete that some can hardly imagine a different way of life. Now that I'm fully initiated, I'd revise my classmate's observation: conferences are where academics go to have their self-image validated. This also happens on college campuses, but campuses are mostly for students, and in general students see college as an exception to the norms of adult life. By contrast, academic conferences amplify and exalt the weirdness of the scholarly lifestyle. They share one essential feature: within their bounds, the institutionalization of knowledge is considered life-affirming.

From this perspective, Psychedemia 2012 was both normal and bizarre. Its superficial trappings exemplified what I'd later recognize as the Academic Conference Experience. Panels prompted affirmation and dispute from audiences; conversation between strangers was easy and spontaneous; and I had strong FOMO (i.e., fear of missing out), since the schedule forced a choice between different events. I went with a friend who was also unfamiliar with conferences, and the word “overwhelming” came up a lot in conversation. Another became an internal refrain: “surreal.” There was a palpable sense of unreality about the whole thing. Some of that was due to optics: the conference's slogan — “integrating psychedelics into academia” — was reflected in participants' attire, which was equal parts Ivy League and Burning Man. But the mood was mostly determined by the simple fact of the event's existence. It felt as if Psychedemia was pulling off something that was technically impossible: psychedelic academia.

In hindsight, I think we were playing a prank on the nature of institutionalized knowledge. That the academy itself would produce such a prank struck me as absurd at the time. It still does; if anything, the feeling has only grown. Recently, educators have been subject to heightened scrutiny over concerns regarding their political bias and the need to preserve “traditional” values in education (Those who promote such values are generally vague about what “traditional” means). With this in mind, the Psychedemia project seems all the more bold. It not only embraces a stigmatized topic, but does so from vantage points long considered marginal by the academy. For example, both the 2012 and 2022 meetings were proudly interdisciplinary, bringing together scholars across STEM; the social sciences; and the arts and humanities. In her 2012 presentation, Neşe Devenot (nee Senol) (Devenot, 2012, September). addressed the role of humanities scholarship in the psychedelic renaissance, and the conference featured a dedicated psychedelic art exhibition (Knight, 2012). To this day, however, the psychedelic humanities remains underdeveloped. Meanwhile, interdisciplinarity casts doubt on established traditions in methodology and pedagogy. In particular, “soft” approaches to “hard science” subjects (e.g., the effects of psychoactive substances) raises eyebrows among the more intellectually conservative. Psychedemia's premise — that psychedelic studies should not only exist but take an eclectic route — broke the mold in more ways than one.

There's a poetic symmetry here. Psychedelic experiences are often said to reveal life's absurdities. Their bearers often describe a reckoning with contradictions that erode truth and meaning in everyday existence. Likewise, Psychedemia 2012 called out two of the biggest paradoxes of institutionalized scholarship. First is the virtue of objectivity, whereby scholars are prevented from drawing on subjective beliefs and personal experience as points of reference. Many of the presenters indicated this as a confound to their work. It's well-known, after all, that the immediate context of a psychedelic experience influences its phenomenological character (Doyle, 2011; Hartogsohn, 2017). If a psychedelic trip takes place under the official banner of “science” — which entails the presence of researchers and observational tools — this would almost certainly alter the qualitative dimensions of the experience. As I learned that weekend, it's probably useful to address this confound as a factor in clinical outcomes: Drew Knight discussed this in his talk “Measuring Immeasurable Phenomena.” Further, researchers' identity, cultural background, and attitudes towards psychedelics may manifest as a form of bias. A handful of presenters framed this as positive. Instead of denying the link between researcher and research subject, they claimed, this connection should be explored as a variable. To do so would defy norms enforcing objectivity in the name of epistemic purity. It may also have implications for the general scientific process as it pertains to psy-studies (e.g., psychology and psychiatry), as Manoj Doss and colleagues have pointed out (Doss, 2020, November 5). If it's unscientific to invoke one's subjective viewpoint as a sensemaking device, we need not conclude that psychedelics have no place in science. It may be that this standard demands reconsideration.

The second paradox is related to the first: that formal scholarship supports the free and open sharing of knowledge. Some take this to mean that schools and disciplines should bear no trace of political partisanship. As noted before, this has translated into institutions increasingly coming under fire for their perceived favoring of liberal and left-wing attitudes. This is an issue in psychedelic studies, as some believe that the field's contributors should be politically neutral in their capacity as scholars and educators. For example, nonprofit psychedelic media outlets have been criticized for their open anti-capitalist values (Love, 2023). The production of scholarship and media never takes place in a political vacuum, but in the present climate, open political identification can incite suspicion and even censorship (Kent, 2022).

The politics of psychedelic studies came up quite a bit at Psychedemia 2012, which surprised me. At the time, I didn't believe in any structural link between knowledge and politics. Ten years later, I take this notion as a tenet; among other reasons, it explains why the history of science is riven with racist, sexist, and otherwise xenophobic “facts.” As a corollary, the politics of science must be taken seriously by its practitioners and stakeholders. Although Psychedemia 2012 didn't shy away from the politics of knowledge, it was practically an unofficial theme of Psychedemia 2022. I was delighted to see presenters speaking candidly about the effects of capitalism and cultural imperialism on their work — and what we could do to offset these effects.

In the Q&A section of my panel at Psychedemia 2022, I addressed the fact that psychedelic use isn't correlated with specific political worldviews (clichés of liberal hippies notwithstanding). But I suggested that this fact may be more complicated than it seems. To me, it encapsulates a paradox that deserves greater attention. Psychedelic experiences catalyze and reinforce numerous ways of thinking, including some that accommodate anti-social political beliefs. This is a function of psychedelics' wild and irreducible multiplicity. They foment and accelerate all kinds of change, which may take the form of creative ideas, transformed self-images, and new insights about the world at large. By its very nature, multiplicity is a foil to totalitarianism — which means that it threatens fascism, imperialism, and other political programs that demand conformity and homogeneity. It's true that psychedelic encounters don't (necessarily) produce anti-capitalists. But their resistance to standardization defies capital's basic mandate, which is to assign monetary value to everything under the sun. Although I won't claim that psychedelic experience is inherently political, I think it's a powerful ally to progressive endeavors.

At both of the Psychedemia conferences, contradictions such as these were articulated and examined through various disciplinary lenses. Psychedemia 2022 spoke more boldly to their social and political significance. Given the events of the intervening decade, this kind of honesty seems essential. Among other factors, the growth of right-wing extremism; the Covid-19 pandemic; and rampant digital innovation have raised existential issues already well-known to psychonauts. In this environment, scholars and students of the psychedelic experience should serve as models of pro-social, other-embracing behavior.

The psychedelic renaissance can no longer be described as new, but the future of psychedelic studies is still open. It could either reinforce or radically defy society's most conservative tendencies. At the next Psychedemia conference, in 2024, I hope we continue calling attention to the ways in which this field both abides by and rejects the standards of institutional knowledge. I hope that this liminal identity is seen as a feature, not a bug, since it embodies the multiplicity that totalitarian forces seek to destroy. Difficult as it may be, we should inquire into rather than seek to dispel the contradictions of psychedelic academia. If we do so, I believe that we'll keep pulling off the impossible.

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Attila Szabo
University of Oslo

E-mail address: attilasci@gmail.com

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2022  
Web of Science  
Total Cites
WoS
226
Journal Impact Factor 4.5
Rank by Impact Factor

n/a

Impact Factor
without
Journal Self Cites
4.1
5 Year
Impact Factor
n/a
Journal Citation Indicator 0.97
Rank by Journal Citation Indicator

Pharmacology & Pharmacy 91/362
Psychiatry 69/264

Scimago  
Scimago
H-index
5
Scimago
Journal Rank
0.416
Scimago Quartile Score

Anthropology Q1
Biological Psychiatry Q4
Clinical Psychology Q3
Health (social science) Q3
Pharmacology Q3
Psychiatry and Mental Health Q3
Social Psychology Q3

Scopus  
Scopus
Cite Score
4.2
Scopus
CIte Score Rank
Anthropology 31/468 (93rd PCTL)
Health (social science) 78/344 (77th PCTL)
Social Psychology 96/292 (70th PCTL)
Clinical Psychology 96/292 (67th PCTL)
Psychiatry and Mental Health 219/531 (58th PCTL)
Pharmacology (medical) 115/260 (55th PCTL)
Biological Psychiatry 30/47 (37th PCTL)
Scopus
SNIP
0.627

2021  
Web of Science  
Total Cites
WoS
not indexed
Journal Impact Factor not indexed
Rank by Impact Factor

not indexed

Impact Factor
without
Journal Self Cites
not indexed
5 Year
Impact Factor
not indexed
Journal Citation Indicator not indexed
Rank by Journal Citation Indicator

not indexed

Scimago  
Scimago
H-index
2
Scimago
Journal Rank
not yet available
Scimago Quartile Score Anthropology (Q3)
Biological Psychiatry (Q4)
Clinical Psychology (Q4)
Health (social science) (Q4)
Pharmacology (medical) (Q4)
Psychiatry and Mental Health (Q4)
Social Psychology (Q4)
Scopus  
Scopus
Cite Score
0,9
Scopus
CIte Score Rank
Anthropology 186/443 (Q2)
Health (social science) 234/323 (Q3)
Clinical Psychology 213/292 (Q3)
Pharmacology (medical) 190/255 (Q3)
Psychiatry and Mental Health 419/529 (Q4)
Social Psychology 243/296 (Q4)
Biological Psychiatry 38/43 (Q4)
Scopus
SNIP
0,381

2020  
CrossRef Documents 8
WoS Cites 37
WoS H-index 4
Days from submission to acceptance 95
Days from acceptance to publication 75
Acceptance Rate 41%

2019  
WoS
Cites
11
CrossRef
Documents
35
Acceptance
Rate
77%

 

Journal of Psychedelic Studies
Publication Model Gold Open Access
Submission Fee none
Article Processing Charge none
Subscription Information Gold Open Access

Journal of Psychedelic Studies
Language English
Size A4
Year of
Foundation
2016
Volumes
per Year
1
Issues
per Year
3
Founder Akadémiai Kiadó
Debreceni Egyetem
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem
Károli Gáspár Református Egyetem
Founder's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
H-4032 Debrecen, Hungary Egyetem tér 1.
H-1053 Budapest, Hungary Egyetem tér 1-3.
H-1091 Budapest, Hungary Kálvin tér 9.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Publisher's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Responsible
Publisher
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 2559-9283 (Online)

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