Psychedelics, Cognitive Liberty, and the Decolonization of Consciousness

Authors: Joshua Falcon*, Florida International University
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: Psychedelics, Cognitive Liberty, Biopolitics, Consciousness
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Cleveland 2, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since its inauguration in the United States during the mid-twentieth century, the war on drugs has proven to be an under-analyzed enterprise of biopolitical territorialization. Given the intimate relationship between drugs, states of consciousness, and behavior, the war on drugs can be understood as a multivalent apparatus which, among other things, manages the normalization of consciousness. Through the regulation of natural and synthetic substances, the war on drugs reinvokes colonial refrains of domination mobilized against paganism in medieval Europe and indigenous cultures throughout the new world conquests. Notwithstanding longstanding anthropological literature which establishes the cultural contingencies of drug use and the modes of consciousness they concomitantly provoke, altered states of consciousness have nevertheless remained categorized as deviants from a hegemonic norm. The war on drugs consequently brings the issue of cognitive liberty to the fore, which beyond freedom of thought, calls for sovereignty over one’s own mind in terms of liberty from paternalistic transgressions over the body. The reemergence of scientific research on psychedelic drugs, however, poses a challenge to the war on drugs’ imperative insofar as a substantial body of evidence now shows that psychedelic substances temporarily suppress the top-down structures which maintain normal waking consciousness, including the perceptual and conceptual boundaries that influence behavior. This paper investigates how psychedelic drugs and experiences can thus be understood as anarchic agents which can de-territorialize the spaces of consciousness wherein unyielding cultural thought-patterns of domination have become concretized.

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