Global Health & Humanities Book Talk Series

Beyond the Substance: Psychedelics and the Challenge of Medical Research and Drug Policy

DATE: January 10, 2022 (Monday)
TIME: 5:00pm (HKT)
(Other Time Zones: 9:00am London/ 11:00am Tel Aviv/ 8:00pm Sydney)
DELIVERY: via Zoom

 seminar posterAbstract:

Medical science and drug policy approaches have often been based on essentialist definitions of drug action and dichotomous distinctions between licit drugs and drugs of abuse. In recent years, though, a growing awareness of the context-dependency and socio-cultural situatedness of drug effects has opened up the prospect of rethinking medical drug research and drug policy in light of social constructivist insights into drug effects, which place the emphasis on the cruciality of set and setting (context) rather than chemical essentialism. Based on Ido Hartogsohn’s American Trip: Set, Setting and the Psychedelic Experience in the 20th Century (MIT Press, 2020), the talk will use the story of mid-twentieth-century American psychedelic research and culture as a backdrop for an examination of social-constructivist insights into the context-dependency of drug effects and their implications for medical research and drug policy.

Speaker: Ido Hartogsohn (Assistant Professor, Graduate Program in Science, Technology and Society, Bar Ilan University, Israel)

Ido Hartogsohn is a scholar of psychedelic history and sociology, and an assistant professor in the Graduate program in Science, Technology and Society, at Bar Ilan University. His work explores the role of set and setting in shaping psychedelic experiences for individuals and societies. His book American Trip: Set, Setting and the Psychedelic Experience in the 20th Century appeared with MIT Press (2020).


Gordon Mathews (Professor, Department of Anthropology, Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Alex Gearin (Assistant Professor, Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, University of Hong Kong)

Prof. Gordon Mathews, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has written or edited nine books and dozens of articles on wide ranging topics including what makes life worth living in Japan and the United States, the global cultural supermarket, happiness and neoliberalism, Chungking Mansions as a global building, asylum seekers in Hong Kong, and low-end globalization around the world.

Dr. Alex K. Gearin, PhD, is a medical anthropologist at the University of Hong Kong trained in Australia at the University of Queensland. His research expertise focuses on psychedelic substance using communities in Peru, China, and Australia. He has published articles on indigenous medicine, medical tourism, shamanism, and spirituality and individualism among psychedelic healing groups. He is currently writing a book on the medicinal use of ayahuasca, the Amazonian psychoactive substance.

Moderator: Priscilla Song (Associate Professor, Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, HKU)

Co-hosted by:

Centre for the Humanities and Medicine

Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit

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