The Rip Van Winkle Science: Credibility Struggles in the 'Psychedelic Renaissance'

by Danielle M Giffort

Institution: University of Illinois – Chicago
Year: 2015
Keywords: Credibility; Boundary Work; Forbidden Knowledge; Non-knowledge; Psychedelic Drugs; Psychedelic Science
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2134950
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10027/19782


My dissertation traces the historical trajectory of science and psychedelics. I explain (1) why clinical research with psychedelic drugs was relegated to the status of forbidden knowledge, and (2) how contemporary scientists are working to restore the legitimacy of this scientific field. I draw on science studies literatures on credibility, boundary work, and nonknowledge as a starting point to answer these questions. My analysis is informed by semi-structured interviews, field observations, and historical and archival documents. The analysis that I present in this dissertation can be summarized as follows: The shifting boundaries of psychedelic science, from legitimate knowledge to forbidden knowledge and potentially back to legitimate knowledge again, have been shaped by struggles over the purity and pollution of science—struggles embedded in cultural, legal, and political systems of power. The main contribution of this dissertation is the concept of the impure scientist. While previous literature has considered how nonscientist “outsiders” threaten the purity of science, my research examines how scientist “insiders” contaminate these borders. I call this menacing figure the impure scientist—a historically and culturally contingent and institutionally embedded figure, a “performative image that can be inhabited,” who continually threatens the symbolic boundaries of science. My research demonstrates how the impure scientist is symbolically deployed in credibility contests over the production of legitimate knowledge. By introducing the concept of the impure scientist, this dissertation offers new insights about what knowledge gets produced, embedded in what systems of power, and with what consequences. Advisors/Committee Members: Bielby, William (advisor).