Department of Anthropology

Jason Pine: Methlabs and Alchemical Ontology in the U.S. Heartland

Mon, February 11, 2013 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM

Jason Pine: Methlabs and Alchemical Ontology in the U.S. Heartland

"Methlabs and Alchemical Ontology in the U.S. Heartland"

A talk by Jason Pine, Anthropology and Media, Society, and the Arts, Purchase College, State University of New York

Jefferson County, Missouri, a rural, hilly and wooded 650,000-square-mile region forty minutes south of St. Louis, has been known for the last decade as the meth capital of the U.S., with the greatest number of methlab busts annually. These labs are most often small home or mobile operations that people fire up for supplying personal use meth and a little income.

Jefferson County meth cooks practice the alchemical arts of world-making: they unmake “middle American” consumer culture, make over their own consciousness, and “unearth” landscapes signposted with burnt trailers, precursor materials, and hoards of objects gathered for multiplying, unfinished “tweaker projects” – the overdrive industry of dopaminergic bodies. Their arcana is camouflaged among the banal everyday products of Home Depot or Lowes or Wal-Mart. Their laboratories double as home cooking in the kitchen, tinkering in the garage, and shopping at Wal-Mart (labs mounted in store aisles and bathrooms). Their DIY labors participate in peculiar “agential cuts” (Barad 2003) within familiar regional materialities expressed in practices (hunting and shooting, fixing cars and motorcycles, building, farming), topographies, and uneven geographic development.

In Jefferson County, Missouri, the “heartland” is a material-discursive enactment of local determinacy happening within precarity, where "agency" crystallizes as methamphetamine. 

For further information please contact Adriana Dingman at



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