Purity and Pollution: Cannabis as Matter Out of Place

Lecture | September 4 | 6-7:30 p.m. |  Hearst Museum of Anthropology

 Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Botanical Garden

Anthropologist Dr. Michael Polson will share observations on cannabis and its journey from cultural pollutant to purified, legal substance.

About this Event:
Cannabis in Context is a series of talks co-sponsored by the Hearst Museum and the UC Botanical Garden and curated by Eric Siegel, aimed at raising awareness of the multi-faceted life of cannabis in our modern society across cultures. This four-part series will be held every Wednesday in September at the Hearst Museum to complement the current exhibition, Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Mind-Altering Substances and to celebrate the UC Botanical Garden's Year of Ethnobotany.

Encounters between humans and psychoactive substances are loaded, often fraught, affairs. They are not just liminal moments of experience but are bound up with social dynamics of danger, pollution, purification, and transformation. Cannabis is no exception. Based on nine years of anthropological research, Dr. Polson will share observations on cannabis, its configuration as pollution, and how it is ritually purified in its movement to legal status. Following the presentation, Dr. Polson will engage with the Cannabis in Context Speaker Series Curator, Eric Siegel, in a moderated discussion and Q&A.

About the Speaker:
Michael Polson is a UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher who studies the rapidly-changing political-economic dynamics around cannabis in northern California. He is currently conducting a survey-based study on the experiences and perspectives of cultivators with the regulatory process as well as ethnographic research in California's Shasta Cascade on the post-legalization politics of prohibition. He has published in journals on legal and political anthropology, human geography, governance, and edited collections on crime and neoliberalism, illegality and spatial governance, and a first-ever volume on interdisciplinary cannabis studies. He is currently working on contributions to a special issue of California Agriculture on cannabis, a contribution to the Journal for the Anthropology of North America, and a book manuscript under advance contract with University of Minnesota Press.

About the Moderator:
Eric Siegel, former Director of the University of California Botanical Garden, currently serves as the Project Director for the Music and Health Project at UC Berkeley. Since 1981, Eric has occupied senior roles in art and science museums such as the New York Hall of Science, Bronx Museum, New York Botanical Garden and Wave Hill Botanical Garden. He has taught, consulted, and published extensively in the museum field. Eric holds a degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan, graduated from the CORO Leadership New York program, and holds an MBA in arts administration from SUNY Binghamton. In 2014, Eric was awarded the Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award for Exceptional Leadership in the Field by the Association of Science and Technology Centers.

The Museum’s newly renovated Gallery strives to provide excellence in accessibility for all visitors. The entrance and all exhibit spaces are wheelchair accessible and located on a single floor. Automatic door push-buttons are available at the front entrance. Content is provided at standard heights with all text in large, legible fonts. A variety of furniture is provided throughout the Gallery to provide resting points for all guests. All exhibit cases and displays are cane detectable. Public restrooms are located near the Gallery. With advance notice, we are happy to provide additional support for guests with specific needs. Please email pahma-gallery@berkeley.edu for more info.

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