Nicolas Langlitz, Ph.D.
“Lullaby for a Mouse: Anthropological Observations of an Animal Model of Psychosis”
For about three decades, anthropologists have worked towards exoticizing the West – for example, by studying scientific laboratories. At the center of the ethnographic research presented in this talk are modern Americans trying to understand schizophrenia by startling mice, rats, and guinea pigs on hallucinogenic drugs. Since the 1950s, these substances have been used in psychiatric research to model mental disorders such as schizophrenia in nonhuman animals. At the same time, however, anthropologists found that the effects of psychedelics were contingent on so-called “cultural determinants,” better known by Timothy Leary’s phrase “set and setting.” Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a contemporary neuropsychopharmacology laboratory, the presentation will show how these nonpharmacological factors also modulate hallucinogen action in animals. It discusses how an animal model of mental illness affected by such “cultural determinants” makes us rethink what it means to be human today.