Archive for 2021

[Previous message][Next message][Back to index]

[Commlist] Call for Abstracts: Pharmacologies of Media (Reminder)

Thu Mar 04 11:34:09 GMT 2021

Call for Abstracts: Pharmacologies of Media (Reminder)

"We invite 300 word abstracts for a forthcoming special issue of /Media Theory/ exploring “pharmacologies of media.”//

/Media Theory <>/ is an independent, online and open access journal of peer-reviewed, theoretical interventions into all aspects of media and communications. There are _no_ article processing charges <> for authors.


/Are media doing us more harm than good?/ This question has shadowed accounts of new technologies for millennia, from the advent of writing right through to the emergence of social media. Beginning with Plato’s reflections on writing’s effects on memory, and under the influence of work by philosophers like Jacques Derrida (1981) and Bernard Stiegler (2011), media scholars often explore this question using the concept of the /pharmakon/.

In its Platonic sense, the /pharmakon/ is both a remedy and a poison, or something that can both heal and harm. To describe media as /pharmacological/ is to acknowledge that they can have both positive and negative effects. But this concept is difficult to disentangle from its medical origins. The /pharmakon/ is a substance, a drug or a medicine, that might be intoxicating or beneficial. Like drugs, this double capacity is not inherently value-laden, or good and/or bad, but is a function of how the media operate. Like drugs, this capacity informs how media operate on, extend, or curtail our capacity to sense, think, or act. But here the analogy falls apart. Media and drugs address different domains of the body and have distinct cultures. If this analogy can only stretch so far, what are we to make of the concept of the /pharmakon/ today?

In this special issue, we want to revisit this concept in order to trace its histories and to test its utility for contemporary media studies. Alongside exploring the moral and embodied genealogies of the /pharmakon/, we also want to trace a third: whether and how the concept’s double capacity works at the level of materiality. The /pharmakon/ provides us with a conceptual means of apprehending how media are entangled with and shaped by the political, economic, and ecological distribution of matter. If the material dimension of media is conjoined with a politics of material harm/cure, our proposition is that the concept of the /pharmakon/ could be developed into a rich resource for thinking not only of the social impact of contemporary media, but the distributed, material reality in which they’re enrolled.


We use the term /pharmacologies of media/ to mark our interest in media in the present, where ‘media’ is understood in an expanded sense, across domains, and at many different scales, and in the role that this concept--and its cognates--have played in the study of media past and present. By examining the limits of the concepts of pharmakon and media, this issue seeks to expand and transform discussions of race, toxicity, body, mediation, affordance, in areas such as science and technology studies, feminist and queer theory, biopolitics and the body, media archaeology and theory, visual studies, environmental and medical humanities.**


The biopolitical role that media play in governing the circulation of resources establishes relations of power that the /pharmakon/ can help us to identify and to critique. Media’s large-scale role as essential infrastructures establishes /pharmacological/ relations between the consumption of new technology, the waste produced by its dynamics of obsolescence, and the sometimes-violent processes of extraction that underlie the production of technology, as we see with minerals like Coltan or Lithium. The large-scale and, crucially, deep-time effect of technological progress on the Earth’s dwindling range of species has a pharmacological dimension. So, too, does the body’s material-chemical relationship to particular atoms or molecules used in the production of media, or - as with testosterone, for instance (Preciado, 2013) - as specific techniques of individuation. The /pharmakon/ not only helps us to underscore the reality of these relations; crucially, it also focuses our analyses of media on the actual processes and operations that media technologies or cultural techniques enact.

We envisage that this issue will be divided into two main parts: one dedicated to reflecting on the conceptual history of the pharmakon and assessing its relevance to the study of media, and a second that exploring what might pharmacology of media’s /material/ dimensions look like.

Could the /pharmakon/ inform methods and theories for engaging with material media processes? What are its histories and inheritances? How has it informed our conceptions and critiques of media? Does it need repurposing for the twenty-first century, and if so, how? Most crucially, what does pharmacological critique look like today, in practice?

We are interested in submissions that address this concept in any way related to media/theory. We are particularly interested in the way that the concept of the /pharmakon/ might intersect with race and/or ethnicity, and would encourage submissions that explore the interfaces between this concept and racialisation in the context of data collection, tracking, personalisation, and discrimination.

*Suggested topics might include (but are not limited to):*

Conceptual histories of the /pharmakon/, existing or possible

Pharmacological conception of race and ethnicity

Embodied pharmacologies: medicine, drugs, toxicity

Pharmacologies of substances: plastics, minerals, chemicals across scales

Hormones and technologies of gender

Pharmacology and individual/collective individuation

Viral pharmacologies: quarantine, lockdown, masking, distancing

Pharmacologies of extraction, infrastructure, logistics, trade

Petrochemicals and media culture

Pharmacology and postcoloniality

Pharmacology and genetics

Body, milieu, techniques

McLuhan’s “extensions” in the 21st Century

Mediated feeling, extended sensing, and perception-at-a-distance**

*The timeline for submissions is as follows:*

Abstracts due *March 08, 2021*

Notification of acceptance by *March 22, 2021*

Full papers due for peer-review: *August 01, 2021*

Decisions and peer-review feedback: *November 01, 2021*

**Revised articles due: *January 15, 2022*

             Projected special issue publication date: *mid-2022*

*Please send abstracts - or any queries - to Yiğit Soncul*((y.soncul /at/ <mailto:(y.soncul /at/>)*and* *Scott Wark* ((s.wark /at/ <mailto:(s.wark /at/>) *by March 08, 2021*"

This mailing list is a free service offered by Nico Carpentier. Please use it responsibly and wisely.
To subscribe or unsubscribe, please visit
Before sending a posting request, please always read the guidelines at
To contact the mailing list manager:
Email: (nico.carpentier /at/

[Previous message][Next message][Back to index]