Jason Pine, "The Methlab Demiurge of Heartland America"

Jason Pine (Assistant Professor of Media Science and the Arts, Purchase College State University of New York), "The Methlab Demiurge of Heartland America"

In rural and semi-rural central-east Missouri, the occult, the evangelical and the material everyday mingle promiscuously in an unstable composition. This region has one of the highest numbers of home methamphetamine labs, where poor, white, Christian meth cooks recombine ordinary consumer goods into an elixir for hyper-animacy. User-producers use meth at work to make their labors more engaging and to extend their hours. They use it outside of work to get out of bed, to get motivated and to work on personal projects--home remodeling, car repair, and meth manufacture. Oscillating between intoxication, withdrawal and keeping clean, people associate meth with both treacherous sorcery (the evils of seductive delusion and sacrificial devotion) and righteous religiosity (to aid in recovery and explanation).

The quiet enchantment of big box mass consumer products at Wal-Mart and Lowes takes on greater resonance for meth cooks, who entrain their bodies to the alchemical qualities of consumer compositions and their potential transmutations. Here, the materiality of life is entangled with the spiritual. The gross matter of a “middle American” everyday interleaves with the workaday labors of the factory, iron works, construction site and tinkerer’s home. Postindustrial precarity is channeled through cottage industry alchemy that promises supreme embodiments (a dopaminergic surge that users experience as “getting more life”), extraordinary and sensory override experiences (visual and auditory hallucinations, absolute knowledge), spectacular events (explosions, deaths, survival) and demiurgic mastery.

Event Date: 
Thursday, April 17, 2014, 3:00 PM