Jason A. Pine
Professor of Media Studies and Anthropology
I am a writer and a cultural anthropologist. I use my ethnographic research skills to compose works of literary nonfiction in which not only people, but other animate and inanimate things are dramatic entities.
My latest book, The Alchemy of Meth: A Decomposition (Minnesota, 2019), is about small-scale methamphetamine manufacture in rural Missouri and the decompositioning of people, objects and late industrial landscapes. Instead of focusing on addiction, it takes meth-making as a cottage industry made possible by a sprawling array of materials, landscapes, and institutions. It connects DIY methlabs to big pharma’s superlabs, illicit speed to the legalized speed sold as ADHD medication, uniquely implicating the author’s own story in the narrative. The book was awarded Honorable Mention for the Gregory Bateson Book Prize and the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing.
In my first book, The Art of Making Do in Naples (Minnesota, 2012), I examined how underemployed aspiring singers become entangled with the Camorra, the region’s powerful and volatile organized crime networks. The book is comprised of stories of people pursuing personal sovereignty amidst promises of transformation and threats of violence. Their stories get entangled with the author’s own story as an anthropologist making do with improvised research strategies in an environment of fear and secrecy. The book was translated into Italian as Napoli sotto traccia. Musica neomelodica e marginalità sociale (Donzelli Editori, 2015) and won the Premio Sila, Sguardo da Lontano.
My research has been supported by the American Academy in Berlin, the Science History Institute, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.
More About Me
2021 #NemmenoConUnClic, Senator Cinzia Leone (M5), June 28.
2020 The World According to Jesse, RT America, November 13.
2020 To the Best of Our Knowledge, Charles Monroe-Kane, Wisconsin Public Radio, September 19.
2020 Public Intellectual, Jessa Crispin, April 20.
2020 The Morning Show, Kate Archer Kent, Wisconsin Public Radio, January 28.
2020 Matt McNeil Show, AM950 Minnesota, December 27.
2019 This is Hell!, Chuck Mertz, WNUR Chicago, November 4.
2015 La lingua batte, “Scuolapop,” RAI Radio3, November 29.
2015 L’erba dei vicini, hosted by Beppe Severgnini, RAI.TV 3, November 9.
2015 Zazà, “La zona grigia dell’identità,” RAI Radio3, March 29.
2020 Citylab, “The Rise and Fall of America’s Rural Meth Labs,” Sarah Holder, February 4.
2016 “’Narconomía’: el tráfico de drogas como modelo de negocio capitalista,” Javi Sánchez, GQ España, September 12, 2016.
2016 “Meth Modernity,” Thom Bettridge, 032c, 30, 172-179.
2016 “The Most Dangerous Music in the World,” Adam Rosen, Atlas Obscura, March 4.
2016 “Making Sense of Meth,” Clay Cansler, Distillations, Winter.
2016 “Esordi e successi come diventare un neomelodico,” Giovanni Chianelli, La Repubblica Napoli, July 9.
2016 “La moderna canzone popolare napoletana è da sempre nell’occhio delle polemiche Dal Giuliano paroliere agli inni al «Capo clan» e i cantanti al servizio del Sistema,” Il Mattino, January 20.
2015 “Il pop neomelodico e l’arte di arrangiarsi,” Federico Vacalebre, Il Mattino, November 22.
2015 “Un esercito di ragazzi via dalle aule perché Napoli non riesce a guarire; Le ferite di una città,” Marco Demarco, Corriere della Sera, September 12.
2015 “Napoli, tra neomelodici e violenza,” Diego Gabutti, ItaliaOggi, September 9.
2015 “L’indagine canora dell’americano che ha voluto fare il napoletano,” Alessandro Chetta, Corriere della Sera, March 13.
2015 “Cooking Up Trouble in the Heartland,” Chloe Taft, American Scholar, March 4.
2014 “Fringe Elements,” David McKay Wilson, University of Chicago Magazine, May-June.
2013 “I Embedded with a Community of Meth Users,” Alice Robb, The New Republic, December 23.
2013 “The Camorristi Way,” Hatib Abdul Kadir, The Jakarta Post, March 10.
- Alternative Economies
- Drugs, Bodies, Design
- Ethnographic Film and Documentary Theory
- Lively Geographies
- Material Cultures
- Sensing and Knowing in Anthropology, Psychology, and the Arts
- Urban Anthropology
- Environmental Media
- Media and Materiality
- Image, Matter, Worlds
2019 The Alchemy of Meth: A Decomposition. University of Minnesota Press.
(audiobook version narrated by the author recorded by Blackstone Publishing)
2012 The Art of Making Do in Naples. University of Minnesota Press.
2015 Napoli sotto traccia. Musica neomelodica e marginalità sociale. Donzelli Editori.
2020 “Home is a Waking Dream,” with Kathleen Stewart, Entanglements 3.2: 123-126.
2020 “Populist Realisms and Counterfeit Aesthetics,” Culture Machine 19.
2019 “’The Mafia’ as a Transformational Object,” Voci: Rivista di Scienze Umane.
2019 “Alchemical Ontology,” Media Fields Journal, 14.
2016 “Last Chance Incorporated,” Cultural Anthropology, 31.2: 297-318
2014 “Vocational Embodiment in The Girlfriend Experience and Magic Mike,” (with Michelle Stewart) TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 30-31: 183-205.
2013 “Neomelodica Music and Alternative Culture Industry,” (with Francesco Pepe) California Italian Studies 4.1.
2008 “Contact, Complicity, Complicity: Affective Communities and Economies of Affect in Naples,” Law, Culture and the Humanities, 4.3: 201-223.
2007 “Economy of Speed: The New Narco-Capitalism,” Public Culture, 19.2: 357-366.
2018 “Sun of the Sleepless,” Somatosphere, September 26, 2018.
2015 “Methlabs and Industrial Alchemy: A Toxic Allegory of Social Suffering,“ The Berlin Journal, 29: 34-37.
2015 “Tweaker Projects,” Seachange, 5: 12-20.
2023 “Iceland, Moss, Life” in Fieldnotes Raw and Unedited, edited by Denielle A. Elliott and Matthew Wolf-Meyer. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
2023 “Chemæra” in Anthropologies of Entanglements: Media and Modes of Existence, edited by Christiane Voss, Lorenz Engell and Tim Othold. London: Bloomsbury.
2019 “And Then You See Yourself Disappear” in Ethnographies of Brokenness and Repair: Affective transmissions and politics of failure, fixing and recuperation, edited by Francisco Martínez and Patrick Laviolette. Oxford: Berghan.
2019 “Aesthetic Disruption” in The Popular Culture of Illegality, edited by Rivke Jaffe, Martijn Oosterbaan and Wayne Modest. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press.
2011 “Transnational Organized Crime and Alternative Culture Industry” in Routledge Handbook of Transnational Organized Crime, edited by Felia Allum and Stan Gilmour, 335-349. London: Routledge.
2010 “Embodied Capitalism and the Meth Body” in The Body Reader: Essential Social and Cultural Readings, edited by Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut, 164-183. New York: New York University Press.
2008 “Ethnography, Video and the Aesthetics of Engagement” in Video Vision: Changing the Culture of Social Science Research, edited by Martin Downing and Lauren J. Tenney, 144-172. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
SELECTED REVIEW ESSAYS AND FORUMS
2022 “Writing Life No. 19: An Interview with Jason Pine” Somatosphere June 16.
2020 Review of Napolitaners. Italian American Review 11(1): 84-86.
2018 Comment on Rakopoulos, Theodoros. 2018. “The social life of mafia confession: Between talk and silence in Sicily.” Current Anthropology 59(2): 167-191.
2016 “Eine Totale Ökonomie: Meth in Missouri,” Jason Pine im Gespräch mit Daniel Eschkötter, Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft, 14: 106-119.
2014 “Dentro la città: Forum con Luciano Brancaccio, Nick Dines, Jason Pine e Marcello Ravveduto,” Meridiana, 80: 197-220.
2008 “Icons and Iconoclasm: Roberto Saviano’s Gommorah,” Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 11(3): 431-436.
2007 “Se la scrittura incontra l’arte.” Il Manifesto (Alias), December 15.
2002 “Il sogno infranto del ventriloquo.” Il Manifesto (Alias), March 2.
Presentations / Conferences
2022 “Etnografia e Letteratura: Appunti come metodo,” Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali, Università di Napoli Federico II (invitation) December 16.
2022 “Musica Popolare e Marginalità Urbana” Dipartimento di Etnomusicologia, Università di Napoli Federico II (invitation) May 16.
2021 “The Alchemy of Meth: A Decomposition.” U.S. Locations / Medicine and Its Objects Joint Workshop, University of Chicago (invitation) November 3.
2021 “Chemæra.” Anthropology Seminar Series, Maynooth University (invitation) March 21.
2019 “A Decomposition.” Columbia University Boaz Lecture (invitation) December 8.
2019 “Living and Dying in the Middle.” Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Vancouver, November 20-24.
2019 “Meth=Sorcery.” Anthropologies of Entanglements, International Conference of the Media Anthropology Center of Excellence (KOMA), Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (invitation) October 9-11.
2018 “Aesthetic Disruption.” The Popular Culture of Illegality. Museum for World Culture, Amsterdam (invitation) October 25-26.
2018 “Popular Realisms and Counterfeit Aesthetics.” Seminar on Media and Political Theory, Global Emergent Media Lab, Concordia University (invitation) April 20-21.
2017 “Counterfeit Capitalism Made in Italy.“ Mafia Culture. Between Enchantment, Justification and Cultural Commodities, a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities, University of Cologne (invited keynote) July 5-6.
2016 “Chemæra.” Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Minneapolis, November 18.
2016 “A Postnatural History of Methamphetamine in Heartland America.” Elemental Media Symposium. Media, Culture and Communication Department, New York University, November 11.
2015 “Chemæra.” More-than-Human Sensoria Workshop, Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia (invitation) September 18-19.
2015 “Methlabs, Material Culture and Industrial Geography.” Brown Bag Lecture, Chemical Heritage Foundation (invitation) May 5.
2015 “Toxic Inheritance and Alchemical Industry.” Annual Meeting of the Society for the Anthropology of North America. New York, April 16-18.
2015 “Methlabs, Alchemy and the Matter of Life.” Media Working Group Workshop, Columbia University, Department of Anthropology (invitation) March 6.
2014 “Methlabs and the Work of the Securitized Risk-Taker.” Ordinary Extraordinary: The Anthropology of Risk, Limits and Exposure, Workshop at University College, London, November 6-7.
2014 “The Voice of the Ventriloquist: Neomelodica Music and the Neapolitan Camorra.” Department of Italian, Rutgers University (invitation) October 7.
2014 “Methlabs, Alchemy and the Matter of Life.” Life, In Theory, Annual Meeting of the European Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, Turin, June 3-6.
2014 “Methlabs, Embodied Capitalism and General Economy.” The Ends of Work, Society for Cultural Anthropology Biennial Meeting, Detroit, May 4-6.
2014 “The Demiurge of Heartland America.” Religious Studies Colloquium, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania (invitation) April 17.
2013 “Methlabs and Ontologies of Making and Unmaking.” Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, November 21.
2013 “Methlabs, Alchemy, and the Matter of Life.” Four Field Colloquium, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan (invitation) October 11.
2013 “Methamphetamine and the Alchemy of Homespun Worlds.” Social Anthropology Faculty Colloquium, Harvard University (invitation) March 3.
2013 “Methlabs and Alchemical Ontology in the US Heartland.” Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin (invitation) February 11.
2012 “The Demiurge of the Methamphetamine Economy.” Objects of Affection: Towards a Materiology of Emotions, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University, May 4-6.
2011 “Neomelodica Music: The Art of Making Do and Organized Crime in the Contact Zone.” Delirious Naples: For a Cultural, Intellectual, and Urban History of the City of the Sun, Hofstra Cultural Center, Hofstra University (invitation) November 16-19.
2010 “Contact and Complicity: Making Music in the Margins of Organized Crime in Naples.” Center for Global Affairs, New York University (invitation) October 18.
2009 “Contact: ‘The Camorra’ and Ordinary Entanglements in Naples.” Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Philadelphia (chair and presenter) December 2-6.
2009 “Violent Performances in Naples and Its Diasporas.” Honor Crimes in a Mobile World, Past and Present, University Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center (co-organizer and co-chair) September 7-11.
2009 “Rural Risk: Methamphetamine as Moral Hazard.” Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, Denver, May 28-31.
2008 “Contact Zones: Aesthetics, Economics, and the Camorra in an Everyday Naples.” Columbia University Seminar in Studies in Modern Italy (invitation) December 12.
2008 “Production, Consumption, Expenditure: A Cultural Analysis of Methamphetamine.” Global Methamphetamine Conference 01, Prague, September 15-16.
2007 “Comunità affettiva: il caso della musica neomelodica.” Archivio Sonoro della Canzone Napoletana della RAI, Salone Margherita, Naples (invitation) September 3.
2006 “The Age of Meth: From Athletics to Wall Street.” Morphing Meth Conference, Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Waco (invitation) May 17-18.
2006 “Economic Speed and the New Narco-Capitalism.” Annual Meeting of the Society for the Anthropology of North America, New York, June 25-26.
2005 “Affective Community: Neapolitan Melodrama and Organized Crime.” Annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington D.C., December 15-19.
2005 “Affective/Aesthetic Community: The Melodramatic Aesthetic in Naples.” Keyword Panelist, Annual meeting of the American Ethnological Society, San Diego, April 7-10.
2005 “The Melodramatic Aesthetic and Organized Crime in Naples.” Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, Austin, March 11.
2004 “The Sceneggiata: Melodrama and Organized Crime, Spectacle and Secrecy.” Casa Italiana, New York University (invitation) March 9.
Exhibitions / Performances
2022 “The Golden Cage,” with Hakan Topal, Agha Khan Museum, Toronto, June 11-November 13.
2017 “Heartland Alchemy.” Chemo-Ethnography Installation, Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, November 14-18.
2015 “Methlabs and Late Industrial Alchemy in Missouri.” The American Academy in Berlin (invitation) November 19.
2015 “Chemæra.” Chemical Species, The Multispecies Salon, Anthropology Department, Princeton University (invitation) October 22-December 4.
2015 “Chemæra,” Altered Being, Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum, Philadelphia (invitation) September 18-19.
2015 “The Things That Are Left.” New Directions in Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin (invited plenary) March 27-8.
2013 “L’arte di arrangiarsi a Napoli.” Salerno Letteratura (Salerno Literature Festival), Salerno (invited lectio magistralis) June 27.
2013 “Counterfeit Capitalism, the Neapolitan Camorra and Trash Aesthetics.” High Trash: The Genealogy and Cultural Assimilation of Trash Aesthetics, Museum of Contemporary Art, Siegen, June 7-9.
2013 “Qualities of ‘Economic Performance’ in Alternative Economies.” (Re)Producing Value: Incommensurable Exchange, Museum of Arts and Design (invitation) New York, February 21.