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Jason A. Pine

Professor of Media Studies and Anthropology

Jason Pine is an anthropologist and teaches courses in both the anthropology and media studies programs. His research focuses on people’s everyday pursuits of personal sovereignty in alternative economies and alternative ecologies. 

His second 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.

Pine’s research has been supported by the American Academy in Berlin, the Science History Institute, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Representative Courses

  • 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



2019   The Alchemy of Meth: A Decomposition. University of Minnesota Press.

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.


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.


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.


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.


2016   “Meth Modernity,” Thom Bettridge, 032c, 30, 172-179.

2016   “’Narconomía’: el tráfico de drogas como modelo de negocio capitalista,” Javi Sánchez, GQ España, September 12, 2016.

2016   “The Most Dangerous Music in the World,” Adam Rosen, Atlas Obscura, March 4.

2016   “Making Sense of Meth,” Clay Cansler, Distillations, Winter.

2015   “Il pop neomelodico e l’arte di arrangiarsi,” Federico Vacalebre, Il Mattino, November 22.

2015   “Cooking Up Trouble in the Heartland,” Chloe Taft, American Scholar, March 4.

2015   “L’indagine canora dell’americano che ha voluto fare il napoletano,” Alessandro Chetta, Corriere della Sera, March 13.

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.

Presentations / Conferences

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

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.