The Pharmakon

Concept Figure, Image of Transgression, Poetic Practice



The ancient Greek semantic of “pharmakon” comprised at least three meanings – denoting a medicine, a poison, and/or a magic potion. This helps to uncover a non-dogmatic meaning of “drugs.” A millenarian cultural history testifies to the ongoing need of communities and societies to actively use and deal with “pharmaka,” prominently including mind-altering substances. However, Western modernity has complicated an unbiased approach to the pharmacological aspects of historical and social life by aggressively multiplying, and later restricting psychoactive substances.

The present volume questions a logic of good vs. bad drugs as it discusses a wide semantic spectrum – the cultural, anthropological, aesthetic, and poetological scope of the “pharmakon.” In order to critically resituate the concept, the book offers a glance into compelling scenarios, European, North American, Latin American, Transatlantic, and fascinating transdisciplinary perspectives.