Psychedelics in Society and Culture

Psychedelics in Society and Culture is an initiative jointly housed at UC Berkeley and Harvard that will foster collaboration both within and between the two universities, to spark innovative, creative, and interdisciplinary research in this under-explored domain.

The new initiative funds projects on psychedelics by undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty across the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The grant program aims to deepen our understanding of psychedelics, their implications for the human experience, their histories, their cultural contexts and resonances, and their significance for society.

Much research on psychedelics to date has focused on their important potential for therapeutic applications. This new grant program supports collaborations at the intersections of psychedelics and humanistic inquiry, rather than the clinical investigation of psychedelics.

We encourage research into the role of psychedelics across diverse histories, cultures, and geographies. Our hope is that this grant will produce work vital to both institutions’ growing psychedelics programs as well as the burgeoning field of psychedelics as a whole.

Grants will likely range from $1,000 to $65,000, depending on the activity’s scope and scale.

Imran Khan, executive director of BCSP, speaks about the launch of the Psychedelics in Society and Culture humanities program.

What could psychedelics in society and culture investigate?

Potential questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How do psychedelics shed new light on questions about human consciousness, existence, creativity, mortality, and transcendence?
  • How do psychedelics drive and refract social and cultural change? How do they shape art, music, and other cultural forms?
  • How have psychedelics influenced the history of religion and spiritual practice? How do psychedelics relate to other practices that induce non-ordinary states of consciousness?
  • How do psychedelics interrelate with historical and contemporary concepts of Indigeneity? How do those relationships evolve and change over time?
  • How are psychedelics influencing visions of community and collectivity?
  • What roles do ceremony and tradition play in the impact and effectiveness of psychedelic use? How are rituals transformed in their global circulation?
  • Are there ethical implications for the use of psychedelics given debates around cultural appropriation, commodification, and accessibility? 

What projects are eligible?

Eligible projects and activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Original scholarship and research projects
  • Public events, including lectures, panel discussions, conferences, symposia
  • Dissemination of specialized knowledge, including through data visualizations, popular publications, digital or web-based platforms
  • Arts programming, including exhibitions, performances, film series
  • Fellowship programs
  • Travel grants
Michael Pollan, co-founder of BCSP, in conversation about Psychedelics in Society and Culture at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University.

At UC Berkeley, the Fellowship will be launched by the new Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) in collaboration with the new Center for Interdisciplinary Critical Inquiry (CICI). At Harvard, the Mahindra Humanities Center will act as a central, accessible forum and convening authority for the effort in collaboration with the Center for the Study of World Religions at the Harvard Divinity School and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. The initiative will establish an interdisciplinary committee of peer reviewers to select finalists from a diverse pool of candidates who respond to a Request for Proposals circulated across each campus. The two campuses will collaborate on joint events.

We encourage a wide range of proposals, including both individual and group applications. 

At UC Berkeley, this initiative is supported by generous funding from the Flourish Trust.

Find out more

Contact us with any questions about the program. Applications will open on December 15.

Want to find out more about this program?

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Thank you! We will be in touch when applications for the Psychedelics in Society and Culture program are open.