Joseph Crickmore
PhD candidate

De-Colonizing Spice Melange

In the universe of Dune, “who controls the spice controls the universe.” Author Frank Herbert maintained a fascination with psychedelics as unique mind-altering substances throughout his life, and wove this interest throughout his fictional works. This finds no greater demonstration than psychedelia’s central role in his seminal work, the Dune series. Not only did these works come to define the modern sci-fi genre, but they are rich with Herbert’s speculative analysis as to the socio-political impact these substances would have on society.

In a fictional universe in which mind and human consciousness are of an unimpeachably sacred nature, mind-altering chemicals that enable the reconfiguring of the self are of a preeminent value; “the spice must flow!” In this first talk of the panel, we will first introduce Herbert’s relationship to psychedelic substances. Then we discuss the world of Dune and the role of the psychedelic spice therein. Finally, we explore the mature political and philosophical critiques Herbert offers as a throughline into the role a decolonizing philosophy can play in commentary on psychedelia. As we shall see, Herbert argues that psychedelics can serve the contradictory ends of both bolstering colonial knowledge-power relations, while simultaneously offering an authentic liberation from oppressive logics.

Joseph Crickmore completed both his BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and the MA Political Thought at the University of Exeter. Since graduating he has worked as Digital Learning Officer and is due to commence his PhD research on ‘Societies of Esteem Bereft of Labour' in Christine Hauskeller’s research group. While his primary research interests lie in Post-Hegelian political thought and especially Critical Theory, taking the Masters module Philosophy and Psychedelics in 2021 got him very interested in the application of political philosophy to the novel concerns of psychedelia.

Since then he has been an active participant in Exeter's Philosophy and Psychedelics Research Group and contributed to several working groups and co-authored the article 'Decolonisation is a metaphor towards a different ethic. The case from psychedelic studies' (2022). He remains an active member of several research groups on psychedelic studies at Exeter University, viewing psychedelia as Dune’s “fountain of surprises.”