Christian Greer, ASH PhD candidate, will defend the dissertation entitled 'Angel-Headed Hipsters: Psychedelic Militancy in Nineteen-Eighties North America' supervised by Prof. Wouter Hanegraaff and co-supervised by Dr Marco Pasi.
The psychedelic dimension of religious experience occupies a marginal position in the scholarship of American culture. For the last seven decades, scholars have viewed the psychedelicist church movement as, variously, an excuse for taking illegal drugs, an inauthentic mode of religious fellowship, and a purely oppositional “counter-culture.” More recent scholarship challenges these interpretations by emphasizing the legitimacy of the experiences occasioned by psychedelics.
Psychedelicism in the 1980s took shape as the “zine scene,” a vast information network composed of approximately ten thousand self-publishers. The convergence of underground networks that coalesced into this expansive literary microcosm can be traced back to the SubGenius Church. This fellowship of psychedelicist hipsters organized its members into an epistolary network. This intra-church postal exchange was the seed out of which the zine scene bloomed. However, the SubGenius Church would not retain its position at the fore of the zine scene indefinitely. A mass defection ensued after the SubGenius leadership brokered deals with major media corporations. The subsequent commercialization of the Church provoked long-time SubGeniuses to relocate to Factsheet Five, a newly created fanzine directory. It was here that the zine scene developed into a major cultural phenomenon.
Through an examination of the hipster militants of the zine scene, this dissertation re-centers psychedelicist fellowships in 1980s hip culture. It is only by recognizing the interplay between the hipsters of the psychedelicist church movement, and hip capitalism, that the role of esotericism in American culture can be understood.