Tehseen Noorani

PhD, Anthropologist

Durham University

Psychedelic Agnotology and the Need to Move to a Transformative Paradigm


The sociological subfield of ‘agnotology’ refers to the study of what is not known, could have been known, or has been obscured – whether deliberately or unintentionally. This presentation will draw on insights from agnotology to identify areas of caution in the interpretation of psychedelic randomised controlled trial (RCT) findings to date. 

After acknowledging the aspirations of RCTs for generalisable and objective knowledge about the effects of psychedelics, the talk will take up alternative paradigms of research where knowledge is deeply context-dependent and understood as accountable to social movements. This is one way to frame the pivot from RCTs to real-world data (RWD). 

The talk will then unpack some of the implications of a ‘transformative paradigm’ of research for the collection of RWD, considering this as a case in point of the aspiration to psychedelicize medicine rather than medicalize psychedelics.


Tehseen Noorani studies the co-evolving epistemics, therapeutics & economics of extreme experiences. He is an interdisciplinary social scientist, currently holding research positions in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the Anthropology Department at Durham University in the UK. Over the past decade he has traced the renewed scientific and therapeutic interest in psychedelic experiences, exploring implications for theories of psychopathology and approaches to mental healthcare. 

Weaving together scientific, spiritual and aesthetic registers, his research is situated in the context of medicalisation in the global North and the ongoing 'war on drugs'. Tehseen also focuses on methodological issues that arise in the study of psychedelics, partly through convening the ‘Reimagining Psychedelic Trials’ interdisciplinary working group. He is part-time scholar-in-residence at Tactogen Public Benefit Corporation and an Ambassador to Fireside Project.