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Dr Maria Dębińska

Dr Maria Dębińska

Centre for Ethnology and Contemporary Anthropology













Research profile


I am interested in how scientific knowledge enters non-academic social fields and how it is used and transformed when adapted by new social groups. What happens when persons who are not professional scientists start to test and reshape scientific knowledge and research procedures? What new practices and identities emerge in such situations? How are power relations changed in a given social field? How do various social actors co-create non-academic scientific knowledge and how is this knowledge legitimized? My research is situated within the methodological framework of
 social anthropology with the focus on anthropology of gender and sexuality and social studies of science. I have conducted ethnographic research among various groups 
of users and interpreters of scientific knowledge: trans persons in Poland, climate activists, and currently - among biologists and bio-artists.


Current research project


The project "Slime mold as method. Ethnography of scientific practice" is financed by the National Science Center (OPUS 2019/33/B/HS3/02332).


The project is designed as an ethnographic study of human engagements with the slime mold Physarum polycephalum. It has two aims: the empirical aim is to provide an ethnographic description of a variety of scientific and artistic practices related to the slime mold; the theoretical aim is to formulate an intervention in the discussions on the posthuman turn in anthropology by analyzing the slime mold assemblage and the particular knowledge-practices generated by the slime mold.


Due to the relative easiness of culturing, Physarum polycephalum is popular among DIY biologists and biohackers and is a staple organism in the increasingly popular open wetlabs run by non-governmental organizations. Since the organism became famous for finding a way out of a maze, re-tracing the Tokyo subway scheme, and controlling a robot, it has been employed to solve countless tasks and puzzles by amateurs and professional biologists alike. Ethnographic description of scientific and bio-artistic practices using Physarum polycephalum will map an emerging field of social practice and provide a glimpse into a number of current social developments, such as the increased accessibility of biotechnology, intensified exchange of concepts and ideas betweeen biology and humanities and the  unprecedented popular interest in biology which has spawned a growing number of biohacking collectives, open wetlabs, citizen science initiatives and DIY biology groups.


Selected publications




Dębińska M. 2020. Transpłciowość w Polsce. Wytwarzanie kategorii, Wydawnictwo IAE PAN, Warszawa.




Dębińska M. 2023. Inne fikcje, albo otwieranie pigułki, Praktyka Teoretyczna, 1(47), 47-73.


Dębińska M. 2021. Witnessing from within: Hyperobjects and climate activism in Poland, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 11(2), 445-460.


Dębińska M. 2021. Diagnosing transsexualism, diagnosing society: the blurred genres of Polish sexology in the 1970s and 1980s, w: Queers in State Socialism. Cruising 1970s Poland, red. Tomasz Basiuk, Jędrzej Burszta, Routledge, London, New York.


Dębińska M. 2020. Śluzowce, ludzie i superorganizm, Czas Kultury, 2, 36-42.


Dębińska M. 2014. Trzeba zmienić społeczeństwo. Seksuologia i transseksualizm w późnym PRL, Zeszyty Etnologii Wrocławskiej, 1(20), 51-73.


Dębińska M. 2013. Natura, kultura i hybrydy. Prawne konstrukcje transseksualizmu i sprawy o ustalenie płci, Lud, 47, 221-244.


Dębińska M. 2012. Queer i polityka cierpienia. Strategie narracyjne i polityczne osób trans w Polsce [w:] A. Stasińska, M. Drozdowski, M. Kłosowska (red.), Strategie Queer. Od teorii do praktyki (226-244). Warszawa: Difin.