Maria Dębińska received a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Warsaw in 2015. Her thesis on transgender politics in Poland was published in 2020 in Polish under the title Transplciowosc w Polsce. Wytwarzanie kategorii (Transgender in Poland. Production of a Category). She is interested in how scientific knowledge enters non-academic social fields and how it is used and transformed when adapted by new social groups.

She has written on the sociological ambitions of Polish sexology before 1989, climate activism in Poland as an apparatus that allows for perceiving and conceptualizing climate change, and the slime mould as a site for defining and conceptualizing the social. Since 2019 she has held an Assistant Professor position at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, where from 2020–22 she was principal investigator of the research grant Slime as Method: Ethnography of Scientific Practice funded by the National Science Centre in Poland.

Modelling the Human/World with the Slime Mould Physarum polycephalum
ICI Project 2022-24

Physarum polycephalum is a plasmodial slime mould, an organism that looks like a fungus but behaves like an animal, as it is able to move and feeds on bacteria, fungi spores, and rotting matter. Its unusual properties have turned it into a very popular laboratory organism, employed in a variety of experiments investigating the origins of intelligence and consciousness, as well as the creation and optimization of networks.

The aim of this project is to examine chosen experiments with Physarum polycephalum in order to describe the ways in which it is used as a model of and for human behaviours and communication systems. A close examination of the slime mould apparatus (a concept borrowed from Karen Barad), especially of experimental lab procedures and the underlying theoretical premises of Physarum experiments, will provide a detailed rendering of what Martin Holbraad has called ‘the shape of conceptual relations’ within it. Of particular interest is how concepts of the world and of the human coalesce through the slimy and transform within the apparatus.