Ayahuasca, Psychedelic Studies and Health Sciences: The Politics of Knowledge and Inquiry into an Amazonian Plant Brew
Kenneth W. Tupper (Presenter), Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada & Beatriz C. Labate, Visiting Professor, Centro de InvestigaciÃ³n y Docencia EconÃ³micas, Mexico
This presentation offers critical sociological and philosophical reflections on ayahuasca and other psychedelics as objects of scientific research in medicine and health. It situates 21st century scientific inquiry on ayahuasca in the broader context of how early modern European social trends and intellectual pursuits translated into new forms of empiricism and experimental philosophy, but later evolved into a form of dogmatism that convenienced the political suppression of academic inquiry into psychedelics. Applying ideas from the field of science and technology studies (STS), we consider how ayahuascaâs myriad ontological representations in the 21st centuryâfor example, plant teacher, traditional medicine, religious sacrament, material commodity, cognitive tool, illicit drugâinfluence our understandings of it as an object of inquiry. We then explore epistemological issues related to ayahuasca studies, including how the indigenous and mestizo concept of âplant teacherâ or the more instrumental notion of psychedelics as âcognitive toolsâ may impact understandings of knowledge. This leads to questions about whether scientists engaged in ayahuasca research should be expected to have personal experiences with the brew, and how these may be perceived to help or hinder the objectivity of their pursuits. We conclude with some brief reflections on the politics of psychedelic research and impediments to academic knowledge production in the field of psychedelic studies
Keywords: Science, Philosophy, Sociology, Epistemology, Ontology
Social Representations about Yage in a Group of Young people from Cali, Colombia
Neil White, BA Social Sciences, University of Leeds, England, Semillas Cofan, Barcelona
Introduction: This study is, in part, a response to the return to a holistic vision of the human being with many modern therapeutic practices taking direct inspiration
from ancient techniques employed by traditional communities for the purposes of individual and collective health as opposed to the fragmented and often unilateral vision of modern medicine. Objectives: To investigate the motives and relevant representations of Ayahuasca among young people from a westernized culture (Cali, Colombia). It was necessary to determine and categorise the ideas, beliefs and myths that make up their social representations of Ayahuasca with a view to finding their relationship to physical and psychological health. Method: An integral, qualitative and descriptive study by means of a semi-structured interview of 10 subjects between 18 and 25 all of whom had been drinking Ayahuasca for more than 4 years with Cofan shamans. The design of the study was such as to allow for the search and retrieval of incidences and characteristics across categories and comparisons were drawn between theoretical concepts and an overall theoretical framework (Social Representation Theory). Results: In most of the young people interviewed there appeared to have taken place indicators of personal growth through the process of drinking Ayahuasca in a shamanic setting, especially relating to the search and discovery of a personal spirituality. Conclusions: Among the most common social representations held by the subjects was its consideration as a medicinal plant on a physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual level as well as the fundamental importance of all aspects of the Ayahuasca ceremony. Despite the fact that this phenomenon is relatively new in the western context, the social representations developed through the drinking of Ayahuasca have caused deeply rooted ideas, beliefs and myths in the daily lives of the subjects. Ayahuasca is a means by which the subjects have found self-understanding, something which they were unable to find in western culture.
Palabras clave: Traditional Medicine, Ayahuasca, Colombia, Social Representations, Spirituality
Personal Wellbeing and the Good Mother of Nature: Ayahuasca Spirituality in Australia
Alex K. Gearin Brisbane, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Embodying types of metropolitan and industrialised consciousness, ayahuasca drinkers in Australia approach their practice as a means of gaining Ê»natural intelligenceÊ¼ and organic wellbeing on the level of spirituality. These notions of intelligence and wellbeing permeate narrative accounts of ayahuasca visions and are associated to diverse types of individual healing and cultural critique. Based on recent ethnographic fieldwork in Australian ayahuasca circles, this paper explores ways in which ayahuasca visions couple with discourse on anthropogenic ecological crisis and natural alienation to mediate personalised understandings of sickness, emotional and social instability, and diverse moral vicissitudes. Distinctions of Ê»natureÊ¼ and Ê»cultureÊ¼ in this context are shown to underlie morally charged perceptions of personal and social conduct. By contrast, concepts of Ê»natureÊ¼ and Ê»cultureÊ¼ in the anthropology of indigenous Amazonia have undergone radical revision in recent decades to the extent that some researchers are urging the abandonment of the distinction all together. This paper imports nuances of nature-culture theory in Amazonian anthropology and demonstrates ways in which the reimagining of ayahuasca in Australian society involves the modern idea of nature as separate and wounded. This idea is linked to specific political and scientific discourse of industrialised states and is shown to provide the vision by which Australian ayahuasca drinkers work to overcome social alienation and heal diverse aspects of their moral lives.
Keywords: Australia, Healing, Morality, Nature, Culture