A conversation about marijuana, ayahuasca and psychedelic cultures and models of commodification of plant medicines

February 21st, 6-8 PM – Viking Hall, 240 Plymouth Street, Santa Cruz, CA

This event will launch the book Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond, with the presence of co-editors Bia Labate, PhD, & Clancy Cavnar, PsyD. Valerie Corral (WAMM) and Annie Oak (WVC) will join in with a conversation about parallels between marijuana, ayahuasca and psychedelic cultures, and the current models of commodification and regulation of plant medicines. Janis Phelps (CIIS) will moderate the discussion. Click here to download the event flier

Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond

Beatriz Labate will present an overview of the book Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond co-edited by Beatriz Caiuby Labate and Clancy Cavnar, and published through Oxford University Press in 2014. The book discusses how Amerindian epistemology and ontology related to certain indigenous shamanic rituals of the Amazon spread to Western societies, and how indigenous, mestizo, and cosmopolitan cultures have dialogued with and transformed these forest traditions. The collection also focuses on how shamanic rituals have been spreading and developing in post-traditional urban contexts throughout the world. Special attention is given to ayahuasca, a psychoactive drink usually composed of two plants, the vine Banisteriopsis caapi and leaves of the Psychotria viridis bush.

Ayahuasca use has spread beyond its Amazonian origin and instigated a variety of legal and cultural responses in the countries it has spread to. The chapters in the book address some of the ways these responses have influenced ritual design and performance in traditional and non-traditional contexts, including:

  • How displaced indigenous people and rubber tappers are engaged in creative reinvention of rituals, and how these rituals help build ethnic alliances and cultural and political strategies for their marginalized position.
  • Modernity’s fascination with “tradition” and the “other.” This phenomenon is directly tied to important classic and contemporary issues in anthropology, including the relationship between the expansion of ecotourism and ethnic tourism, recent indigenous cultural revivals, and the emergence of new ethnic identities.
  • Trends in the commodification of indigenous cultures in post-colonial contexts, and the combination of shamanism with a network of health and spiritually related services.
  • Identity hybridization in global societies.

The previously unpublished ethnographies and analysis collected in these chapters add to the understanding of the role of ritual in mediating the encounter between indigenous traditions and modern societies.


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