Two in pretty quick succession! The Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP) has just published a paper of mine. It’s an article drawn from my thesis work – it’s probably the chapter I’m most proud of, work I’m still excited about. Though I’m studying acupuncture and herbalism at the moment, I’m still very interested in ayahuasca research, and so I’m really excited to have this paper published.
Religion, Medicine, and Healing: An Anthology is a new collection of academic articles put together by my friend and mentor Robin Wright. I had the opportunity to contribute an article to the collection, and I’m excited to say that it has now come out! It’s an ebook in the vitalsource ecosystem, so I can’t post a direct link to the article, but check out the cover. Very cool! There’s also a pretty cool flyer. Oh, and “La Medicina: Ritual and Healing with Ayahuasca” is the title of my article, so it’s also the title of this post.
The CBC will be airing this shortly, but it’s very much worth keeping an eye out for. From what I understand it should be online relatively quickly after it airs live.
From the site:
Since the publication of his award-winning book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Mate has been one of Canada’s leading thinkers on addiction and its deeper causes. The experience of making the film has had a profound impact on him: “As a physician all too aware of the limitations and narrowness of Western medicine, I have learned much from working with this plant. The Jungle Prescription took me far physically, but even further in the spiritual realm where our deepest humanity resides. The plant, and the experience with the plant, is no panacea. There are no panaceas. But as an opening to human possibility, even in the face of lifelong trauma and desperation, it offers much. Seeing people open to themselves, even temporarily, has been a teaching and an inspiration.”
Having experienced the way addiction can tear families apart first-hand, I’m very interested and excited to hear of newer, and better ways to work with those who have been hit hardest and most immediately by the disease. I very much believe that there is something qualitatively different about ayahuasca and other “hallucinogens” (however antiquated the term) from other psychoactive substances. Research in this direction has the ability to nuance our understanding of these differences, and hopefully make very real, lasting impacts for the better on people’s lives.
Bia Labate sent this along, asking if friends would post it to their blogs. I’m doing so! Anyone who’s involved in this kind of research, I know they’d love to have more people show up. I’d go if I could, but I’m unfortunately too busy that week.
Phillipe Lucas, Research Affiliate at the Center for Addictions Research of British Colombia, Brian Anderson, MD Candidate at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Bia Labate, Research Associate at the Institute of Medical Psychology, Heidelberg University, have the privilege to organize a meeting and dialogue of international ayahuasca researchers as a adjunct to the upcoming MAPS conference in Oakland (http://www.maps.org/conference/25/). The meeting will take place at the conference site (Oakland Marriott City Center) on Sunday, Dec. 11th, 2:30-4:30, and is free but will be exclusive to ayahuasca academics. Participants will be invited to share current projects, successes, and challenges, and to discuss the present and the future of the international ayahuasca research. To sign up for this Ayahuasca Researcher Dialogue, please email Phillipe (email@example.com) to express your interest.
I’ve just joined NEIP! To quote from their website:
“The NEIP – Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies – was founded in 2001 and is a center for study of psychoactive substances that brings together scholars in the Human Sciences affiliated with various institutions to promote joint reflection on the topic. The NEIP has functioned above all as a space for academic dialogue useful in developing our own research. “
It is headed up by Bia Labate who is one of the preeminent scholars, both in Brazil and internationally, on Ayahuasca. I am extremely honored to be allowed to join, and am very excited about the opportunity. My profile has been put up here, and a PDF of one of my essays on ayahuasca has been published over here!
Very, very exciting stuff!
I’m toying around with this as a potential MA thesis topic. I’m posting it here for possible feedback and thoughts… I’m excited about the ideas, whether they go forward in exactly this form or not!
Update – 2011/10/08 – Minor rewording
The Trees are Human: Psychoactive Plants, the Subjectivity of Nature, and an Engagement with Modernity in the Napo Runa Kichwa Culture of Ecuador
This thesis is an exploration of the intersection of three distinct areas of inquiry: the experience – shamanic, religious, mystical, or ecstatic – of psychoactive plants; worldviews that recognize and affirm subjectivity and agency in the other-than-human-persons of plants, animals, and places; and how such worldviews engage with, resist, integrate, and transform forces of globalization, in terms of neoliberal economic policy, cultural integration of technological change, and democratic forms of government and self-government. In following a set of concepts put forward by Ralph Metzner among others, this work suggests that unique responses to the ecological and psycho-social devastation currently facing the techno-scientific, capitalist-industrialist “modern” world may very well be found in the link between worldviews affirming the subjectivity of nature, and the phenomenology of the experience of psychoactive plants. This is to say that it is possible that affirming the subjectivity of aspects of the “natural” world can act as a means by which ecological factors cease to be understood only as resources for human exploitation. This thesis presents an effort to understand how Napo Runa people are able to engage with the seemingly inherent tensions between the forces of globalization and more traditional ways of understanding the world, without forcing a false dialectical synthesis. By focusing on specific ethnographic research, an effort is made to see these worldviews in context with one another as they are being actively lived and negotiated. This research focuses on understanding and communicating the complexity of lived worldviews through stories, histories, and the relating of experiences of the Napo Runa Kichwa people near Tena, Ecuador. This ethnographic research is done in an attempt to ascertain how psychoactive plants and worldviews that affirm the subjectivity of the other-than-human “natural” world are in dialogue with one another, and thereby mutually informing. Embedded within such an effort is a questioning of whether or not the “tensions” that might be perceived between these worldviews and techno-scientific ones present themselves as such for Runa people, or if such tensions are a product of putatively Western and, perhaps more explicitly, academic, categories. Shaping the aims of this research is the question of how people, both shamans and non-shamans, characterize their experience with psychoactive plants, what they draw from these experiences as personally meaningful, and how these experiences have translated into action in, and understanding of, the world. An effort is made to ensure that the immediate and personal experiences of people stand side by side with discussions of urbanization, neoliberal economic policy, and techno-scientific modernity, such that categorical contrasts are neither ignored nor erected without immediate grounding in lived experience.
In doing research for the new working group on psychoactive plants and religion, I came across an article by Ralph Metzner published in the Eleusis journal in 1997. In it, he puts forward the premise that a revival of animistic worldviews is necessary to combat the exploitation and destruction of the ecosystems of which we are ourselves part, and that psychoactive plants and the shamanic systems of knowledge within which their use has been situated are very likely to play a distinct role in any such radical change. Though the article was published in ’97, it’s no less relevant or timely now than it was then, and I found it distinctly inspiring. Having written recently on animistic worldviews and their relationships to an embedded and immediate sense of ecology, it makes me downright enthusiastic to read other work like this!
This summer, I’ve been given the opportunity to study Kichwa (Quechua) in Ecuador! I’m extremely excited about the opportunity, as Kichwa is spoken in both Peru and Ecuador, which is where I hope to do fieldwork. With many words of the language showing up in the discourses surrounding plants and spirits in vegetalismo, as well as in the icaros sung by ayahuasqueros, Kichwa is particularly apt for the research I want to do, and I couldn’t be more excited or grateful for the chance to go. For anyone who’s interested in more information, the field school’s website is here, and a little bit more about some of the programs can be found here.
We just started up a new site for our Working Group on Psychoactive Plants and Religion. I’m really excited about this project, we’re hoping for the Fall 2011 semester to really get it moving. We’re planning to try to host seminars during the semester months, and even a conference near the end of the year. We’ll be updating more as we go along, and I’m sure I’ll post about it here too, but please, go check it out!