Good Mother Nature: Ayahuasca neoshamanism as cultural critique (conference video)

This paper imports nuances of nature-culture theory in Amazonian anthropology and demonstrates ways in which the reimagining of ayahuasca use 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. The talk was presented at the AYA2014 conference in Ibiza, Spain.

One thought on “Good Mother Nature: Ayahuasca neoshamanism as cultural critique (conference video)

  1. Yeah that was pretty interesting. It’s certainly the impression I get that Westerners a reading what they want into the experience, including a dichotomy between nature and civilization, the reality of Gaia, utopian thinking, and regarding as irrelevant some of the pre-modern cultural practices of Amazonian people.

    Going straight to the deepest part of it, ego dissolution, it sounds like this is being interpreted through a mental framework after the fact of the experience, and the setting for it is being kept away from anything which might disrupt that framework. So by emphasizing doing the ceremonies in natural settings it minimizes the possibility that similar ecstatic states may actually encompass the civilized rather than exclude it.

    By which I mean, if you trip in the city then civilization might seem part of the marvellous organism of Earth rather than something alien and destructive of it.

    What happens to the Gaian mythology if someone does find themselves One with the office blocks, roads and factories ?

    It’s an easy internet search to find people for whom this is the case under all sorts of drugs and circumstances. When you include all the accounts of mystical experience bequeathed to us by history, although there tends to be an emphasis on nature in many cases, civilization isn’t an impediment to ego dissolution. And I know from personal experience that doing all-natural substances can make industrial settings seem eerily magical – not evil.

    Which isn’t to say that the modern world isn’t full of garbage and suffering, and that capitalism (as many isms) sees people as utilities rather than as fellows, but it could be that the choice is made by the ayahuasca drinkers that this is the case before embarking on any trips, rather then because of them.

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