A Comparative Analysis of Ayahuasca Healing in Amazonia and Australia

Alex Gearin, PhD (C)



Abstract: Over the last few decades the Amazonian psychoactive brew ayahuasca has undergone a rapid and quickening process of globalization. While there have not been many studies dedicated to comprehending indigenous Amazonian uses of ayahuasca, anthropologists tend to understand indigenous ayahuasca practices as being embedded in broader Amazonian ontological perspectives or ways of relating to the world. With a focus on notions of health, this talk undertakes a comparative analysis of basic principles of indigenous Amazonian ayahuasca practice in contrast to various cosmological postulates of ayahuasca use in Australian society. The analysis draws on personal fieldwork undertaken in Australian ayahuasca circles during 2011 and 2012 along with seminal ethnographies on the use of ayahuasca in indigenous Amazonia. Questions that will be explored include the instability of identity and personhood, notions of illness and wellbeing, and the encounter between humans and spirits or discarnate entities.

Alex Gearin is currently a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. His dissertation research involves a multi-sited ethnographic study of ayahuasca culture in Australia with a focus on health and cosmology. His B.A. thesis, written at La Trobe University, explores discourse on Amerindian ontology and the Upper Amazonian social contexts of discarnate entities encountered through the use of ayahuasca. Additional research interests include the anthropology of sorcery and witchcraft, post-colonialism, drug policy, and globalization.


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