2014 – Groundbreaking Anthropology Volume on Ayahuasca Shamanism
The text Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond, (edited by anthropologist Dr. Bia Labate and psychologist Dr. Clancy Cavnar, and published by Oxford University Press) is released with cutting-edge anthropological research into how the traditional use of ayahuasca has been changing in the contexts of modernization, capitalism, and tourism. The volume includes some of the best anthropologists working in the area and represents what is perhaps the most coherent ethnographic window onto the contemporary phenomena.
As outlined on the back of Ayahuasca Shamanism:
“Ayahuasca use has spread to countries far beyond its Amazonian origin, spurring a wide variety of legal and cultural responses. The essays in this volume look at how these responses have influenced ritual design and performance in traditional and non-traditional contexts, how displaced indigenous people and rubber tappers are engaged in the creative reinvention of rituals, and how these rituals help build ethnic alliances and cultural and political strategies. These essays explore important classic and contemporary issues in anthropology, including the relationship between the expansion of ecotourism and ethnic tourism and recent indigenous cultural revival and the emergence of new ethnic identities. The volume also examines trends in the commodification of indigenous cultures in post-colonial contexts, the combination of shamanism with a network of health and spiritually related services, and identity hybridization in global societies.”
Philipe Erikson, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre, said this about the book:
“Much has been written about ayahuasca and shamanism, but this book will certainly stand out because it is problem-oriented and includes a fascinating array of chapters by leading experts of different backgrounds. It therefore promises to be an important contribution to religious anthropology rather than yet another instance of mystical mumbo-jumbo.”
Labate and Cavnar have also been the editors of a small library of academic ayahuasca books, including on traditional and ritual uses, health and healing, churches in Brazil, drug policy issues, and global diasporic communities.
The collection of anthropological essays can be situated among a larger collection of seminal ayahuasca research by anthropologists and others. This should include the German explorer Theodor Koch-Grünberg’s efforts to record indigenous myths and belief systems surrounding ayahuasca use in 1903, the French anthropologist P. Reinburg’s experiments with ayahuasca in 1931, Richard Evans Schultes’s research on ayahuasca ethnobotany, Reichel-Dolmatoff’s ethnographies of Tukano shamanism in the 1960s and 70s, and Marlene Dobkin de Rios’ analysis of urban ayahuasca healers in Peru in the 1970s, Luis Eduardo Luna’s work on ayahuasca “plant teachers“, and Michael Taussig’s genre-bending work on ayahuasca and colonialism in the 1980s, just to name a few.
Labate, B. C. and Cavnar, C. (Eds.) 2012. Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond. Oxford, Oxford University Press.