Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Deward E. Walker, PhD

Abstract

The essay explores the globalization of ayahuasca, a plant medicine endemic to the Upper Amazon. Originally distributed among only Indigenous Amazonian people, today it is distributed throughout the globe. Contemporary consumers of ayahuasca construct it not only as a medicine, but also as a religious sacrament, and as a drug. This essay benefits from information gathered during fieldwork the author personally conducted in the Peruvian Amazon and the city of Cusco in October of 2009. Understanding the globalization of ayahuasca involves understanding its contexts, which I explore before recounting ayahuasca’s history. These contexts include: my own fieldwork on this subject, the relationship between Indigenous and Western cultures, the nature of ayahuasca, shamanism, and globalization itself. I discuss changes in ayahuasca’s use and meaning and raise issues involved with its globalization. These include legal issues, commodification, and cultural appropriation. I recount the history of the globalization of ayahuasca, and in conclusion, revisit my hypothesis. This is a recent history, contributing freshresearch to the bodies of scholarly work on ayahuasca, globalization, and indigenous religious practices as a whole. The globalization of ayahuasca is a contemporary phenomenon, coming only in the past decade, but like globalization itself it has deep roots.

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