PhD Student in Social and Cultural Anthropology Castillo Sidney

66000 €

Becoming through plants: Ayahuasca rituals and ethical well-being among the indigenous peoples of northeastern Peru

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Kolmivuotinen

Ayahuasca rituals are the purposeful drinking of the ayahuasca psychoactive brew to induce strong visionary and bodily experiences. By exploring ayahuasca practices as a source of well-being, I ask whether indigenous practices can open up alternative perspectives on ethics. I will explore how people learn what to consider “good to be”, or “what they ought to do” in concrete instances and examine how these notions of wellbeing compare with ideas underlying the therapeutic use of psychoactive substances in the Global North. For this purpose, I carry out an ethnographic study (January 2022-July 2023) in the rainforest of Peru, at two locations where ayahuasca rituals are prominent cultural practices of individual and collective wellbeing: Santa Maria de Nieva (Amazonas), a small town of the Awajún people; and Tarapoto (San Martin), a city that acts as the gateway to Kichwa-Lamista provinces. These localities serve me as points of entry for communities of indigenous populations. Additionally, I trace the knowledge exchange related to ayahuasca and other plants between these indigenous groups and mestizo/foreign people and ayahuasca centers. I use multi-sited ethnography for elaborating on the meanings and motivations that lead people in indigenous contexts to take part in ayahuasca rituals, and how the indigenous perspective is negotiated in different social settings for purposes of ethical wellbeing. I gather data through observation of rituals and social events, interviews, audio recordings, photographs, and ethnographic surveys. Complementary data will be gathered from local archives and relevant virtual instances (social media).