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Ayahuasca’s attractions and distractions: examining sexual seduction in shaman-participant interactions

Peluso, Daniela M. (2014) Ayahuasca’s attractions and distractions: examining sexual seduction in shaman-participant interactions. In: Labate, Beatriz C. and Cavnar, Clancy, eds. Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond. Oxford University Press, pp. 231-255. ISBN 978-0-19-934120-7. (KAR id:37177)


Ayahuasca tourism is a rapidly growing set of enterprises in which participants and shamans become global tourists or visitors within their own towns or countries, or abroad, in an explosion of diverse encounters. This variable set of hosts and guests partakes in shamanic rituals in which the ayahuasca brew is consumed within ritual settings with the aim of producing hallucinogenic visions deemed to be personally beneficial to all participants.

Whereas only a few decades ago, the ayahuasca experience required that a lone traveler make his or her way to the forests of South America, now notions of local, global, space, and place converge as shamans and tourists travel throughout the world to perform and participate in a diversity of ayahuasca ceremonies. For example, an eighty-year-old Shipibo shaman who once mostly healed within his community in Pucallpa, Peru, began to travel nationally and then around the world, while his apprenticing son began to appear in international films as a healer and opened a tourist’s lodge. Some newcomers to the rituals, also interested in bringing ayahuasca to a larger public, have introduced it in dance raves. Not only are more people eager to participate in ceremonies, but also more individuals want to become ayahuasqueros (shamans who heal with ayahuasca). Furthermore, the ingredients of the brew are now available for purchase on the Internet. Moreover, many Euro-American ayahuasca tourists who have apprenticed shamans are now based in

South America and travel throughout the world performing ayahuasca rituals. These are but a few examples of the novel expansion of ayahuasca ritual practices.

The inventive global expansion of ayahuasca rituals creates a set of encounters that bring together individuals with highly divergent epistemologies and

experiences, creating a sundry montage of cognitive, emotional, and practical cultural systems rife with contradictions and potential misunderstandings.

Although these are also settings for positive exchanges, as would be expected, the convergence of translocal and transnational flows of communication, knowledge, and practices also comes with its challenges. This study focuses on a more obscure, yet growing, consideration of what

happens when various belief systems are brought together within transnational ritual contexts by examining the relationship between sex, seduction, and gendered power relations in the context of ayahuasca rituals. By “sex” and “seduction,” I refer to sexual imagery, meanings, attraction, arousal, and/or the physical sexual act in relation to the ayahuasca ceremony or ceremonial space. Initially, I will examine the historical, symbolic, and practical relationships between ayahuasca and sex. I will focus on how, in the historical and contemporary associations of sex with ayahuasca, the adoption and reinvention of ayahuasca rituals is part of the ongoing challenges that ayahuasca usage and practices undergo. Through an analysis of local and global narratives, the paper also engages with Amerindian epistemologies and theories of perspectivism, countertransference, and “the male gaze” to examine local concerns and interactions between shamans, their apprentices, and ayahuasca participants, and how they variably position themselves as authorities, intermediaries, and gendered individuals. In the broadest sense, I will explore gender relations between shamans and local as well as nonlocal participants and the resultant ensuing debates about sex and sexuality as discussed among locals and web-based audiences. Importantly, this discussion is not meant to detract from the legitimacy ayahuasca rituals deserve.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: ayhuasca, gender, tourism, sex, seduction, sexual abuse, transference, shamanism
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Daniela Peluso
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2013 16:12 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2023 09:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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