Adam Aronovich, PhD candidate
MARC (Medical Anthropology Research Center), Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Ayahuasca as Relational Medicine: Intimate encounters at the frontiers of liquid modernity
This presentation is based on three years of ethnographic and qualitative research conducted at the Temple of the Way of Light, an ayahuasca retreat center in the Peruvian Amazon, in collaborations with Imperial College, ICEERS and the Beckley Foundation. The data is also abundantly informed by my lived experience as a retreat facilitator on site. In this paper, my aim is to address the social and political dimensions of health and wellbeing as elucidated by the participants’ ayahuasca experiences and contextualized by the setting provided by the retreat structure. The interaction between ayahuasca and a group setting that promotes intimacy, horizontality and mutual responsibility amongst participants often encourages a social dynamic where participants can both safely express and listen to each others’ affliction narratives, difficulties and breakthroughs. This break with the individualistic, pharmacologically-oriented focus of bio-psychiatry alone greatly contributes to counteract the feelings of alienation and isolation that exacerbate psychic suffering when it remains private. Shared experiences of communal struggle, breakthrough and healing allow participants to recognize the interdependent nature of health and wellbeing, prompting them to pay special care to their eroding social bonds and to reframe experiences of loneliness, alienation, anxiety, depression or trauma in all their multi-dimensional complexities, moving beyond an exclusively individualistic framework and visibilizing the impact that social, cultural, political or environmental factors have on their own wellbeing. Ethnographic approaches, I propose, can elucidate the multilayered complexities of affliction and healing that often are lost through a purely quantitative or biomedical lens.
Adam is a PhD candidate in Medical Anthropology and Global Health. He lives in the Peruvian Amazon, working as Research Coordinator and Workshop Facilitator for the Temple of the Way of Light. In addition, he is an active member of the Medical Anthropology Research Center (MARC- URV) in Catalunya, Spain, and a member of the Ayahuasca Community Committee at Chacruna.net. He has written for various publications around the world.