Daniela Peluso, PhD
University of Kent
The emergence of global ayahuasca: from local entrepreneurship to an industry – with reflections on commodification
This presentation traces the business of ayahuasca in Madre de Dios, Peru. By approaching ayahuasca as a new and burgeoning industry linked to the ayahuasca diaspora – the spreading of its use beyond Amazonia – it will provide a general overview of the emergence and range of entrepreneurship amid more traditional and local contexts and participants. The analysis of how the ayahuasca industry has developed in only a few decades from an obscure practice into a cosmopolitan capitalist endeavor is examined through a case study in the Tambopata Province, Peru. Here, I suggest that small-scale entrepreneurism has contributed toward shaping ayahuasca’s international popularity. My research further contemplates the actual and potential impact that ayahuasca businesses have on South American indigenous and local peoples whose expertise and practices have long been the hallmark of ayahuasca practices, and raises questions of South American postcolonialism and its legacy of imperialism. As such, this analysis provides an anthropological approach toward understanding the emergence and development of entrepreneurship and makes contributions to literatures on postcolonialism, globalization, Amazonia, and ayahuasca. In closing, I will present the the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines’ “14 questions on the Commodification of Ayahuasca: How can we do better?” Chacruna’s questions take up the challenge of ensuring that ayahuasca practices are ethical, mutually beneficial, and sustainable for local and international communities in relation to collective responsibility to the plants, traditions, and our communities amidst the globalization and commodification of ayahuasca.
Daniela Peluso is a cultural anthropologist who has worked over the last two decades in Lowland South America, mostly with communities in Peru and Bolivia. She has been actively involved in various local efforts on issues relating to health, gender, indigenous urbanization and land-rights and works in close collaboration with indigenous and local organizations. Her publications focus mostly on indigenous ontologies, urbanization, violence and relatedness. She received her PhD in 2003 from Columbia University and is a senior lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Kent. She is member of the Board of Directors of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines.