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Ayahuasca in Australia


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#1 drugo

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 10:27 AM

An anthropological talk I gave in Spain last year on ayahuasca in Australia has just been uploaded.

 

All thoughts, reflections, and critiques are very welcome! The Q & A time didn't make it to YouTube, i am not sure why, but people were particularly curious about the notions of "romanticism" and "exoticism" discussed in the paper.

 


Edited by drugo, 24 March 2015 - 12:52 PM.

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#2 Seldom

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 08:18 PM

Well, i do like you, so i will say, honestly:

 

I think that by interpreting Aya through this academic jargon, you have done a disservice to this experience. I think you've tried to graft these ideas about a "radical political imaginary" onto the experience because you have an attachment to the way that using these ideas makes you look smart in the eyes of people from whom you want recognition. I find it hard to describe the talk as furthering any agenda other than the reification of your own attachment to being seen as [whoever you think you are] . It introduces nothing that I have not heard before, and I can pretty confidently say that there are 0 people that are going to think: "well, I'm really on the fence about the therapeutic applications of Ayahuasca, maybe I'll use this video to decide" .. in terms of your audience, you're knocking on the open door ..

 

 

Your verbosity obscures, rather than illuminates .. "Ayahuasca indexes robust forms of cultural critique" - it just sounds a bit rich, mate. 

 

"not confined to critiques of unsustainable resources and anthropogenic ecological crises" - really! Wow!

 

"capitalism, materialism and consumerism are put on trial" - well h o l y  s h i t ! 

 

(what does this putting on trial look like?) 

 

 

Darpan's idea that consuming plants from the forests we're destroying will somehow stop people killing the forest is simply a joke. I've seen posts by YOu, in this very forum, confessing that you've drunk brews made from Northern Brother wattle. Didn't stop it from getting smashed to bits in the wild. there's also a member here who you may know, who has made a fair chunk of money out of holding Aya circles - but again, it didn't stop him from wantonly decimating wild obtusifolia populations on the north coast, and helping others to do the same. if you ask him he even has the audacity to say that they told him to do it.

 

Aya is not a truth syrum. you have distorted the experience by trying to make it fit into ideas that suit your own attachments.

 

 

The 'truths' of Aya are noetic. Those who speak, don't know; and those that know don't speak. I dig that you're into this, and you would probably be a fun dude to hang out with, but you put this out there to be judged, and i feel if i have anything to offer, it's through honesty rather than disingenuous praise.

 

Peace


Edited by Seldom, 23 March 2015 - 08:19 PM.

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#3 BeerAlternative

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Posted 24 March 2015 - 12:10 AM

Given the name of the talk was 'Ayahuasca in Australia', I expected something... different. Like possibly a focus on how Ayahuasca has been adapted to include Australian plants or a truely in-depth explanation of who is using Aya in Australia (I suspect you described a subset of people using Aya rather than the group as a whole).

I do appreciate your talk was focused on how the Australian experience of aya has blended with pop culture and green politics. I just think you overstretched and didn't include enough detail to show the audience what's actually happening down here.

Hope that didn't come across as catty, I still enjoyed the talk 😊
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#4 drugo

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Posted 24 March 2015 - 11:32 AM

Thanks Seldom, i think. 

 

In regards to saying that I squeezed the theory of "radical political imaginary onto the experience" because of some selfish agenda for recognition, I have to disagree, that is a strange left-field interpretation. I do think the act of drinking ayahuasca in Australia is political, not just in the sense of being illegal, but in the sense of what type of thoughts and actions the experiences help to generate in people.

 

It sounds like you have a bone to pick with anthropology in general. In term of, as you said, people asking the question: "well, I'm really on the fence about the therapeutic applications of Ayahuasca, maybe I'll use this video to decide", this is not my agenda. I am a social scientist, not a psychologist or a GP. We do things such as analyse how the notion of "therapy" so normal to Western societies actually doesn't necessarily fit, say, indigenous amazonian metaphysics and practices of ayahuasca, and thus expecting me to help "prove its application" in an anthropological talk misses the point. The question of etiology or different "healing systems" discussed at the end of the paper alludes to this diversity. Anthropology has a long history of learning and trying to account for a large diversity of culture and ways of living, cosmological and practical (including their indivisible nature), that is the type of thought that informs the research, not my perceptions of whether Darpan's comments are "bullshit", as you say. Turning the project of anthropology into a question of "attaching to people for recognition" is naive and silly.

 

By Northern Brother wattle, i am guessing you are referring to this thread about consuming the highly endangered Acacia species courtii, but you failed to mention that they were "harvested from fallen trees/branches" . Chill out mate!

 

You've got brains, i've really enjoyed your input and discussion on this forum over the years. It is a shame to see that the talk has evoked in you what seems like such a disdain towards the social sciences.

 

I'm intrigued by you last comment  'The 'truths' of Aya are noetic. Those who speak, don't know; and those that know don't speak. And I wonder what you think of the fact that typically all ayahuasca circles in Australia include a "sharing round" circle where people in the morning after a ceremony sit back down in the space and articulate and talk about their visions.

 

Peace, 


Edited by drugo, 24 March 2015 - 05:44 PM.

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#5 Seldom

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 04:24 PM

:) thanks for the response.

 

I don't 'disdain social sciences', i graduated from a degree in psychology in 2013, and I'm currently a post grad student . But the social scientific research that I value is of the empirical kind!. this is not a scientific paper. it's obfuscating the nature of the Aya experience by filtering it through trendy academic jargon about a 'radical political imaginary' .    

 

 

I mean, what are the necessary and sufficient conditions that enable us to say 'ok, this act/event is political' within this context ? .. exactly what criterion is this indexed against?> sometimes when i take a dump i think about interpersonal relations, possible alternatives to capitalistic systems of exchange, etc etc - but that doesn't mean pumping a shit is a political act. 

 

 

To rescue the discussion from the lofty heights of nebulous speculation, i'll just ask 3 questions:

 

 

1) What are the practical consequences of framing these experiences inside these flashy academic buzz-words ?

 

 

2) who benefits from you having done this work, and in what ways ? 

 

 

3)  if it indeed does exist in these circles, what does this 'radical political imaginary' look like? what does it do? what are the practical consequences that follow from it being in the world ? 

 

 

 

Maybe it's just that I reserve the right to say that Huasca experiences are primarily personal, and that i think you should resist the indignity of trying to speak on behalf of all Australians who drink Aya by feigning to have some privileged access to 'the truth' of what they're doing. 

 

 

 I wonder what you think of the fact that typically all ayahuasca circles in Australia include a "sharing round" circle where people in the morning after a ceremony sit back down in the space and articulate and talk about their visions.

 

 

I think it's an excellent way to bring meaning to the experience, and to concretize new insights about what it is to be in the world that've been gained by enduring the experience. There are things (like Huasca, and things in general) that alter the structure of the way things are presented to awareness, and then there are words that try (often in vein in these instances) to express what these things have changed, what has caused the things that appear to appear in the manner that they did. These things are noetic. You can, and should try to bring meaning to the things they've contributed to your experience, for the reason that this helps to allow these experiences to exert lasting influence in your life. But the map is not the territory. Simply, meaning is superficial, whatever Huasca is, it's f'ing deep. 


Edited by Seldom, 25 March 2015 - 04:25 PM.

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#6 LokStok

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 07:15 PM

:lol:


Edited by LokStok, 25 March 2015 - 07:18 PM.


#7 LokStok

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 07:17 PM

  sometimes when i take a dump i think about interpersonal relations, possible alternatives to capitalistic systems of exchange, etc etc - but that doesn't mean pumping a shit is a political act. 

 

 

 ^  this is possibly the best sentence i have read this year..


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#8 drugo

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 09:02 PM

By thinking that an approach of synthesising large amounts of accounts of ayahuasca visions is "obfuscating the nature of the aya experience" you are totally missing what this type of anthropology is about and, it seems, wishing for some objective pure metaphysics of ayahuasca. What is "the nature" of "the ayahuasca experience" that i am obfuscating by analysing Australian ayahuasca trip reports and narratives of healing? I'm sure this is where you say that it is "ineffable". But around the edges of this ineffability, whether in the Amazon or Australia, social discourses are woven by drinkers, many different forms of social discourse that are relative to different forms of culture, language, history, politics, morality, or put simply, manifestations of the human condition. Anthropologists take these discourses seriously, as objects of science, by considering them in relation to different cultural contexts or cultural dimensions.

 

Among the hundreds of surveys and interviews and accounts of ayahuasca drinking I have accumulated in Australia are trends in ways that people conceptualise what is going on when they purge or experience some sort of profound vision or theophany. The examples provided in the talk indicate a type of political imagining that exists in these conceptualisations and metaphysics. I'm not going to repeat them or introduce the many more examples that are in the thesis.

 

In response to your methodological question that taking a shit and thinking about interpersonal relations or politics doesn't make taking a shit a political act, I would say if you approach this bodily practice as a means by which psychic toxins of interpersonal relations and toxins of society are healed and a deeper connection with nature is achieved, then yes, it would be a source or act of political imagining.

 

It does not matter whether i think there really are psychic toxins in society or interpersonal life that ayahuasca is healing (i.e. what you are calling it's "true nature"), the discourse that drinkers share is precisely this and the discourse represents a form of political imagining that is indexed in bodily processes and bodily states i.e. purging and visions.

 

I have gone to the effort to lay this out because, despite your rude psychologising of why I apparently do this type of anthropology, I value your conceptual thoughts and I really value people in this community getting into academia. We are a small breed. Thanks for being on board and exploring my work.


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#9 Responsible Choice

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 10:14 PM

I reckon you went pretty well. Apart from reading your stuff. I would've much preferred to hear where your presentation would've gone had you been relaxed enough to formulate it as you went. Very difficult to do, and pull off, in a tertiary setting, and unfortunately not the norm in my experience.

 

As far as the jargon goes, I felt it just comes with the territory. Of course you want to paint your baby in a positive light, and in academia that often translates to jargon-laden rhetoric to make your pretty obvious point. If what was being read was an academic piece then I would expect as much based simply on a word-count perspective. Completely forgivable in my book. Pretty confidently delivered, but i would've been very interested to hear the Q & A as well.

 

Well done. :)


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#10 drugo

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Posted 26 March 2015 - 07:38 AM

Thanks RC. Yeah, as a teenager, I always wrote rhymes and was never any good at freestyling. One day, i hope.

 

The Q&A discussion, from memory, was largely about the notions of romanticism and exoticism introduced in the paper, and about how Amazonian shamans are internalising Western perceptions and expectations of them in order to be competitive on the tourist circuits. Sorcery doesn't sell well in comparison to Gaia in these circuits! But perhaps this cultural reinvention is part of an older shamanic logic in Amazonia -- what might be called cosmopolitics --  in which shamans shapeshift into nonhumans and others to mediate relations between disparate and radically different social groups and domains.


Edited by drugo, 26 March 2015 - 07:40 AM.

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#11 drugo

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Posted 26 March 2015 - 10:28 AM

Hey Seldom, I hope you can find the time to read the paper when it comes out early next year, and my thesis later this year. It would be very interesting to hear your reflections. I think you will find the methodology particularly interesting. Here is a sample:

 

Mirroring the limits of knowing that social and cultural perspectives provide people with, the effects of ayahuasca are mysterious, ambiguous, powerful, and transcendent. An anthropological study that attempts to completely reduce the mysterious, ambiguous, powerful, and transcendent ‘effect’ of ayahuasca to epiphenomena of social and cultural conditions results in inevitable reductions in which the power that ayahuasca has at encompassing that which is beyond language, reason, and understanding, becomes diffused. While anthropologists can circle-around the ineffable experiences and pick-up the ‘markings, traces, paths, and ultimately, “evidence”’ (Blanes and Santos 2013) of the social and cultural in narrative accounts of ayahuasca trance and social action, the pronounced ineffability of ‘ayahuasca experiences’ may only ever be fully conquered by anthropologists at the expense of other modes of knowing that include, for example, nonverbal, aesthetic, and extracorporeal modes. 


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#12 FancyPants

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Posted 26 March 2015 - 05:00 PM

Well done, I'd have been terrified to speak to a crowd :)

 

Just a thought though, RC made a good point about the jargon coming with the territory, but I also agree with Seldom "Your verbosity obscures, rather than illuminates". 

 

Also given that your talk was about Aya in Aus, I don't think I heard much about all there is to talk about the consumption of Aya in Aus? I would've loved to hear of the varied usage here. I want to know what else is going on in this bigass country :)


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