Ayahuasca Use and the Positionality of the Shaman in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest

EASTON-CALABRIA, Lena - University of Washington

The shaman is a historically important cultural and healing figure in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Shamans work with the ayahuasca vine, a cultural medicine and strong hallucinogen. The knowledge of shamans and use of ayahuasca is changing with recent influxes of tourism. Research aims are to document the changing positionality of the shaman and effects of tourism on shamans' ethnobiological knowledge. The research question is: how do the local indigenous and touristic worlds position shamans and their ethnobiological knowledge, and how do shamans respond to pressures that arise at the intersection of these two worlds? Study locations are the city of Puerto Maldonado, Peru and three remote indigenous communities on the Las Piedras river, 50 to 200 kilometers from the city. These communities are part of the Yine tribe, and hunt and gather for sustenance. Methods used are participant observation, interviews, and visual/auditory anthropology. Data will be analyzed to improve understanding of local indigenous and touristic views of the shaman. The results of this research will be significant to understanding the shaman's current knowledge and role and effects of tourism on this role, as well as the impact of globalization on ethnobiological knowledge.