Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: David Rodriguez Mora

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship, David Rodriguez Mora will continue his training in sociocultural anthropology at The University of Texas at San Antonio, hosted by Michael Cepek.

My academic research centers on the relationship between the Colombian Indigenous Kofáns and the plants used in Yajé (a.k.a., Ayahuasca) shamanism and the role of identity in shaping the co-evolutionary relationship between shamanism and plants, shamanism epistemology and practice, and the co-creation of ethical research.

My investigations lie at the crossroads of ethnobotany and ethnography. I connect the distribution and use of Yajé shamanism plants to the life histories of Kofán shamans and the influence of socioeconomic and political contexts. My goal is to identify systemic forces that have exerted change in the Kofán-Yajé relationship to elucidate political mobilization, knowledge exchange, and re-definition of Kofán sense of identity and value.

Integrating ethnobotanical and ethnographic methods offers a unique perspective for interpreting broader relationships between people and plants; communities and ecosystems; and the sociopolitical, economic, and ecological restoration and management of territories. Consequently, I have sought to enroll in advanced studies in environmental anthropology to integrate training in ethnography with my ethnobotanical experience. I chose the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) because of its strong academic concentration on Amazonian studies and faculty members with ongoing collaborations with the Kofán nation.

Before beginning my Ph.D. in environmental anthropology at UTSA, I completed my B.Sc. in biology at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNAL) and my M.Sc. in plant biology at the North Carolina State University (NCSU). Since graduating from UNAL, I have been a researcher at the Grupo de Investigación en Memoria Biocultural y Botánica Económica (GIMBBE).

As a Colombian ethnobotanist whose research centers on plant-human relations, upon completing my studies I plan to return to my home country to continue my academic and political work. I seek to apply an interdisciplinary approach to advancing social and natural sciences, crosscutting theoretical and methodological paradigms and elevating the value of Traditional Ecological Knowledge to the same status as academic knowledge. I envision transmitting my experiences and research skills to the next generations of Colombian scholars as a means of reducing the disproportionate power relations in our society and safeguarding our imperiled biocultural heritage.