Taylor Elizabeth Dysart
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationPennsylvania, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10416
Approve DateOctober 11, 2022
Project TitleDysart, Taylor (Pennsylvania, U. of) "The Scientist and the Jaguar: Enchanting Plants and the Politics of Knowledge in the northwestern Amazon""
Since nineteenth-century British naturalists first witnessed how the Tucano peoples in the Amazon routinely consumed ayahuasca, a near constant stream of anthropologists, ethnobotanists, and psychiatrists have observed, classified, and examined this plant-being. My dissertation begins with the question of why has this vast group of researchers continuously sought to transform ayahuasca into a scientific object? I address this question by further asking what is gained, and by whom, from the recursive and intensive study of this plant-being in the northwestern Amazon? In examining the knowledges and practices of these varying scientists, I situate their work in the context of regional histories and ethnographies of colonialism, human and non-human relations, science, and healing. While a source of intellectual intrigue for scientists, ayahuasca has been enmeshed in the quotidian lives of Amazonian communities of centuries. This contrasting approach raises important questions about indigeneity, knowledge, and power, leading me to ask: How did Amazonian knowledges, practices, and cosmologies shape scientific knowledge of ayahuasca and psychedelic knowledge more broadly? I am inspired by nonhuman anthropology to take seriously how ayahuasca and the beyond-human beings that it evokes shaped what it means to undertake scientific research in the northwestern Amazon.