Taylor Elizabeth Dysart

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10416

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Dysart, Taylor (Pennsylvania, U. of) "The Scientist and the Jaguar: Enchanting Plants and the Politics of Knowledge in the northwestern Amazon""

TAYLOR DYSART, then a graduate student at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was awarded funding in October 2022 to aid research on “The Scientist and the Jaguar: Enchanting Plants and the Politics of Knowledge in the northwestern Amazon,” supervised by Dr. Sebastián Gil-Riaño. ” This project xamines the history of psychedelics through the prism of ayahuasca, a plant derivative native to the Amazon basin. It argues that ayahuasca’s ability to comply with and resist biomedical objectification shaped modern and global understandings of the “psychedelic” as a contested category of knowledge. It draws from archival research in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and the United States, along with ethnographic research and field site visits in Brazil, to trace how a network of transnational and multidisciplinary biomedical and life scientists transformed ayahuasca from plant medicine into biomedical therapeutic from the 1850s to the present. These researchers relied extensively on the expertise of mestizo and Indigenous healers, especially those of Shuar, Tukano, and Shipibo ancestry, who held longstanding relations with ayahuasca. As these scientists grappled with ayahuasca’s embeddedness in Amazonian human and non-human worlds, they were forced to develop new biomedical technologies and methods to account for its potent activity. These ranged from phenomenological tests to research laboratories to plant taxonomies. The ensuing knowledge about psychedelics was not only shaped by Amazonian ayahuasca practitioners but leveraged by them to assert their own epistemic and political claims.