AAA CFP: (Re)Discovering Psychedelics in the 21st Century


Panel at 2016 AAA Conference — November 16-20 in Minneapolis, Minnesota

(Re)Discovering Psychedelics in the 21st Century

Organizers: Shana Harris (University of Central Florida) and Hilary Agro (University of Western Ontario)

Contact Information: Shana Harris ( and Hilary Agro (

For much of the 20th century, legal and institutional restrictions seriously hindered the study of psychedelic plants and drugs around the world. Some of these controls have eased over the last decade, leading to new and renewed interest in psychedelics within academic, medical, and scientific communities. With a growing number of researchers examining the different dimensions and uses of these substances, we are currently witnessing what many call a “psychedelic renaissance.” This resurgence in psychedelic research has not gone unnoticed within anthropology, as the study of psychedelics within the field has increased in recent years. Whether it is the ceremonial use of peyote in the Native American Church, or ayahuasca tourism in the Peruvian Amazon, or the advancement of psychedelic science in Europe, anthropologists are making important contributions to the understanding of policies, practices, socialities, experiences, and knowledges associated with psychedelics in the 21st century.

The (re)discovery of psychedelics raises interesting questions and poses unique challenges for anthropologists who study such substances. This is particularly the case given the fact that many psychedelics such as peyote, ayahuasca, and LSD have been popularized among Western audiences. As such, this panel explores why psychedelics are worthy of anthropological study, and asks the following questions: Why should we as anthropologists care about psychedelics? Is there a “true” or more “valid” form of psychedelic use that merits our analytical attention? Is the use of psychedelics about pleasure, healing, spirituality, productivity, or illegality? How and by whom are psychedelics and their use “validated” since the frame in which we consider drugs is constantly changing? Panelists will cover such topics as the role of LSD in the Canadian electronic dance music scene, the use of ibogaine to treat drug addiction in Mexico, and the utilization of ayahuasca within Santo Daime ritual contexts in order to address these and related questions and concerns.

We invite abstracts for papers that ethnographically examine psychedelics in clinical, recreational, spiritual/religious, scientific, or other contexts. Please submit an abstract (250 words max.) to both panel organizers, Shana Harris and Hilary Agro, by SUNDAY, APRIL 3, for consideration.