CFP – Psychedelic Anthropology in the Age of Global Mental Health (AAA 2020)


American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting

November 18-22, 2020 – St. Louis, MO

Psychedelic Anthropology in the Age of Global Mental Health

Organizer: Olivia Marcus (University of Connecticut)

In the 1960s anthropologist Allan D. Coult emerged as a notably loud proponent of what he called Psychedelic Anthropology. His post-humous Psychedelic Anthropology is a text that reflected the general trend in anthropology to uncover the “predicament of humankind” or what it means to be human and experience altered states of consciousness. His focus in founding the International Society for Psychedelic Anthropology was to explore human and culture and behavior through the insights of psychedelic experiences, which he maintained was essential for anthropological inquiry. Since then, anthropologists have written on traditional uses of mind-altering rituals (e.g., fasting, dancing, drumming), plants (e.g., ayahuasca, mescaline, salvia divinorum, iboga), fungi, and animal exudates (e.g. Kambo). Currently, in an era of rising mental health concerns in which global rates of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndromes, and addiction are at the forefront of global health concerns, anthropological knowledge of “traditional” mind-altering practices are becoming superseded by investigations of practices bound up with New Age spirituality, neo-shamanism, and hybridized or syncretic forms in which the traditional collaborates, integrates, and clashes with western psychology and biomedicine. This panel invites researchers who peer into these spaces of hybridization, syncretism, collaboration, and disjuncture to discuss the current state of anthropological knowledge that is bound up in the use of psychedelic substances. In the age of Global Mental Health, this panel seeks to bring forth discussion of how the use of mind-altering substances and practices are emerging into the mainstream as increasingly socially acceptable forms of alternative mental healthcare. Recent reports provide evidence that people who use psychedelics in a ritual or therapeutic context may experience rapid anti-depressant effects, relief from post-traumatic stress, greater peace with the dying and bereavement process, and addiction rehabilitation. Questions still abound, however: what is the role of psychotherapy in the therapeutic use of psychedelics? How will the use of psychedelics affect perceptions of mental health well-being among the global mental health community? Further, how does mainstream social and political acceptance of sacred medicines effect localized ritual practices? Ethnographic inquiry into these processes yield salient insights into how social dynamics continue to change and alter the evolution of both traditional and “modern” healing practices.

Abstracts should be sent to Olivia Marcus at by March 15, 2020.