Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Vegetalismo, Peru, Shamanism, Ayahuasca, Medical Anthropology, Traditional Amazonian Medicine, Medical Pluralism

Major Advisor

Pamela Erickson

Associate Advisor

Merrill Singer

Associate Advisor

César Abadía-Barrero

Associate Advisor

Françoise Dussart

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


In this dissertation I explore the convergence of epistemologies of healing between traditional Amazonian medicine and biomedical-oriented therapies, particularly from psy-disciplines. Based on 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Peru, I focus in on the practice of vegetalista shamanism, which opens up a space of intensified intercultural and notably asymmetrical exchanges of knowledge. I bring attention to the ethical, sensory, and therapeutic ruptures and continuities that inform ritual healing in the Amazon and beyond. The Amazon region of Peru is increasingly a site where people seek vegetalista shamans for mental health care, emotional wellness, and spiritual development. Vegetalista shamanism is a rapidly expanding and changing practice of traditional Amazonian medicine, in which the psychoactive tea called ayahuasca has taken a central role. Local shamans, neo-shamans, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists are among the multiple kinds of practitioners who advocate the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for mental and physical wellness. Heightened academic, medical, and legal attention to uses of ayahuasca have recently spilled into mainstream media sources, spurring even greater interest in ayahuasca as a novel, exoticized medicine and spiritual guide. The growth of foreign interest in alternative health care in the Amazon manifests as an expanding transnational movement of plant medicines, shamanic practitioners, and ayahuasca-related therapies. Along with this movement of plants and people there are notable transformations in the way ayahuasca shamanism is practiced and who are its practitioners. Key components of local and global transformations include the proliferation of ayahuasca retreat centers, the development of ayahuasca-related psychotherapies, and the kinds of practitioners who have a stake in ayahuasca-related healing.

Available for download on Thursday, April 16, 2026