Vine Boom Effect: Ayahuasca and Staged Authenticity in Late-Stage Capitalism

By Erin Mahoney

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Laura Mentore


In recent decades, nation-states in the Global North have seen a newfound popularization of psychedelic substances, such as LSD, DMT, and psylocibin. Today, it is an emerging practice among a class of affluent tourists to travel to the Amazon rainforest and participate in the ayahuasca ritual, by drinking a brew made from a variety of psychoactive plants. This presentation will draw parallels to ayahuasca as a symbol of the emerging new brand of the ruling class – one that resides in Silicon Valley and speaks of human progress rather than just profits, like Wall Street in the 80s. In the meantime, this practice actively harms the indigenous communities living in the area and shifts communities that traditionally operated on gift exchange into commodity capitalism in order to adjust for the rising demand of the vines used in the ayahuasca brew. By altering both the Global North and the Amazonian communities where these rituals are traditionally practiced, ayahuasca tourism represents a new iteration of capitalism that masquerades as its opposite.


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