Adam Aronovich
Doctoral candidate

Ayahuasca as Relational Medicine: Intimate Encounters at the Frontiers of Liquid Modernity.

This presentation is based on two years of ethnographic and qualitative research conducted at an ayahuasca retreat centre in the Peruvian Amazon, a collaboration between the Temple of the Way of Light, ICEERS and the Beckley Foundation. Furthermore, these observations are also abundantly informed by my lived experience as a retreat facilitator on site. In this paper, my aim is to address the social and political dimensions of health and wellbeing as elucidated by the participants' ayahuasca experiences and contextualised by the setting provided by the retreat structure.

The interaction between ayahuasca and a group setting that promotes intimacy, horizontality and mutual responsibility amongst participants often encourages a social dynamic where participants can both safely express and listen to each others' affliction narratives, difficulties and breakthroughs.

This break with the individualistic, pharmacologically-oriented focus of bio-psychiatry alone greatly contributes to counteract the feelings of alienation and isolation that exacerbate psychic suffering when it remains private. In the increasingly liquid societies of modernity, these rare, shared experiences of communal struggle, breakthrough and healing allow participants to recognise the interconnected and interdependent nature of health and wellbeing, prompting them to pay special care to their eroding social bonds and to reframe experiences of loneliness, alienation, anxiety, depression or trauma in all their multi-dimensional complexities, moving beyond an exclusively individualistic framework and visibilising the impact that social, cultural, political or environmental factors have on their own wellbeing. Ethnographic approaches, I propose, can elucidate the multilayered complexities of affliction and healing that often are lost through a purely quantitative or biomedical lens.

Adam Aronovich is a PhD candidate who lives and works in the Peruvian Amazon. Besides conducting fieldwork for his doctoral dissertation, Adam coordinates research projects and facilitates workshops at the Temple of the Way of Light, an ayahuasca healing centre near the city of Iquitos. He is a member of the MARC (Medical Anthropology Research Center) - URV, as well as part of the Ayahuasca Community Committee of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. Adam holds a master's degree in Medical Anthropology and Global Health, as well as two bachelor degrees, in Psychology and Cognitive Science. Adam also has a diploma in Traditional Mexican Medicine from the University of Morelos, Mexico. He is interested in the epistemic, social and environmental dimensions of mental health, and the potential role that ayahuasca and other psychedelic medicines play in the remembrance of interdependent and reciprocal cosmologies and mythologies.