Journeying with ayahuasca: an ethnographic study of tourism for transformation
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 13:24 authored by Lily Ainsworth
Ayahuasca tourism in Peru has been widely examined, but few accounts consider all factors leading to a sense of transformation, or discuss the integration phase. This phenomenon has been conceputalised as drug, medical, and spiritual tourism, but considering the underlying desire to transform, this thesis will suggest a new label: tourism for transformation. Through ethnographic fieldwork at an ayahuasca centre outside Pucallpa, Peru, and reflection on current ayahuasca literature and industry actions, this thesis postulates that the sense of transformation comes from drinking ayahuasca (a hallucinogenic brew predominantly used for medicinal/spiritual purposes), plus previous unconsidered factors. These factors include: the formation of expectations through online interactions between industry subgroups (commentators, workers, tourists); the impact of the social and physical environment of a centre; and the challenges of reduced industry and site support once home. The complexity of the integration stage will be highlighted through examples and case studies of informant’s application of their experience and insight into life back home. The theoretical similarities between tourism and pilgrimage will be highlighted, adding to the growing discussion on modern forms of travel, and pointing to avenues for future research that focuses on the final stages of a transformational journey.