Images saturate our consciousness today. With the advent of photography, television, the personal computer and the Internet, images have become central to the way we perceive and understand history, the future, our identities, and the world around us. The image revolution has extended to the heart of our private lives by transforming the very experience of remembering and imagining. While mechanical innovations have enabled the mass production of images through electronic media, indigenous Amazonian shamans have been ingesting phyto-chemicals (such as ayahuasca) to the effect of perceiving socially resonant visionary content in trance-experiences well before being introduced to photography, television, and the personal computer. It is no surprise that indigenous Amazonian’s tend to understand cinema, the Internet, and mobile phones through using shamanic language and ideas that are linked to generations, if not centuries, of consuming visionary plants. Similarly, in the reimagining of ayahuasca use by Westerners, visual and telecommunication technologies have become key tropes by which ayahuasca drinkers understand their trance-experiences and the natural world. In this paper, by analysing similarities and differences between media technologies and ayahuasca, ideas emerge that make the alien familiar, the irrational rational, and the incomprehensible graspable.
Bio: Alex Gearin is doing PhD research at The University of Queensland in anthropology focusing on Australian practices of the traditionally indigenous Amazonian psychoactive drink ayahuasca. His research interests include the ethics and sensory dynamics of shamanism and alternative religion.