Within a short period of time, psychedelics have emerged from the subcultural underground and achieved unprecedented mainstream visibility. The agents of this process are multiple: clinical researchers, pharmaceutical companies, journalists, therapists, and self-help entrepreneurs, as well as more community-oriented bodies associated with decriminalization movements and new or existing psychedelic churches. Mainstreaming, which ignores or marginalizes the values and practices cultivated for generations in the underground, is often defended as the best way to get these valuable substances to the people who need them. But psychedelics are not like conventional medicines, and their dependence on “set and setting” means that the stories we tell about them influence how they behave. How are these various, sometimes contradictory mainstream narratives shaping the meaning and function of psychedelic experience today, and how might we direct this present turbulence in more positive, creative, and just directions?
A panel discussion about the importance of set and setting during psychedelic experiences, including its history. This discussion was moderated by Ioana Pop as part of the programming of ICPR 2020. We hope you enjoy it.
While western civilization slowly opens up to integrating psychedelics in our medical system, the indigenous cultures of South America represent the oldest living heritage of a society that does not carry social stigma towards the ritual usage of these substances. What can we learn from these civilizations and how can Anthropology help us integrate their insights within our cultural framework? How much of this knowledge is lost in translation? How do we even engage a process of mutual consideration and reciprocity that has been lacking until now? Join us in a critical conversation wherein these tension are explored in greater detail.