Dr David Dupuis
An Anthropology of Hallucinations
I am working on building an anthropological approach to hallucinations, studying in a comparative perspective the variations, through space and time, of the relations maintained by human societies with what medicine has designated from the 19th century onwards as "hallucinations".
As a post-doctoral Visiting Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Durham (UK) and member of Hearing the Voice program since 2017, I have conducted new ethnographic investigations that aim to ethnographically document what I have called the modes of "socialization of hallucinations". These investigations are twofold: 1) The internationalization of hallucinogenic substance use in Latin America in the context of the emergence of shamanic tourism, and 2) The social dynamics that preside over the requalification of these substances and their effects in Western societies (laboratory and clinical studies on hallucinogenic substances, emergence of movements of psychiatric users such as The Hearing Voices Movement).
In addition to the goal of documenting these phenomena and exploring their cultural, political and economic implications for the societies they involve, these investigations aim to determine what the particular case of hallucinations can teach us about the social dynamics that govern the delineation of the boundaries between the normal and the pathological and the processes of cultural transmission and innovation. More generally, the anthropology of hallucinations project also aims to gain a better understanding of the singular processes of subjectivation on which human societies are based.
My doctoral thesis in Social Anthropology (EHESS/LAS, Paris, defended in 2016 under the supervision of Philippe Descola), has been based on an 18-month ethnographic survey in the Upper Peruvian Amazon, and focused on the reconfiguration of the practices of Peruvian mestizo shamanism in the context of the emergence of shamanic tourism.
From an ethnographic point of view, this work has been the first extensive French-language survey of a "neoshamanic centre" in the Amazon. These institutions, which have recently multiplied in the region, offer an international clientele ritual practices inspired by indigenous and mestizo shamanism, foremost among which is the use of the hallucinogenic drink ayahuasca. Using methodology inspired by pragmatic anthropology and symbolic interactionism, I aimed to shed light on the dynamics by which cultural knowledge, symbolic frameworks, and interactional and discursive contexts inform the hallucinogenic experience. Exploring the stakes of the hallucinogenic experience in terms of the recomposition of identity and the constitution of collectives, I evaluated its implications in the dynamics of socialization, religious transmission and therapeutic effectiveness.
Since 2020 I have been co-ordinating the interdisciplinary study Voice-Hearing
Experiences Among Ayahuasca Users. Conducted in collaboration with Hearing
the Voice, this study is the first extensive investigation into the relationship between the use of hallucinogenic substances and the perception of auditory-verbal hallucinations ("voice-hearing"). This study is distinguished by the cross-mobilization of qualitative (ethnographic survey, micro-phenomenological interviews), quantitative (questionnaires, scales) and brain imaging (MRI) methods. The aim is to grasp the vectors through which cultural knowledge and social devices inform the relationship maintained with the "voices" perceived during the hallucinogenic experience, its phenomenological characteristics and its cerebral underpinnings.
Through this study, we hope to learn more about the etiology of voices and the relationship between culture and voices, in order to better understand why some voices (and not others) are experienced as sources of suffering and distress, how they can change over the course of life, and in what ways voices can act as powerful social, cultural and political forces.
Peer-reviewed Journal Articles
• (2017) «Pharmacopées indigènes et évolutions du curanderismo péruvien : le cas de Takiwasi (haute-Amazonie)», Cahiers d’anthropologie sociale 14, «Guérir/Tuer», p. 171-185.
• (2017) (with Arnaud Halloy), « Les racines émotionelles de la possession religieuse. Une ethnographie comparative», Intellectica, N°67 - 2017/1, p. 301-325.
• (2017) «De la liane à la croix. Transformations institutionnelles, innovations rituelles et socialisation des hallucinations dans un centre chamanique d’Amazonie péruvienne », Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 178, juillet-septembre 2017, p. 279-296.
• (2018) « Prácticas en búsqueda de legitimidad: el uso contemporáneo de la ayahuasca, entre reivindicaciones terapéuticas y religiosas », Salud Colectiva, N°14 - 2 .
• (2018) « L'ayahuasca et son ombre. L’apprentissage de la possession dans un centre chamanique d’Amazonie péruvienne », Journal de la société des américanistes, 104-2, p. 33-63.
• (2019) Apprendre à voir l'invisible. Pédagogie visionnaire et socialisation des hallucinations dans un centre chamanique d'Amazonie péruvienne, Cahiers d'Anthropologie Sociale 17, p. 20-42.
• (2020) (with M. Bombo Perozzi Gameiro et C. Forte Maiolino Molento) La condition animale au prisme du « tournant ontologique » : entretien avec Philippe Descola, Horizontes Antropológicos, n. 56, p. 293-311.
Edited Journal Issues
• (2019) « Images visionnaires », Cahiers d'Anthropologie Sociale N°17, février 2019 (avec M.Canna).
• (in prep.) Cultural contexts and ethical issues in the therapeutic use of psychedelics, Journal of Transcultural Psychiatry (avec S. Veissières).
• (2016) « Visions de Takiwasi. Usage de l’ayahuasca et récurrences hallucinatoires au sein d’un centre chamanique d’Amazonie péruvienne », Annales de la fondation Martine Aublet.
• (2021) “Learning to control voices. Can shamanic techniques surrounding the use of ayahuasca enrich the treatment of psychosis?”, Voices in Psychosis. Interdisciplinary perspectives, Oxford University Press.
-Anthropology of hallucinations
- Comparative study of the use of hallucinogenic substances
- Techniques of the Self and Anthropology of Consciousness
- Amazonian ethnology, Peruvian mestizo shamanism (Curanderismo)
- Medical anthropology, psychiatry and anti-psychiatric movements
- Religious anthropology, shamanic tourism, new religious movements