Forest for the Trees
Spirit, Psychedelic Science, and the Politics of Ecologizing Thought as a Planetary Ethics
What kind of guidance can those worlds I call forests provide for living well on Earth in times of planetary ecological trouble? I approach this question as an anthropologist. That is, as someone who is committed to cultivating forms of radical listening as I move among modes of being that can, at times, dissolve me in my quest to understand who I am amid a larger flow of life that vastly exceeds me. Reflecting on my ongoing anthropological, and increasingly collaborative, research in and around indigenous communities of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon, and drawing on and distorting immersive ethnographic technologies in the process, my goal is to use what I thus might learn to help find a path that can orient us (humans) in our attempts to live well in relation to the many kinds of others that make and hold us.
Discussant: O. Hugo Benavides, Department Chair and Professor of Anthropology, Fordham University
Eduardo KohnAssociate Professor of Anthropology at McGill University
Eduardo Kohn is Associate Professor of Anthropology at McGill University. He studies the intimate relationships that the indigenous peoples of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon have with one of Earth’s most complex ecosystems. Focusing on how they understand and communicate with rainforest beings through hunting and gathering, as well as through dreams and psychedelic plant use has led him to the audacious conclusion that complex living systems manifest “mind” at a variety of scales and in a variety of ways. From this he develops an empirically robust framework to understand our broader relationship to such mind-like phenomena with the goal of rethinking how to live in the face of unprecedented anthropogenic climate change. His prize-winning book How Forests Think has been translated into nine languages and has inspired the planetary ecological imaginary in a surprisingly diverse number of ways ranging from an eponymous symphony premiering at Lincoln Center to international museum exhibits.