Perspectives on the academic study of plants and spirituality
Objectives for the Working Group on Plants and Religions
- To serve as a forum for research and the organization of public events on the theme of the interaction between human-plant relationships and religion. The initial research, in the form of a symposium and publications, will focus on psychoactive plant substances used in religious contexts, and will necessarily include the globalization of these substances and their impact on local religious settings. The emphasis of research, keeping in line with the focus of the group, will be on plants and plant admixtures, as opposed to synthetic psychoactives. As the group grows, further seminars and conferences will be geared toward ritual and religious uses of plants beyond psychoactives specifically.
- The research emphasizes a multi-disciplinary approach covering the fields of Anthropology of Religion, Psychobiology, Ethnobotany, History of Culture, Medicine, and Law. Among the questions that will guide the research are: spiritual powers attributed to the plants; legal status of specific plants on local, national, and international levels; ritual preparation and use of plants in different contexts (shamanic curing, psychotherapy, religious sects, tourism, etc.); modifications of perception, behavior patterns, and social relations as a consequence of long-term use of, and relationship with, different classes of plants; medical benefits demonstrated in different cultural contexts from the use of both healing and psychoactive plants.
- The Working Group will organize and maintain a website dedicated to the research objectives that will serve to attract new contributors and to facilitate the interaction of researchers.
- The Working Group will maintain a regular seminar series, inviting well-known professionals to present their work or new perspectives on the research area as a whole. Graduate students will have this space as a permanent forum in which to present research on aspects of human-plant relationships that are central to their professional development.
- Beyond the monthly seminar, the Working Group will organize conferences involving both international and nationally known researchers. Through these conferences, the Group seeks to centralize the discussion, still very dispersed, on human-plant relationships, including those with psychoactive plants.
- The Working Group will seek funding resources for the purpose of supporting student research assistantships, fieldwork research awards, and costs for the publication of research results.