The Expansion of Brazilian Ayahuasca Religions: Law, Culture and Locality

  • Kevin FeeneyEmail author
  • Beatriz Caiuby Labate


This chapter will explore globalization, diversity, and issues of social justice by examining the global expansion of ayahuasca religions through a lens of transnationalism, and against the backdrop of international drug control. Politics have often equated cultural groups with particular national boundaries, and, proceeding from this premise, have made legal and cultural exceptions for groups that were seen as specifically situated geographically. A perfect illustration of this is in a provision of Article 32 of the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which permits signatories to make reservations for “plants growing wild which contain psychotropic substances…which are traditionally used by certain small, clearly determined groups in magical or religious rites.” The provision reflects a view that exemptions for psychoactive drug use are acceptable if they are confined to a specific locality, and to a specific culture group. The ayahuasca religions pose a particular challenge to this line of thinking. The Brazilian-based religions of Santo Daime and the União do Vegetal (UDV) have established a global presence with international adherents, followers who are not constrained by national boundaries, and not identifiable as members of any particular ethnic categories. As these religions expand outside of their traditional regional and cultural contexts, they come to be viewed through the Western framework of the “War on Drugs,” and become classified as criminal enterprises. The expansion of the ayahuasca traditions will be used as a foundation for examining issues of international human rights law and protections for religious freedom within the current prohibitionist system and global milieu of cultural transnationalism.


Religious Group National Identity Psychoactive Substance Control Substance Drug Convention 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Washington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.Center for Economic Research and Education - CIDE Región CentroAguascalientesMexico

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