Conference Review: Notes on the “International Congress of Traditional Medicine, Interculturality, and Mental Health,” Takiwasi Center, Tarapoto, Peru, June 7–10, 2009


  • Beatriz Caiuby Labate is an anthropologist, author and blogger who has written or edited six books, including A Reinvenção do Uso da Ayahuasca nos Centros Urbanos (‘The Reinvention of Ayahausca Use in Urban Centers’; Mercado de Letras, 2004) and Ayahuasca Religions: A Comprehensive Bibliography & Critical Essays (MAPS, 2009). She is a member of the Research Staff at the Institute of Medical Psychology, Heidelberg University and a Member of the Collaborative Research Center (SFB 619) “Ritual Dynamics-Socio-Cultural Processes from a Historical and Culturally Comparative Perspective” ( She also edits two websites about psychoactives:,


English translation by Glenn H. Shepard Jr. Revision by Matthew Meyer

This article reports on the recent “International Congress of Traditional Medicine, Interculturality, and Mental Health” held by the Takiwasi Center in Tarapoto in the Peruvian Amazon. The event united 218 researchers and indigenous and religious representatives from 22 countries to present results of scientific discussions and engage in political and ethical debates surrounding the increasingly globalized, transnational, and biomedicalized reach of indigenous medical practices, especially ayahuasca-based therapy and religious practice. The author interviewed several key researchers and representatives present at the event, and presents several important controversies in the field of ayahuasca and traditional medicine. She also reports on the colorful and eclectic nonacademic sessions at the event which included Inca chiropractics, ayahuasca sessions, and various forms of indigenous medicine. The text also reflects on the tragic events that unfolded in nearby Bagua, Peru, on the evening of the meeting, bringing a special urgency to the event's focus on indigenous cultural heritage.