The Cull of Personality | Kevin Tucker
Ayahuasca, Colonialism, and the Death of a Healer
197 pages | Black & Green Press
In April 2018, a Canadian man shot and killed the Shipibo-Conibo healer, Olivia Arevalo. He had been going to the Peruvian Amazon on and off for years, seeking one thing: ayahausaca. In his story, he wanted to become a healer. He saw that the Shipibo, and Arevalo in particular, held a cultural memory of a plant that he could learn and bring back to Canada with him. But in seeking to extract a cultural memory - one he may have always been unable to grasp the history of - he joined a long line of colonizers who sought out the Amazon as a point of extraction to feed a globalized civilization.
This story, the story of Arevalo's murder and a retaliatory lynching, touches on every aspect of the colonization of the Amazon and the processes of civilization. From Pizarro's conquest of the Amazon, the intrusion of missionaries, the slave trade, the rubber boom, guano, and energy extraction, the ayahuasca eco-tourism industry is just another face of the frontier reality of the Amazon. Only in this version, it is the shifting cultural memory - itself a response to the reality of colonization - that is being mined and mimicked in an act of cultural appropriation.
Cull of Personality is the story of civilization, showing how a conquering society, so depraved of meaning, will seek to destroy the world to find its purpose. And when it is fought and resisted, even the coping mechanism of those who have fought it is still up for sale.