Doctoral Candidate

2017 Cohort

Education

M.A. History of Medicine, McGill University 

B.A. History and Psychology (Honours), McMaster University 

 

My work examines the ongoing history of ayahuasca as a global scientific object. Since nineteenth-century British naturalists first witnessed how the Tucano peoples in the Amazon routinely consumed ayahuasca, a near constant stream of human and life scientists have observed, classified, and examined this plant-being. My dissertation begins with the question of why has this vast group of researchers continuously sought to transform ayahuasca into a scientific object? I address this question by further asking what is gained, and by whom, from the recursive and intensive study of this plant-being in the northwestern Amazon? In examining the knowledges and practices of these varying scientists, I situate their work in the context of regional histories and ethnographies of colonialism and development, human and non-human relations, science, and healing. While a source of intellectual intrigue for scientists, ayahuasca has been enmeshed in the quotidian lives of Amazonian communities of centuries. This contrasting approach raises important questions about indigeneity, knowledge, and power, leading me to ask: How did Amazonian knowledges, practices, and cosmologies shape scientific knowledge of ayahuasca and psychedelic knowledge more broadly? I am inspired by nonhuman anthropology to take seriously how ayahuasca and the beyond-human beings that it evokes shaped what it means to undertake scientific research in the northwestern Amazon. Ultimately, my dissertation suggests that attending to the Amazonian ecologies in which scientific knowledge about ayahuasca is produced requires us to reconsider how histories and ethnographies of "psychedelics" have thus far been approached.

My research in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and the United States has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the American Institute for the History of Pharmacy, along with grants from the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies and the GAPSA-Provost Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Innovation at Penn.

I am currently a co-chair with the Graduate and Early Career Caucus of the History of Science Society and the Associate Editor for the History of Science in Latin America and the Caribbean, a collaborative pedagogical project in the digital humanities. I previously served a co-ordinator for the Science Beyond the West Working Group and, in 2019, was one of the co-organizers for the Collaborative Pedagogies in the Global History of Science

For 2021 - 2022, I held a Graduate Fellowship for Teaching Excellence at Penn's Center for Teaching and Learning. In 2020, I received a Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching by Graduate Students from the School of Arts and Sciences. I have taught classes in the history of medicine at Penn and the University of Delaware.

Research Interests

History of the human and life sciences; anthropology and history of health and medicine; modern Latin American history; history of psychedelics; post-colonial and feminist science studies; anthropology and history of drugs; Indigenous studies.

Selected Work

Articles and Book Chapters 

Dysart, Taylor. “Marlene Dobkin de Rios: A Case for Complex Histories of Women in Psychedelics.” In Women & Psychedelics: Uncovering Invisible Voices, edited by Erika Dyck et al., (Santa Fe, NM: Synergetic Press, forthcoming English edition) and (Mexico City: Lunaria Ediciones, forthcoming Spanish edition). 

Dysart, Taylor and David Wright. “Come-By-Chance: Newfoundland and Global Medical Migration, 1950-1976.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 49, no. 5 (2021): 994 – 1020

Book Reviews 

Review of Possessing Polynesians: The Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawai’i and Oceania, by Maile Arvin. Durham, NC: Duke University Press,  2019. Forthcoming in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

Review of Reasoning Against Madness: Psychiatry and the State in Rio de Janeiro, 1830-1944, by Manuella Meyer. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2017. In Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 37, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 274 - 77. 

Faculty Bookshelf