Next Article in Journal / Special Issue
Cultural Expertise in Italian Criminal Justice: From Criminal Anthropology to Anthropological Expert Witnessing
Previous Article in Journal
Shifting the Balance of Power: The Strategic Use of the CRPD by Disabled People’s Organizations in Securing ‘a Seat at the Table’
Article Menu

Export Article

Open AccessArticle

The Cactus and the Anthropologist: The Evolution of Cultural Expertise on the Entheogenic Use of Peyote in the United States

Law School, Sciences Po Paris, 27 rue Saint Guillaume, 75007 Paris, France
Received: 16 April 2019 / Revised: 7 June 2019 / Accepted: 10 June 2019 / Published: 17 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cultural Expertise: An Emergent Concept and Evolving Practices)
  |  
PDF [360 KB, uploaded 18 June 2019]

Abstract

This paper explores the complex evolution of the role anthropologists have played as cultural experts in the regulation of the entheogenic use of the peyote cactus throughout the 20th century. As experts of the “peyote cult”, anthropologists provided testimonies and cultural expertise in the regulatory debates in American legislative and judiciary arenas in order to counterbalance the demonization and prohibition of the medicinal and sacramental use of peyote by Native Americans through state and federal legislations. In the meantime, anthropologists have encouraged Peyotists to form a pan-tribal religious institution as a way to secure legal protection of their practice; in 1918, the Native American Church (NAC) was incorporated in Oklahoma, with its articles explicitly referring to the sacramental use of peyote. Operating as cultural experts, anthropologists have therefore assisted jurists in their understanding of the cultural and religious significance of peyote, and have at the same time counseled Native Americans in their interaction with the legal system and in the formatting of their claims in appropriate legal terms. This complex legal controversy therefore provides ample material for a general exploration of the use, evolution, and impact of cultural expertise in the American legal system, and of the various forms this expertise can take, thereby contributing to the contemporary efforts at surveying and theorizing cultural expertise. Through an historical and descriptive approach, the analysis notably demonstrates that the role of anthropologists as cultural experts has been marked by a practical and substantive evolution throughout the 20th century, and should therefore not be restrictively understood in relation to expert witnessing before courts. Rather, this paper underlines the transformative and multifaceted nature of cultural expertise, and highlights the problematic duality of the position that the two “generations” of anthropologists involved in this controversy have experienced, navigating between a supposedly impartial position as experts, and an arguably biased engagement as advocates for Native American religious rights. View Full-Text
Keywords: cultural expertise; expert testimony; applied anthropology; controlled substances; peyote; entheogens; strategic litigation; indigenous rights; law and culture cultural expertise; expert testimony; applied anthropology; controlled substances; peyote; entheogens; strategic litigation; indigenous rights; law and culture
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
SciFeed

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Bouayad, A. The Cactus and the Anthropologist: The Evolution of Cultural Expertise on the Entheogenic Use of Peyote in the United States. Laws 2019, 8, 12.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics

1

Comments

[Return to top]
Laws EISSN 2075-471X Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top