Association of Black Anthropologists
Oral Presentation Session
This paper theorizes marijuana consumption as ritual practice that is part of a strategy for exploring the spiritual and psychological dimensions of social life. Despite the scholarly tendency to delegitimize the usefulness of analyzing marijuana consumption, I offer that “ganja” smoking must be taken seriously as social practice through observation in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. I examine marijuana consumption’s connections to “raising consciousness” – the generation of knowledge by theorizing macro and micro-systemic forces that shape racialized lived experiences. The term arises from Rastafarian vernacular, which thrives among the town’s predominantly Afro-Caribbean population. I discuss how consuming marijuana in the context of raising consciousness enables residents of Puerto Viejo to reflect on agency, economic dispossession, self-avowal, value, and productivity especially during the tourist low season when ebbs in commerce suddenly create vast pockets of time to contemplate social and economic possibilities. I suggest that smoking, as the conduit of raising consciousness, cannot easily be reduced to an unproductive method to pass time. Rather, raising consciousness helps people manage the valuelessness and material dispossession temporally tied to low season and more broadly to the forms of exclusion and structural inequalities that residents of Puerto Viejo, particularly Afro-Caribbean ones, are forced to confront. Weed smoking is a mode of access to raising consciousness, which transforms the meaning and psychosocial impacts of stagnating capital flows and temporal waiting. I, further, examine participants engaging in musical performances of spontaneously rhymed lyrics (freestyling) and the meanings of their lyrical to raising consciousness as survival practice.