LKS Medical Faculty MEHU
Dr Alex K. Gearin

Dr Alex K. Gearin

Dr Alex K. Gearin

Dr Alex K. Gearin

Ph.D, B.A  (Anthropology (Honours))

Assistant Professor, Medical Ethics & Humanities Unit, School of Clinical Medicine



Dr. Alex K. Gearin, Ph.D., is an Australian medical anthropologist who has researched psychedelic substance using networks and practices across the globe. Graduating from the University of Queensland in 2015, he has published ethnographic research on the intercultural ethics of medical tourism, spirituality and individualism among psychedelic healing groups, and metaphor and therapeutic literacies in psychedelic medicine. His book Global Ayahuasca: Wondrous Visions and Modern Worlds (Stanford University Press, 2024) explores the psychoactive plant brew “ayahuasca” in Peru, Australia, and China. His work is featured in Current AnthropologySocial Science and MedicineFrontiers in Pharmacology, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and other outlets, and he is co-editor of The World Ayahuasca Diaspora: Controversies and Reinventions (Routledge, 2017). Alex is a passionate teacher and has delivered courses and workshops on cross-cultural health, bias and social justice in medicine, culture and psychopharmacology, gift economies and personhood, and Indigenous health in the modern world.

Key Research Areas

  • Psychedelic Medicine
  • Cultural Psychiatry
  • Meditation and Mindfulness
  • Anthropology of Morality and Ethics
  • Health Tourism

Selected Publications

Gearin, A. K. 2023. “Moving beyond a figurative psychedelic literacy: Metaphors of psychiatric symptoms in ayahuasca narratives”. Social Science & Medicine. 334:1-9

Gearin, A. K. 2023. “Becoming modern in China with an indigenous Amazonian healing brew”. In Erika Dyck and Chris Elcock (Eds.) Expanded Mindscapes: A Global History of Psychedelics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Gearin, A. K. 2023. “On the Ambiguity of Psychedelic Awe in China”. Anthropology Today (forthcoming, December issue) 

Gearin, A. K. 2022. “Primitivist medicine and capitalist anxieties in ayahuasca tourism Peru”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 28(2):496-515

Gearin, A. K. & Calavia Saez, O. 2021. “Altered vision: sensory individualism and ayahuasca shamanism”. Current Anthropology. 62(2):138-163

Gearin, A. K. and Devenot, N. 2021. “Psychedelic medicalization, public discourse, and the morality of ego dissolution”. International Journal of Cultural Studies. 24(6): 917-935

Gearin, A. K. 2021. “Xiangsi: Acacia confusa”. In The Mind of Plants (eds.) John Ryan, Monica Gagliano, and Patricia Vieira. Santa Fe: Synergetic Press


Gearin, A. K. 2024. Global Ayahuasca: Wondrous Visions and Modern Worlds. Stanford University Press (forthcoming)

Labate, B., Cavnar C, Gearin, A. K. 2017. (Eds) The world ayahuasca diaspora: Controversies and reinventions. New York: Routledge.

Key Teaching Areas

  • Medical Anthropology
  • Cultural Psychiatry and Psychopharmacology
  • Film and Narrative Medicine
  • Social Justice in Medicine

Research Grants and Awards

2022-2024 Principal Investigator. General Research Fund (UGC) ($377,756 HKD) Project title: “Healing in the Forest: A Sensory Ethnography of Nature Therapy in Hong Kong”. 
2021-2024 Principal Investigator. Enhanced New Staff Start-Up Research Package. LKS Faculty of Medicine. The University of Hong Kong. ($380,000 HKD). Project title: “Ecosystems of Wellness: A VR Study of Hong Kong’s Nature-related Therapies”.
2018-2020 Xiamen University Faculty of Social Sciences Research Grant (100,000 RMB). Project titled: “The Globalization of an Amazonian shamanic medicine”.
2017-2021 Fujian Attracting Foreign Talent Grant (1,000,000 RMB)
2011-2015 APA (Australian Postgraduate Award, 75,000 AUD). The University of Queensland, School of Social Science, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
2009 Dean’s Honours Selection, Anthropology. La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Conference Papers and Talks

2023 “Speaking the Unspeakable: Metaphor and Narrative in Psychedelic Medicine Experiences” presented at the Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong.
2023 “Wonder and Healing at an Ayahuasca Tourism Centre, Peru”. Paper given at Psychedelic Science conference, Denver, CO. USA.
2023 “Opening the blackbox of clinical psychedelic therapies”, presentation delivered with Dr Nicolas Langlitz for the Contemporary Issues in Bioethics and Health Humanities Series, Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, The University of Hong Kong.
2022 “Indigenous Amazonian Medicine in a Capitalist World” Presented a public talk jointly hosted by HKU Centre for Humanities and Medicine and Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit. Discussant: Dr Glenn Shepard (American Museum of Natural History) and was convened by Dr Laura Meek (Centre for the Humanities and Medicine).
2022 “Beyond the Substance: Psychedelics and the Challenge of Medical Research and Drug Policy” – I was discussant on Dr Ido Hartogsohn’s talk. Global Health and Humanities Book Talk Series. CHM. The University of Hong Kong.
2022 Lecture on the globalization of Indigenous Amazonian healing practices for a class in the Masters of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, The New School, New York.
2022 Lecture on Medical Anthropology at German Swiss High School
2022 Lecture on “Indigenous Australian Health and the Environment” to undergraduates at Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong.
2019 “Valuing otherness as a potent medicine: examining bodies and health in a Shipibo ayahuasca tourist lodge, Peru”, Australian Anthropological Society. Australian National University, Canberra.
2019 “From jaguars to ego-death: thoughts on the medicalization of ayahuasca” – World Ayahuasca Conference, Girona, Spain, June.
2019 “Amazonian purgatives and the social body” – World Humanities Forum, Xiamen, China, April.
2018 “Ayahuasca Australiana and sensory individualism” – World Humanities Forum, Xiamen, China, April.
2015 “Organic and the inorganic in ayahuasca visions”. EGA. Royal Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.
2014 “Ayahuasca neoshamanism as cultural critique”. World Ayahuasca Conference, Ibiza, Spain.
2013 “Purity and individualism in Australian ayahuasca practice”. Australian Anthropological Society (AAS), ANU, Canberra, ACT, Australia.
2013 “A Dumontian analysis of ayahuasca healing in Australia”. Postgraduate conference, The University of Queensland, School of Social Science, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
2013 “Cosmological metamorphosis and the individual’s universe”. Post-Human World: Rethinking Anthropology, Sydney University, NSW, Australia.