Dr. Stuart McClean is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social care at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Hull. His research focuses on the resurgence of alternative health practices in Western societies.
2006 0-7734-5667-8 This book fills a notable gap in the burgeoning literature on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Western societies. Despite the increased focus on CAM in the social and health sciences, scant attention has been given over to exploring the rise of therapies on the extreme fringe of complementary medicine, such as ‘crystal’ and ‘spiritual healing.’ This book re-dresses the balance and presents an ethnographic picture that takes into account more ‘marginal’ therapeutic modalities in the UK, although, more importantly, this book shows how the study of the marginal gives way to particular insights about the mainstream, such as orthodox biomedicine. Primarily, the book explores the use and practice of ‘esoteric’ healing practices in a Centre for healing in Northern England, and what they represent in the context of the changing role, status, and legitimacy of complementary medicine in the UK and Western societies more generally.
Conventional socio-scientific wisdom suggests that esoteric healing is counter-cultural, in that its emergence is illustrative of ‘New Age’ ideology. The author argues, contrary to this position, that in healing there is a tension. There is a tension between the personalization that healing practices exhibit, and the striving for orthodoxy, both with the Centre itself, and also among the wider healing community. Thus, even apparently esoteric forms of complementary medicine are influenced by the language of science and medicine. This book highlights examples of this mimicry of medicine, and points to a range of explanations for this contemporary social phenomenon. In particular, this book throws into question the conventional biomedicine/CAM boundary and offers some insight into the common metaphorical basis of medicine and healing, and the continued social and cultural influence of biomedicine in Western societies. The book makes a key contribution to the social and health sciences body of knowledge on CAM by exploring its resurgence in the context of wider debates on modernity and postmodernity.