The University of Wisconsin Press

Health & Medicine / Anthropology / American History / Sociology


Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America
Issues of Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender
Hans A. Baer

"A concise, wide-ranging synthesis of the history of alternative medicine in the United States, its social composition, and its relations to conventional biomedicine."
—David Hess, author of Science and the New Age

Examining medical pluralism in the United States from the Revolutionary War period through the end of the twentieth century, Hans Baer brings together in one convenient reference a vast array of information on healing systems as diverse as Christian Science, osteopathy, acupuncture, Santeria, southern Appalachian herbalism, evangelical faith healing, and Navajo healing.

In a country where the dominant paradigm of biomedicine (medical schools, research hospitals, clinics staffed by M.D.s and R.N.s,) has been long established and supported by laws and regulations, the continuing appeal of other medical systems and subsystems bears careful consideration. Distinctions of class, Baer emphasizes, as well as differences in race, ethnicity, and gender, are fundamental to the diversity of beliefs, techniques, and social organizations represented in the phenomenon of medical pluralism.

Baer traces the simultaneous emergence in the nineteenth century of formalized biomedicine and of homeopathy, botanic medicine, hydropathy, Christian Science, osteopathy, and chiropractic. He examines present-day osteopathic medicine as a system parallel to biomedicine with an emphasis on primary care; chiropractic, naturopathy, and acupuncture as professionalized heterodox medical systems; homeopathy, herbalism, bodywork, and lay midwifery in the context of the holistic health movement; Anglo-American religious healing; and folk medical systems, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities. In closing, he focuses on the persistence of folk medical systems among working-class Americans and considers the growing interest of biomedical physicians, pharmaceutical and health care corporations, and government in the holistic health movement

Hans A. Baer is professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is the author or editor of eight books on anthropological aspects of race, religion, and medicine, including Encounters with Biomedicine: Case Studies in Medical Anthropology.

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Cover is purple with white images of plants

July 2001

LC: 00-012733 RA
248 pp.   6 x 9     240 pp.

The cloth edition, ISBN 978-0-299-16690-2, is out of print, but the paperback is still available.

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ISBN 978-0-299-16694-6
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