"We're all individuals": postmodernity and alternative health practices in Northern England

McClean, Stuart David

Social sciences
October 2003

Thesis or dissertation

© 2003 Stuart David McClean. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This thesis explores the use and practice of crystal and spiritual healing - therapies located on the fringe of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) - and what these 'represent' in the context of a profound socio-cultural transformation, characterised by the shift in Western societies from modernity to postmodernity. I explore this theme in relation to the empirical example of a healing centre in the North of England. The methodological stance I took was that of ethnography; data was largely gathered using participant observation.

A central theme is that healing practice and ideas which emerge at the Centre reflect individual concerns and therefore healing practices themselves are often highly personalised. In addition, I explore how, from a Centre that celebrates highly personalised practices, healing knowledge becomes institutionalised and consensuses emerge. Furthermore, I explain that the Centre collectively sanctions this personal expression. This tension between individual expression and the formalisation of group practice is, I argue, indicative of our times. Therefore. what emerges from this study is that the Centre fosters an ethos of the individual, but it is a collective ethos.

In addition, crystal and spiritual healing usage and practice reflects levels of dissatisfaction with biomedicine. the medicine of modernity. Though challenged by these healing practices, biomedicine has not been significantly weakened by this emergence. Even within the more esoteric healing practices, I point to the continuing influence of materiality, science and biomedicine. The appropriation of biomedicine can be witnessed in the Centre's attempts to professionalise and systematise practices, but it can also be seen in less obvious ways, in that healers seemingly infuse their practice with some of the language and science of biomedicine. This throws into question the conventional biomedicine/alternative medicine interface and offers some insight both into the common metaphorical basis of healing and medicine. and biomedicine's continued hegemony.

Department of Comparative and Applied Social Sciences, The University of Hull
Dawson, Andrew, 1962-
Ethos identifier
Qualification level
Qualification name
Filesize: 11 MB
QR Code