Week 5: The Holistic Health Movement

This week we’re jumping ahead another seventy years to the 1970’s and the emergence of the Holistic Health Movement, when alternative health (in a much more recognizable form) starts to explode as a cultural phenomenon. 

Take note that, during this intervening time (especially 1900-1950), a number of huge medical developments happen: the emergence of “scientific medicine” at the turn of the century, the wonder drugs of the 30’s, and the development of antibiotics in the 40’s. The CAM healing modalities we’ll be discussing moving forward are positioning themselves in relation to / against this form of medicine and will referred to as “biomedicine” moving forward. 

Sevananda Co-op AtlantaOur readings this week focus on the Holistic Health Movement (and the deeply interwoven “spiritual” values of the New Age Movement, which we’ll tackle more next week). As you read, I’d like you to start making connections to the “new” natural healing modalities and the themes that emerged in the values of Euro-American natural healing modalities (homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic): a strong distrust of regular medicine and a desire for “natural” healing (although “natural” continues to be defined in a variety of ways). 

I’d also like you to keep an eye towards critiques of the Holistic Health Movement. Why does Baer consider it to be engaged in a “limited holism”? What populations is this movement marketing itself toward, and what voices / perspectives are being ignored? 


The last reading, “Alone in a Sea of Rib-Tips’: Alvenia Fulton, Natural Health, and the Politics of Soul Food”, is one of my favorite readings thus far, if not the entire semester. I hope that, as we move forward in the semester, you take note of the communities outside of “White Healthism” that are engaged in creative reimagining and cultural transformation, while simultaneously addressing issues of access, cultural identity and disrupting systems of discriminating to ensure the health and wellness of their communities.


Choice Projects: 

Your main assignment for this week is to:

  1. review the overall Choice Project details
  2. explore the assignment details for each of the projects, and 
  3. report in the Project Progress googlesheet what you’d like to tackle first

Moving forward, update your line of the Project Progress every Sunday, including this Sunday, February 16th.


Reflection Journal: 

This is a friendly reminder that you are to post to your journals at least once every week, and respond via comments to two other peer posts per week. Every. Week. 

I’ve gotten behind on checking in on your progress because my attention has been focused on the Choice Project, but moving forward I’ll be reviewing and commenting every week. If I comment on your posts, make sure you either respond in the comments or follow up in a longer reflection post. 


Reading Prompts:

Nature Cures: “The Holistic Health Explosion: Acupuncture” (only 245-257)

  • What seems familiar about the holistic health movement (in relation to our previous readings?) What is new about the approach? 
  • Briefly describe the trends of the medical development between the turn of the 20th century and the 1950’s.
  • What themes of dissatisfaction with the biomedical establishment mirrorw those of the early 19th century? 
  • What are the main critiques of biomedicine according to the 1970’s holistic health approach? How do these mirror or differ from complaints of the 19th century? 
  • What are the values of the secular humanist counterculture movement? How did these values influence the holistic health movement’s resistance to the biomedical establishment? 
  • What are the guiding principles of the holistic medical approach?
  • Describe the relationship between the rise of holistic approaches and the revitalization of general practitioners and family medicine? 

Toward an Integrative Medicine: Chapter 1: “The Popularization of Holistic Health and New Age Movements”, (pg 1-24)

  • How does Baer describe the relationship between the Holistic Health Movement and the New Age Movement? 
  • What historical events (in American immigration law) led to a more open dialogue and access to Eastern philosophies? 
  • What is the role of healing in the Holistic Health and New Age Movements?
  • What role do food co-ops, health food stores, bookstores and holistic health centers play in the spread of the Holistic Health and New Age Movements? 
  • Who does the Holistic Health Movement typically market itself to? Why? How does this vary depending on the form of the content being consumed? 
  • Describe the contradictory tendencies of resistance and professionalization described by Baer in the Holistic Health movement. 
  • What is the relationship between capitalism, the spiritual (and medical) marketplace and the New Age Movement? 
  • What does Baer mean by his critique that the Holistic Health Movement “engages with a limited holism”? 

“‘Alone in a Sea of Rib-Tips’: Alvenia Fulton, Natural Health, and the Politics of Soul Food” – iCollege


  • Describe Fulton’scommunity-oriented work and how it informed her approach to health, nutrition and wellness in the Black community. 
  • Describe the relationship between Fulton’s restorative health program and the Black Freedom Struggle. 
  • Why is health and wellness within the Black community considered an intersectional issue between race, medicine, and political activism? What are some of the conditions that led to Civil Rights activists to focus on disparities in healthcare? 
  • What was the cultural role of Soul Food in the Civil Rights Movement? 
  • Why was it so difficult for nutritionists to convince Black folks to reduce their consumption of Soul Food?
  • What were some of the cultural narratives around Soul Food during the 1960’s? 
  • What role did Soul Food restaurants play in activist communities during this period?
  • Describe the cultural narrative that Fulton reframed in reimagining the historical roots of Soul Food.
  • Describe some of the other “Food Rebel” communities that are emphasizing alternative, plant-based diets for Black Americans.How was Fulton’s approach fundamentally different?
  • What is Fulton’s relationship with “White Healthism”?
  • What are some of the connections between white health programs and eugenics? Note how this is briefly mentioned in this chapter and, has to this point, been entirely absent from the other chapter’s discussions of the Holistic Health Movement…
  • List and describe some (of the many) things Fulton is “resisting” throughout this chapter.



  • Biological reductionism 
  • Biomedicine
  • Original (biological) definition of holisim
  • 1970’s definition of holism
  • Secular humanism
  • Biopsychosocial approach
  • Human Potential Movement
  • Religious Universalism
  • Self Actualization
  • Aquarian Age
  • Audience Cult
  • Limited Holism 
  • Vernacular Healer
  • Materia Medica
  • American Healthism / White Healthism
  • Food Rebels
  • Natural Health Food movement
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