Susan E. Cayleff, "Nature's Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America" (Johns Hopkins UP, 2016)


Susan Cayleff's Nature's Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016) offers a fascinating alternative to the development of allopathic orthodoxy in the twentieth-century United States. By following Naturopathy from its nineteenth-century origins in the popular health movement through debates in the 1970s, Cayleff sheds light on an enduring critique of the vision of medicine institutionalized by Progressive public health reformers. The holistic medicine proffered by naturopaths drew from a variety of sources and lacked a common theoretical basis; it required closer collaboration between practitioner and patient for gradual cures in the face of medical complexity, a scenario reminiscent of an increasing portion of today's medical practice, as Robert Aronowitz points out in Risky Medicine. However, Cayleff shows not merely a transhistorical struggle of self-determination, but rather shifting cultural and political grounds on which such different ideological battles were waged and heterodox practices staged. Notably, she highlights how naturopathy empowered female practitioners to work in line with their politics, and gave them access to medical power precluded by the medical establishment. This book is a great read for historians of medicine, countercultural movements, and professionalization. This is the first of a pair of interviews on alternative medicine: for a rhetorical approach to how notions of evidence are invoked to demarcate between alternative and mainstream medical practice, look out for my forthcoming interview with Colleen Derkatch on her book, Bounding Biomedicine.

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Michael McGovern

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