Med kroppen som instrument : en studie av new age med fokus på hälsa, kroppslighet och genus
Sammanfattning: In this thesis New Age is studied from a sociological perspective, with a focus on health, body, and gender. One purpose is to examine how people within New Age view and relate to these problem areas. A parallel purpose is to find explanations to why women predominantly take an interest in New Age, and to discover how these explanations are related to the view on health, body and gender. The subjects in the thesis are discussed with the help of sociological theory, as well as 28 qualitative interviews with men and women interested in New Age. Topics discussed at the interviews were health, body, conventional medicine, alternative methods and interpretations of masculinity and femininity. The reasons why people take an interest in New Age can partly be explained from these subjects, but also in the life stories of the interviewees. The study shows that health generally was considered the individual’s normal state, which exists when everything is in balance. Health contains mental as well as transcendental factors, which sometimes includes religious elements. The body was generally viewed as secondary in relation to mental and transcendental factors, even though physical sensations legitimize different therapies and techniques. This turns the body into an instrument whose ability to feel and experience has great importance for how the individual interprets and creates her existence. Men and women speak in similar ways about health, but for women the body is more central. People’s interest in New Age in Swedish society can be linked to an increased pluralism, but also to extensive secularization. Both of these factors play a large role in the rise of new religious practices. The emphasis on abundant individual choice makes the New Age movement fit the late-modern individual’s reflexivity and individualism. In addition, many of the concepts within New Age, can be seen as reactions against the rationality and science of the modern era, expressed through conventional medicine and institutionalized religion. Furthermore, alternative methods in New Age provide a sense of control, which is an important part of the late-modern body-oriented culture. It is possible to see New Age as a free zone, where women can seek subject status on their own terms without having to affirm traditional male norms. Men within New Age are generally critical to the hegemonic masculinity. They set a standard for an alternative male role by expressing the feminine and “soft” values within them.
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