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Biomedicine in museums

Body history and breathing exercises

It’s fascinating to see how cultural studies are embracing old alternative health agendas. Take breathing (see my earlier post), for example.

Breathing used to be the prerogative of Reichian therapists: Wilhelm Reich (a student of Freud) thought unrestrained and natural breathing was the clue to all kinds of health and happiness. He has, in turn, inspired generations of therapists from the 1960s and onwards, like Norwegian physiotherapist Lillemor Johnson, who developed a treatment program (Integrated Respiration Therapy), based on breathing exercises to help build up underdeveloped muscles; and there are numerous others, e.g. here.

What’s interesting from a contemporary historical point of view, is that the new body history — which has emerged as a purely intellectual and academic movement, for example out of New Historicism, in the last decades (see Adam Bencard’s forthcoming PhD thesis) — has now reached a point where it begins to interact with the therapeutic movement. Where will this lead? Will cultural historians begin to practice the old breathing therapies? Will therapeutic practitioners begin to distance themselves from their practice in a traditional academic fashion?

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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