Degeneratie en dressuur. Natuurgeneeswijze, vegetarisme en naturisme als ontwerpen voor een moderne samenleving, 1890-1950
Degeneration and dressage. Natural cures, vegetarianism and naturalism as building blocks for a modern society, 1890-1950
Aloïs van Son, a natural therapist from Antwerp, presided over a successful medical practice in the 1920s en 1930s and strongly believed that his search for a drug-free ‘natural’ therapy was rooted in a much broader struggle against a ‘degenerate’ society that had lost touch with nature. It was only by changing oneself (Selbstreform), Van Son preached, that the modern individual could heal society. In this article, a crucial autobiographical confession by this headstrong and charismatic therapist will help to deepen our understanding of the ‘life reform’ movement (Lebensreform) as it developed between 1890 and 1950 not only in societies of natural therapists, vegetarians and naturists in Germany, but also among their Belgian counterparts. My aim is not, as has been done before, to provide an accurate qualification of the ‘modern’ or ‘antimodern’ character of the exterior ideology of this movement. On the contrary; I will try to lay bare the interior dynamics of ‘life reform’ practices. I will argue that opponents like Van Son found in the ascetic experience that these practices not only provided a refuge from but also gave access to modern reality.
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