The modern desire to care for our health, so obvious to its proponents, has its discontents. Secular medicine denounces the work of those who claim the protective powers of spirits or the Holy Spirit. In this contestation over what it means to care for oneself, Ian Whitmarsh offers an unorthodox thesis: the modern secular desire toward health is founded in a Protestant congregationalism that shapes its refusal of spirit manifestation, revelation, and the power of deities to shape the world. This proper healthy ethics and aesthetics is then taught to those who lack "choice" in their continuing to live through these ontologies.
Whitmarsh explores these dynamics of power and spirit as they move across the Atlantic, from northern Europe to North America to the country of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad offers a broken mirror to the ostensibly secular global endeavor of the desire to be healthy. This mirror shows that the threat found in the spirits and practitioners of other religions, such as Pentecostal healing and orisha manifestation, reveals racialized Protestant commitments masked within a modern global "secular" care of the self.
"Insightful, timely, and exceedingly nuanced, Ian Whitmarsh's The Secular Care of the Self details with stunning clarity the Christian dimensions of ostensibly secular impulses to be healthy. It should find an immediate audience with those interested in health outside of Western institutional forms of care."--Kevin Lewis O'Neill, author of Hunted: Predation and Pentecostalism in Guatemala