Baer, Hans A. 1944-
BAER, Hans A. 1944-
PERSONAL: Born April 6, 1944, in Lima, Peru; son of Franz and Agnes Baer; married first wife, Lenore Hirsch (a social worker; marriage ended); married second wife, Stella Capek (a sociology professor); children: (first marriage) Eric, Andrea. Education: Pennsylvania State University, B.S., 1966; University of Nebraska, M.A., 1971; University of Utah, Ph.D., 1976. Hobbies and other interests: Travel (Europe, Mexico, Canada, and Alaska), hiking in mountainous areas.
CAREER: Kearney State College, Kearney, NB, instructor of anthropology and sociology, 1971-73; George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, TN, assistant professor of social studies, 1976-79; Michigan State University, Lansing, post-doctoral fellow in the medical anthropology program, 1979-80; St. John's University, Queens, NY, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, 1980-81; University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, assistant professor of anthropology, 1981-83; University of Arkansas, Little Rock, began as associate professor, became full professor of anthropology and sociology, 1983—. Fulbright Lecturer, Humboldt University, Department of British and American Studies, 1988-89. Member of board of directors of American Indian Center of Arkansas, 1984—, and Arkansas Peace Center, 1986—.
MEMBER: American Anthropological Association (fellow), Society for Medical Anthropology, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Southern Anthropological Society, Arkansas Sociological and Anthropological Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, 1977, 1984, 1985; National Institute of Mental Health fellowship in anthropology at Michigan State University, 1979-80; research award, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, University of Arkansas, 1989.
The Black Spiritual Movement: A Religious Response to Racism, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 1984, second edition, 2001.
(Editor) Encounters with Biomedicine: Case Studies in Medical Anthropology, Gordon & Breach Science Publishers (New York, NY), 1987.
Recreating Utopia in the Desert: A Sectarian Challenge to Modern Mormonism, State University of New York Press (New York, NY), 1988.
(With Merrill Singer) African-American Religion in the Twentieth Century: Varieties of Protest and Accommodation, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 1992, second edition published as African American Religion: Varieties of Protest and Accommodation, 2002.
(With Merrill Singer) Critical Medical Anthropology, Baywood Publishing (Amityville, NY), 1995.
(With Merrill Singer and Ida Susser) Medical Anthropology and the World System: A Critical Perspective, Bergin & Garvey (Westport, CT), 1997, second edition published as Medical Anthropology and the World System, Praeger (Westport, CT), 2003.
Crumbling Walls and Tarnished Ideals: An Ethnography of East Germany before and after Unification, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 1998.
Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America: Issues of Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2001.
Contributor to anthropology, sociology, and interdisciplinary journals. Coeditor of special issues of Southern Quarterly, Medical Anthropology, Review of Religious Research, and Social Science and Medicine.
SIDELIGHTS: Hans A. Baer is a professor of anthropology and sociology who has studied American religious groups, including the Utah Levites and sects within the Black Spiritual movement, as well as the development of modern biomedicine and alternative health care disciplines. Baer has written and edited several books, including a medical anthropology textbook, academic papers, his own ethnographic research, and broader analysis of developments within sociology and anthropology. Commenting on his professional interests, he told CA: "I am interested in writing on pressing social issues, such as racism, social stratification, the social production of illness, medical pluralism, and the discrepancies between the ideals and realities of socialism."
In Recreating Utopia in the Desert: A Sectarian Challenge to Modern Mormonism, Baer looks at a small communal order known as the Utah Levites, or Aaronic Order, that was created by followers of Maurice L. Glendenning in the 1940s. The book describes how the sect attracted Mormons who were unhappy with the development of the Mormon "corporate church" and created an isolated religious community in the desert dedicated to preparing for the second coming of Christ. Critics welcomed the book's wealth of information on the religious order, if they did not always agree with Baer's assertion that the Levites sought to revitalize the Mormon Church. Writing for American Anthropologist, Ellwyn R. Stoddard called the work "fascinating" because of the author's excellent research in which "he mines the deep emotions, feelings, and personal experiences" of the Levites. Stoddard concluded, "courageous projects such as this can stimulate further research to explore whether or not we must rationally choose between these two organizational extremes." But the critic disagreed that the order should be identified as a "revitalization movement," as did Marie Cornwall in Contemporary Sociology. Cornwall said that Baer did, however, "present a wealth of information about a unique religious movement." In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Richley H. Crapo remarked, "As a study of the Aaronic Order, Baer's is a creditable work, but even more impressive is the way in which he has presented the results of his fieldwork in a manner yielding insights into the Mormon religion."
Following research at the Universal Hagar's Spiritual Church of Nashville, Tennessee, in the late 1970s, Baer wrote The Black Spiritual Movement: A Religious Response to Racism. Responding to a lack of scholarship on the less conventional black churches, he discusses the history, services, and organizations of the Black Spiritual churches, which focus on "magico-religious" rituals and esoteric learning. Baer sees the movement as a response expressing both protest and accommodation to American racism, classism, and capitalism. Reviewer Augustus M. Burns, III, wrote in the Journal of Southern History that the most interesting part of Baer's account was his "participant-observer experiences." Although he found that the book had a "disjointed quality," he also called it "one of the few efforts yet undertaken to provide a systematic perspective within which to understand the Black Spiritual movement in America." Social Forces critic Eric Woodrum remarked, "Baer is long on description, short on analysis, and lacking when it comes to substantiation of his conclusions." Woodrum judged the book to be "perhaps most useful for drawing attention to a significant but understudied form of black American religion."
In partnership with Merrill Singer, Baer authored African-American Religion in the Twentieth Century: Varieties of Protest and Accommodation, a wider study of the themes introduced in his previous book. The authors identify four types of religious organizations: mainstream, messianic-nationalist, conversionist, and thaumaturigical/spiritualist, and they consider the churches' responses to racism and economic oppression. Reviewers responded to the book's methodological and political approaches. Writing for the American Historical Review, Robert Weisbrot said that "the results are mixed: they manage in a brief space to suggest the complex and overlapping qualities of black churches, sects, and movements, but this very achievement ultimately wreaks havoc on the tidy classifying enterprise at the heart of their volume." In a review for Contemporary Sociology, Christopher G. Ellison valued the work for its inclusion of little-known religious movements. He described the authors' approach as "neo-Marxian" and advised readers that their interest in "protest and systemic (anticapitalist) social critique" caused them to dismiss certain aspects of African-American religious experience. Kevin E. Early welcomed the study in his American Journal of Sociology assessment, saying that this "provocative" book "defines the scope and diversity of religion within the black community" and that it provides "comprehensive, balanced, and detailed analysis" of the subject.
Baer's writings about the causes and treatment of disease include the textbook Medical Anthropology and the World System: A Critical Perspective, a work written with Singer and Ida Susser. It reviews the emerging discipline of critical medical anthropology, which considers the historical, political, and economic factors that create health problems and determine how they are treated. In Social Science & Medicine, Florie Barnhoorn said the book "will set a standard for the years to come." In a subsequent volume of Social Science & Medicine, Ronald Loewe called the book an "interesting, readable, and compact volume" and gave special praise to chapters on specific health threats, including legal addictions, illicit drug use, and AIDS.
Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America: Issues of Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender is Baer's review of the transformation of regular medicine into modern biomedicine and the often adversarial relationship that exists between the mainstream medical establishment and healing systems such as homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and Christian Science. The book's political overtones did not appeal to all critics, but many other aspects did. In the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, John S. Haller, Jr., said that Baer "is at his best when he analyzes the metaphysical and religious components of heterodox systems of medicine," and he asserted that "while one might quibble with the author's political heaviness, this is nonetheless an interesting book that tests the reader with an insightful set of relationships and a disturbing if not challenging interpretation." Georgina Feldberg commented in Labour/Le Travail that the book provides "a very useful overview of the social science literatures on alternative healing systems in the United States." She also noted, "It provides a much needed first step to further research and analysis. However the absence of primary case studies and research leave the conclusions and analysis both vulnerable and wanting." In a review in Bloomsbury Review, Mike Chappelle admired the work as "a useful and wide-ranging synthesis of the history of these alternatives and important insights into the accommodations process" made by healing systems. Chappelle characterized it as "a wonderful single-volume education in the politics of health, and a potent antidote to orthodox thinking."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Anthropologist, March, 1989, Ellwyn R. Stoddard, review of Recreating Utopia in the Desert: A Sectarian Challenge to Modern Mormonism, p. 206.
American Historical Review, October, 1993, Robert Weisbrot, review of African-American Religion in the Twentieth Century: Varieties of Protest and Accommodation, pp. 1333-1334.
American Journal of Sociology, November, 1993, Kevin E. Early, review of African-American Religion in the Twentieth Century, pp. 793-794.
Bloomsbury Review, May-June, 2002, Mike Chappelle, review of Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America: Issues of Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender.
Bulletin of the History of Medicine, summer, 2002, John S. Haller, Jr., review of Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America, pp. 398-400.
Contemporary Sociology, July, 1989, Marie Cornwall, review of Recreating Utopia in the Desert, pp. 598-599; May, 1994, Christopher G. Ellison, review of African-American Religion in the Twentieth Century, pp. 436-437.
Isis, December, 2002, Christopher Hoolihan, review of Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America, p. 663.
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, June, 1989, Richley H. Crapo, review of Recreating Utopia in the Desert, pp. 249-250; September, 1994, Leonard L. Nance, review of African-American Religion in the Twentieth Century, p. 283.
Journal of Southern History, August, 1985, Augustus M. Burns, III, review of The Black Spiritual Movement: A Religious Response to Racism, pp. 471-472.
Labour/Le Travail, spring, 2003, Georgina Feldberg, review of Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America, p. 339.
Social Forces, March, 1986, Eric Woodrum, review of The Black Spiritual Movement, pp. 843-844.
Social Science & Medicine, Volume 48, 1999, Florie Barnhoorn, review of Medical Anthropology and the World System: A Critical Perspective, pp. 421-426; Volume 49, 1999, Ronald Loewe, review of Medical Anthropology and the World System, pp. 989-992.*