Examines health, disease, and healing as social phenomena. Explores the nature and experience of illness through the study of patients, communities, healthcare providers, and medical systems in different cultural, social, political, and economic contexts.
Illness is biological in nature, but it is also cultural, social, political, and economic. This course will introduce you to the complex relationship between health, disease, and culture through the study of patients, communities, health care providers, and medical systems in diverse global settings. Through reading and writing ethnographies of health and illness, we will learn how to link everyday experiences of health, illness, and the body to larger cultural, historical, political, and economic forces. In doing so, you will learn the core theories and methods of the field of medical anthropology.
Student learning goals
Understand and be able to describe ways in which medicine and health care, (including Western biomedicine) are socially and culturally constituted.
Gather data about health, disease, and culture using ethnographic research methods (such as interviewing and participant-observation).
Analyze and write about individual illness experiences in relation to broader social, cultural, historical, political, and economic contexts.
General method of instruction
Primary methods of instruction will include in-class discussion, readings, research and writing assignments, and some lecture.
This is a "W" (writing intensive course) with a reading load of 50-70 pages per class meeting. This course will require you to read and write about scholarly texts in the social sciences. Some of these texts will be lengthy or difficult in places, but because ethnography is a form of story telling, most are engaging and reader-friendly. In order to succeed in this course, you must be capable of doing college-level reading and writing, and committed to coming to class having completed the assigned readings and prepared to discuss them.
Class assignments and grading
Weekly 1-page reading responses and one 10-15 page paper. The paper will be based on an "illness narrative" generated either from your personal experience or the experience of someone else who you interview.
Grades will be based on a combination of class participation, in-class group work, and writing and research assignments.