Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jennifer J Carroll
ANTH 375
Seattle Campus

Comparative Systems of Healing

Introduction to the anthropological study of healing. Examines local approaches to healing, considering their similarities and differences and addresses their place within global systems. Includes anthropological theories of healing.

Class description

This course is designed to introduce students to a diverse array of healing systems and practices. We will approach many aspects of healing systems, the cultural logics that inform them, and the foundational knowledges about the body and the world we live in that shape healing practices. The key philosophy driving this course is that all understandings of health and illness, all sets of beliefs and practices concerning disease and illness, and the social social roles and structures that develop out of those practices and beliefs, are cultural constructs. This is true for all systems of healing ranging from acupuncture to Ayurveda to Santeria to antibiotics. Topics to be covered include: explanatory models of illness and healing; pathways to becoming a 'healer'; Western biomedicine as a cultural system; collective trauma and healing; healing practices in both Western and non-Western settings, both inside and outside Cartesian understandings of the body; explorations of culture bound syndromes and the logics of healing that accompany them.

Student learning goals

Students will expand their knowledge and awareness of the diversity of understandings of and approaches to illness and healing across cultures.

Students will learn to recognize biomedicine - as well as any other scientific project - as a cultural system, and empiricism as a cultural construct.

Students will increase their knowledge of scholarly literature on health and anthropology, as well as their ease in navigating and researching in that literature.

Students will gain the experience of exploring and designing an anthropological research project based on their own interests and motivations

Students will increase their analytical skills through close reading and critical discussion of scholarly articles in class.

General method of instruction

This is a seminar class, designed to promote discourse among students and the instructor. Class time will be spent in group discussion and group explorations of the texts and concepts at hand.

Recommended preparation

Students should have a some familiarity with anthropological theory, sociological theory, or medical practice across cultures. Students without such background are still welcomed to enroll, but they may find the course material more challenging.

Class assignments and grading

Reading Responses: Students are required to post a written response to a minimum of ten readings (which means readings from ten different class periods) over the course of the quarter on the class bulletin board. These responses should be approximately 100 words, excluding any quotations, and should directly address the readings for that day.

Midterms: There will be two written, in-class midterm exams. These tests will cover material from readings as well as from class lectures and discussion. Both midterms will be comprehensive.

Final Paper: This course requires students to write an original paper of 4000-500 words in length analyzing healing practices that relate to a particular illness, syndrome, or medical approach. Possible topics could include the treatment of culture-bound syndromes (susto, latah, PMS, colds, etc.), ethnomedical approaches (curanderos, ayurveda, etc.), biomedical practices or approaches to healing, and many more. These papers are studentsí opportunity to explore the multifaceted nature of healing practice, including social, scientific, political, and symbolic elements of health and illness) and to display their grasp of the key concepts addressed in this class by applying them in the analysis of their chosen subject

Course grades will be determined on a 100-point scale:

Reading Responses: 10 points 2 Midterms: 15 points each Class Participation: 20 points Final Presentation: 10 points Final Paper: 30 points


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jennifer J Carroll
Date: 02/25/2012