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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Trang X. Ta
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

The objective of the course is to examine how healing, as embodied and theoretical praxis, is constituted from culturally varied epistemologies and ontologies that deeply inform how we understand and experience the human condition. Through the perspective of healing practices we will explore models of well-being and affliction, the role of the medical practitioner or healer, the social construction of illness experience, the power of medical diagnosis, and institutional knowledge. In particular, we will examine how emotional well-being and mental health are treated within medieval medicine, the contemporary biomedical apparatus, and the foundations of Chinese medicine. A collection of ethnographies on faith healing, traditional Chinese medicine, and treatment of American mania and depression will serve as entry points into our further exploration of the constitution of healing practices. Films will serve to supplement the readings and be a significant part of the course material.

Student learning goals

• Practice how to closely read a variety of scholarly texts and synthesize theoretical arguments to help in formulating thoughtful critiques for written assignments and class discussion.

• Develop ethnographic and scholarly research skills through an original research and writing project that represents the culmination of learning from the course.

• Collaborate with colleagues in peer review to develop better overall writing skills.

• Explore the philosophical and theoretical foundations of healing systems.

General method of instruction

Balance of lecture and seminar style discussion.

Recommended preparation

A broad liberal arts background will be useful. Familiarity with anthropology, medicine, and philosophy will be particularly beneficial for this course.

Class assignments and grading

Final project based on ethnographic and scholarly research, in-class writing prompts, Go-posts, class participation, and peer review of final paper.

Grades are based on the clarity of the presentation of ideas, perceptive analysis of the research topics, insightful utilization of the course readings, and quality of written prose.


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 Trang X. Ta
Date: 09/29/2011