You are on page 1of 7


Facult des sciences sociales | Faculty of Social Sciences

Medical Anthropology

Ari Gandsman
Winter 2017



Theoretical approaches in medical anthropology. Examination of
knowledge, technologies, policies and experiences of health, disease,
the body, as well as their articulation to both local and global contexts.


Medical anthropology examines beliefs and practices about sickness,
healing, and the body in a cross-cultural and global perspective. This
course will introduce students to the most popular subfield of
anthropology and focus on such topics such as cultural constructions of
the body, theories of disease causation, beliefs about healing and
efficacy, reproductive technologies, medicalization and risk,
pharmaceuticals, genetics, emerging infectious diseases, and
international public health. One of the primary questions that medical
anthropologists attempt to answer and that students will learn how to
respond to is Who gets what and why? who refers to different
classifications of people, what refers to both disease and to medical
services, and why examines the cultural, social, biological, political,
and economic determinants of health and disease.


Components of Final Mark

Evaluation format Weight Date

Paper 1 20 % February 1
Midterm 20 % February 15

Paper 2 20% March 15

Final Exam (regular 40% Exam Period



January 9
Introduction to the Course
Topics: The scope of Medical Anthropology - four stages in the
development of the sub-discipline

January 11
Proto-medical anthropology
Topics: Rationality debates and the logic of witchcraft
Reading Due: Evans-Pritchard, E.E. The Notion of Witchcraft Explains
Unfortunate Events. (online reading)

January 16
Medical systems
Topics: Internalizing and externalizing medical systems; Chinese
Traditional Medicine;

Reading Due: Biss (3-50)

January 18
Healing efficacy of symbols and rituals
Topics: Sorcery, shamanism, and magic

Reading Due: Biss (pages 51-97)

First Essay Assigned

January 23
Medical Pluralism in a Globalised World
Topics covered: Patterns of resort, efficacy, and the problem of belief;
The question of Culture Bound Syndromes

Reading Due: Biss (pages 98-163)

January 25
Traditional Medicines
The assumptions of biomedicine, biomedicine vs. traditional medicine;
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Reading Due: Biss (pages 98 163)

January 30
Culture Bound Syndromes

Reading Due:
Hikikomori: the Postmodern Hermits of Japan. Flavio Rizzo. Warscapes.
June 14, 2016. (online reading)

LATAH: The symbolism of a putative mental disorder. Michael Kenny,

Culture, Medicine, Psychiatry (1978): 2: 209 (online reading).

February 1 (First Essay Due)

Illness experience and narratives
Topics: Subjectivity; Healing; Explanatory Models; Illness and Identity

Reading Due: Stitches (first part)

February 6
Biomedicine and the Definition of Normality

Reading Due: Stitches (second part)

February 8
The Mind, Self, and Mental Illness, Topics: Mind/Body dichotomy,
embodiment, placebo effect;

Reading Due: Stitches (finish)

Second Essay Assigned

February 13
Social Determinants of Health and Illness
Topics: Health disparities; illness and inequalities; social epidemiology

Reading Due: Holmes, Introduction, Worth Risking Your Life? and Two,
We Are Field Workers: Embodied Anthropology of Migration

February 15

Study Week
February 20 24
February 27
Race, Eugenics and Populations
Topics: Urbanization; migration; demographic transitions

Reading Due: Holmes, Segregation on the Farm: Ethnic Hierarchies at

Work, and How the Poor Suffer: Embodying the Violence Continuum

March 1
Biomedicine and the Clinical Encounter
Topics: clinical gaze; power; social suffering; symbolic violence

Reading Due: Holmes, Doctors Dont Know Anything: The Clinical

Gaze in Migrant Health

March 6
Medical Humanitarianism
Topics: health and human rights, health interventions

Reading Due: Holmes, Because Theyre Lower to the Ground:

Naturalizing Social Suffering and Conclusion

March 8
Introducing the Body, Sex, and Gender
Topics Covered: Body; Embodiment; Social and Biological Constructions
of Sex and Gender

Reading Due: Catch up or move ahead day: Finish Holmes and/or

start Quinones

March 13
Phamarceutical Revolutions
Topics: pharmaceuticals, neuroenhancement

Reading Due: Quinones, Preface, Introduction, Part I,

March 15 (Second Essay Due)

Public Health, Global Health and Infectious Diseases
Topics: Modern plagues and pandemics; emerging infectious diseases;

Reading Due: Quinones, Part I & Part II

March 20
Biological Citizenship
Topics: Human experimentation; laboratories; markets; social
relationships; clinical trials

Reading Due: Quinones, Part III & Part IV

March 22
Medicalization and Risk
Topics: Anthropology of Biomedicine

Reading Due: Quinones, Part IV and Part V

March 27
Death and Dying
Topics: brain death; end of life issues

Reading Due:
Kaufman, Sharon. 2000. In the Shadow of "Death with Dignity":
Medicine and Cultural Quandaries of the Vegetative State. American
Anthropologist 102(1): 69-83.

Kaufman, Sharon et al. 2004. Revisiting the Biomedicalization of Aging:

Clinical Trends and Ethical Challenges. The Gerontologist 44(6): 731-

Lock, Margaret. 2004. Living Cadavers and the Calculation of Death.

Body and Society 10:135-152.

March 29
Organ Transplantation
Topics: Commodification of the Human Body and Its Parts

Reading Due:
Sharp, Lesley. 2001 Commodified Kin: Death, Mourning, and Competing
Claims on the Bodies of Organ Donors in the United States. American
Anthropologist 103(1):112-133.

Lock, Margaret & Megan Crowley-Makota. 2008. Situating the practice

of organ donation in familial, cultural, and political context. Transplant
Reviews 22(3): 154-157.

April 3
Reproduction and Kinship
Topics: New reproductive technologies; fetal imagery; surrogacy;

Reading Due:
Inhorn, Marcia. 2003. Global Infertility and the Globalization of New
Reproductive Technologies: Illustrations from Egypt. Social Science and
Medicine 56:1837-1851

Ivry, Tsipy. 2010. Kosher medicine and medicalized halacha : an

exploration of triadic relations among Israeli rabbis, doctors, and
infertility patients. American ethnologist 37(4): 662-680.

April 5
Genetic and Postgenomic Futures
Topics: Genetic discrimination; genetic testing; biological reductionism;

Reading Due:
Konrad, Monica. 2003. Predictive genetic testing and the making of the
pre-symptomatic person: prognostic moralities amongst Huntingtons-
affected families. Anthropology & Medicine 10:23-49.

Lock, Margaret. 2010. Dementia Entanglements in a Postgenomic Era.

Science, Technology, & Human Values 36 (5): 685-703

Biss, Eula. 2014. On Immunity: an inoculation. Graywolf Press: Minneapolis,


Holmes, Seth. 2013. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the
United States. University of California Press.

Quinones, Sam. 2015. Dreamland: the true tale of Americas opiate epidemic.
Bloomsbury Press.

Small, David. 2010. Stitches: A Memoir. W.W. Norton.