The course provides an introduction to the field of medical anthropology. It includes the application of different forms of social and cultural analysis to the study of health, illness, and healing. Examples of medical systems and medical practices are drawn from a range of cultures. In the first part of the course the scope of medical anthropology will be covered and different approaches to the understanding of the body discussed, including the social and cultural construction of illness and illness categories, healers and their roles, the foundations of efficacy in healing, and the place of individual and social agency in health and illness. In the second half of the course health and human rights, pharmaceuticals and ethics of medical research and organ trafficking will be the centre of the discussion.
The course provides a critical understanding of health care systems and political economy of health, illness and healing with a specific focus on the context in which health inequalities are experienced, how they are historically constructed and why they are maintained in the current realities. We will use case studies from across the world to explore the historical, environmental, biosocial, political economic and socio-cultural factors that influence individual and collective therapy management, local healing practices, national health care, and medical research and health policies in their local, national and international context, and to analyse fundamental medical anthropological concepts and theories and to critically analyse academic writing.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- discuss the relevance of advanced anthropological concepts for studying health and healing;
- identify key features of advanced anthropological approaches to health and healing;
- assess and critically compare the strengths and weaknesses of different anthropological approaches to health and healing;
- formulate well-researched anthropological areas of inquiry and questions to be applied to issues of health and healing;
- recognise and analyze the differences and similarities in various healing systems based on advanced anthropological concepts;
- work collaboratively to communicate the social significance of important medical and health issues and reflect on the process; and
- demonstrate advanced skills in critical reading, thinking, writing, and public presentation.