• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Culture, Health and Medicine
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Gender Studies, Health, Medicine and the Body, Sociology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
Anthropology of Biomedical Technologies in Practice (CHMD8022)

This course introduces anthropological perspectives on socio-cultural and politico-economic dimensions of emergent biotechnologies in biomedical research and clinical practice- ranging from assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF, human tissues such as stem cells, and pharmacogenomics such as for cancer prevention and treatment. Broadly, the course explores the sociocultural, ethical, risk, and regulatory issues that arise out of global biomedical applications of biotechnologies in a variety of transnational contexts. The course will consider how transformations in biological sciences influence clinical practice. Here, drawing from ethnographic studies, we will examine the extant role of molecular and genomic sciences in redefining medical care and patient decision about care. We will reflect on the relationship between genetic determinism and epigenomics in biomedical research and clinical practice. The course will also explore socio-cultural effects of the globalization of reproductive technologies and surrogacy services along with anthropological debates surrounding the medical market for eggs and sperm and the outsourcing of medical research and drug clinical trials. Here we will reflect on the relationship between pharmaceuticals, the global market, and public health. Throughout the course, we will be concerned with social implication of biotechnologies at the intersection of race, gender, class, and sexuality as we reflect on the unequal benefits and risks of biomedical research and the applications of biotechnologies. Students will be introduced to the anthropological and political economic analysis of medical tourism, reproductive tourism, and the politics of transnational organ transfer to reflect on questions such as: Why some patients cross national borders for care while other individuals are compelled to sacrifice their organs for the care of their family?

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. effectively apply an anthropological perspective to the analysis of  socio-cultural and political economic implications of emergent biotechnologies;
  2. explore the relationship between the transformations in biological sciences and clinical practice and explain role of molecular and genomic sciences in reshaping biomedical practice and patient decision about care;
  3. analyze the socio-cultural effects of the globalization of biotechnologies; 
  4. explain social implication of biotechnologies at the intersection of race, gender, class, and sexuality and how this relates to the unequal benefits and risks of biomedical research and the applications of biotechnologies; and
  5. effectively apply critical reading and writing skills. 

Indicative Assessment

Critical Reflections/Participation, 6x400 words (5% each for a total of 30%) Learning Outcomes 1, 5
Research Paper, 3600 words (45%) Learning Outcomes 2, 3, 4
Conference Style Presentation, e.g. PowerPoint, 10 mins (25%) Learning Outcomes 2, 3, 4, 5  


The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of workshop and workshop-like activities; and
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Preliminary Reading

Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby. 2014. Clinical Labor: Tissue Donors and Research Subjects in the Global Bioeconomy. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Joe Dumit. 2012. Prescription Maximization and the Accumulation of Surplus Health in the Pharmaceutical Industry. In In Lively Capital: Biotechnologies, Ethics, and Governance in Global Markets.
Illana Löwy. Trustworthy Knowledge and Desperate Patients: Clinical Tests For New Drugs From Cancer to AIDS. In Margaret Lock, Allan Young, Alberto Cambrosio (eds). Living and Working with New Medical Technologies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 49-81.
Rebecca Skloot. 2010. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway Paperbacks/Random House.
Nancy Scheper-Huges. 2000. The Global Traffic in Human Organs. In Current Anthropology 41(2):191-211.
Kaushik Sundar Rajan. 2012. Introduction: The Capitalization of Life and Liveliness of Capital. In Lively Capital: Biotechnologies, Ethics, and Governance in Global Markets.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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