Cultural Understandings of Health
- Course Code:
- Unit value:
- Year of study:
- Year 1 or Year 2
- Taught in:
- Full Year
Objectives and learning outcomes of the course
By the end of the course students should be able to demonstrate:
- a grasp types of problem and areas of questioning which are fundamental to the anthropology of medicine.
- an understanding of what constitutes a critical phenomenological and a cultural approach to the body and to illness
- knowledge of the particular contribution of a medical anthropological perspective to the study of problems in the health of populations, public health, bioethics, and alternative medical systems.
Scope and syllabus
Topics range from a critique of the Cartesian dichotomy of body and mind to different ways in which people manage death and disease, including the explanatory roles of divination, herbalism, alternative therapies, religion, sorcery and culturally defined concepts of risk, vulnerability, fate and evil.
The course also defines what is meant by the concept of 'public' in definitions of 'public health', and how such concepts relate to gender and to relations between individuals, households, communities. It also explores problems of epidemiology in approaches to disease.
Local-level understandings are then related to such public health issues as campaigns for epidemic control or disease eradication and prevention, primary health care, mother-child and parent child relationships, the role and possible up-grading and professionalisation of local healers in relation to bio-medically trained practitioners, the distribution of clinics and hospitals and other discourses that accompany public health policies. Particular cases centring on governmental, WHO and NGO activities are analysed.
Method of assessment
The written exam will count for 60%. 2 pieces of coursework will count for 40% (20% each) towards the final mark.