SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Medical Anthropology: Global Perspectives

Module Code:
15PANH089
Credits:
15
FHEQ Level:
7
Year of study:
Any
Taught in:
Term 1

This module provides an introduction to the perspectives and practices of medical anthropology. It offers insights into the evolution of modern medicine and its key institutional, cultural, and ethical tenets as well as discourses and practices. The key aim is to engage in a cultural critique of biomedical assumptions, while also upholding a serious engagement with biomedical knowledge/mindsets in order to explore what they can offer anthropology.

Notions of health and illness are shaped by social, cultural, political, and technological forces. Questions of health and illness are thus inextricably linked with questions of science, technology, modernity, power, religion, gender, colonialism, capitalism, and globalization. We will discuss key concepts such as the normal body, medicalization, social construction, subjectivity, and biopolitics; thus familiarizing students with scholarly and timely debates on how biotechnological developments have fundamentally transformed individuals and communities and the way they experience life and health. In other words, we ask how experience is shaped by systems of classification and intervention, and what epistemological and ethical issues arise from them. Introducing students to relevant theoretical framework as well as ethnographies, the module will underscore phenomenological perspectives as well as analyses of the political economy of health. Students will explore the moral implications of these ongoing cultural shifts, and will be asked to consider these debates as frameworks to engage with current affairs and global conditions pertaining to health, inequality, conflict, and justice. There is a strong cross-cultural and comparative approach in this module, manifest in our engagement with ethnographic and theoretical contributions from the so-called Global South.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Understanding key concepts such as the normal body, medicalization, social construction, subjectivity, and biopolitics; thus familiarizing students with scholarly and timely debates on how biotechnological developments have fundamentally transformed individuals and communities and the way they experience life and health. In other words, we ask how experience is shaped by systems of classification and intervention, and what epistemological and ethical issues arise from them. Introducing students to relevant theoretical frameworks of medical anthropology as well as ethnographies, the module will shape the foundations of an education in medical anthropology.

  • A grasp of types of problems 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.

Workload

One hour lecture and one hour seminar per week.

Scope and syllabus

Topics to be covered on the course include:

  • Biomedicine as Culture;
  • Medicalization;
  • Interpretive Medical Anthropology;
  • Critical Medical Anthropology;
  • Knowledge Production in the Global South;
  • Subjectivity; Mental health,
  • Memory and Social Ruptures; representation;
  • Refugees Health;
  • Epidemics and Pandemics


Method of assessment

  • AS1: Book review - 20%
  • AS2: Final Essay - 70-%
  • Seminar Participation - 10%

Suggested reading

  • Lock, Margaret, and Vinh-Kim Nguyen. 2018. An Anthropology of Biomedicine. John Wiley & Sons
  • Conrad, Peter. 2007. The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Martin, E. 2007. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and depression in American Culture. Princeton U. Press.
  • Behrouzan, Orkideh. 2016. Prozak Diaries: Psychiatry and Generational Memory in Iran. Stanford University Press
  • Najmabadi, Afsaneh. 2013. Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same Sex Desire I Contemporary Iran. Duke University Press
  • DelVecchio, M-J., Hyde, S., Pinto, S. and Good, B. 2008. (eds). Postcolonial Disorders. University of California Press
  • Biehl, J. et al. (eds.) 2007. Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations. University of California Press
  • Good, Byron J., Michael M. J. Fischer, Sarah S. Willen, and Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good. 2010. A Reader in Medical Anthropology: Theoretical Trajectories, Emergent Realities. John Wiley & Sons
  • Jain, S. Lochlann. 2013. Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us. University of California Press
  • Fassin, D. and R. Rechtman. 2009. The Empire of Trauma. An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules