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Medical Anthropology


Admission requirements

Recommended: completion of two 100-level GPH courses, Introduction to Epidemiology, Social Determinants of Health, or Health, Society & History. If you do not meet these requirements but would still like to enroll, please contact the instructor.


This course provides a medical anthropological perspective on key topics in Global Public Health. Throughout the course, we look at conditions of dis-ease as having social as well as biological determinants and take the point of view that ideas of health and methods of treating illness are deeply lodged in cultural frameworks. Thus we treat healing practices, including biomedicine, as inevitably predicated on cultural systems of understanding and larger structures of power. How people understand illness and where it comes from, and what they do about it when it does occur, tells us much about how different societies understand people and their place in the world. During the course we also direct attention to Medical Anthropology’s place in the enterprise of Global Health, asking critical questions about knowledge production and Medical Anthropology’s role herein.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course students will:


  • Have an active understanding of main theoretical lenses in medical anthropology

  • Have acquired and overview of medical anthropological debates on specific topics: 1. Evidence production in Global Health 2. Sexual and Reproductive health 3. Chronic Illness 4. Care 5. Technologies and health 6. Anthropocene/Interspecies

  • Know what is meant with representation in Medical Anthropology and how this translates in discussions on knowledge production, ethics and evidence.


  • Know how to conduct an interview

  • Have acquired skills in creative transfer of knowledge (through making a podcast and a freestyle assignment

  • Have acquired reflective skills


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

  • This class runs as seminar. There will be two contactmoments a week. Students are expected to engage thoroughly with the assigned literature and to prepare questions and comments before class. Lecturer(s) will call on individual students to ask for their reactions and questions about specific readings.

  • Students will have to prepare class by watching videos, listening to podcasts and reading.

  • Students will work on a mini-casestudy related to one of the topics listed above. The topics can come from personal or family experience, a novel, a theatershow, a book, anything. Three of the four assignments are geared towards developing the case-study. These include the metrics assignment, the projectplan and the creative final product.

  • Students will also do a group-assignment. This includes interviewing a medical anthropologist working on the topic of the week and transforming this interview in a podcast which will be discussed in class.

  • The course will be taught remotely but students will be able to meet in-class for offline working groups with remote supervision.

Assessment Method

  • Participation 11% (LO1) - Weekly

  • Podcast assignment- 35% (LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4) – Once between week 2 and week 6

  • Metrics assignment -19% (LO3) Week 2

  • Interactive Blog 35% (LO2, LO3, LO6) Week 8

Please note:
In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework. There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.

Reading list

A reading list will be made available a week before the course commences. It will contain one full-length ethnography.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Josien de Klerk,