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Medical Anthropology


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Succesful completion of two 100-level courses in Global Public Health; if you do not meet these requirements 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. This takes two forms: We will pay ample attention to and experiment with other forms of knowledge – such as non-cognitive forms of knowing and awareness of embodied knowledge. We do so through a creative workshop and through regular positionality reflections. We will also pay heed to recent calls for slowing down in the production of knowledge and evidence in Global Health. Students should be prepared to experiment with different ways of slowing down themselves.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course students will:


  • Learning Aim 1: Can extract the conceptual/analytical lens from an anthropological article and apply this to a practical global health problem

  • Learning Aim 2: Can outline the main medical anthropological debates on the following topics: 1. Evidence production in Global Health 2. Biomedicine & Future Health 3.Sexual and Reproductive health 4. Multispecies & Planetary Health. 5.Chronic Illness & Care

  • Learning Aim 3: Know what is meant with representation in Medical Anthropology and how this translates in discussions on methods, knowledge production, ethics and evidence.


  • Learning Aim 4: Know how to translate theoretical concepts into concrete discussion questions

  • Learning Aim 5: Can present ‘anthropological knowledge’ in different formats (podcast, presentation, academic letter) and know how form influences knowledge production.

  • Learning Aim 6: Are able to practice reflexivity (how your own positionality shapes the way you interpret the world).

  • Learning Aim 7: Team-work skills: building on each other’s strengths, work division, project planning communication skills with professors and each other.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This class runs as seminar and is strongly based in a collaborative learning approach. There will be two contact-moments a week. Students are expected to sit with and think about the assigned literature and to bring these reflections to the collaborative learning seminar.

Assessment Method

  • Participation/critical reflection statements three times, 15%

  • Engaging with an anthropological theme, 19%, Week 3

  • Group project - Podcast episode for the LUC ‘Anthropologic’ podcast series, 35%, Week 7
    You will interview a medical anthropologist active in Global Public Health to reflect on knowledge production, collaborative work, ethics and how they come to do the research they do. The podcast will be launched in week 7 on the ‘LUC Anthropologic’ channel.

  • Final Interactive Thinkpiece, 31%, Week 8
    Throughout the course you apply the readings and discussions to a topic of personal interest. You write an interactive think-piece with a focus on communication to a broader Global public health audience, consisting of an analytical and a creative component.

Reading list

A reading list will be made available a week before the course commences.


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 course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Josien de Klerk,