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Medical Anthropology


Admission Requirements

The following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the bachelor’s programme CADS at Leiden University who have passed both the propaedeutic phase and the following courses of the second year of the CADS programme: Research Preparation, Fieldwork NL and all the Key Issue courses.

  • Students enrolled for the bachelor’s programme CADS at Leiden University who have not yet passed the all the required courses of the second year of the CADS programme (listed above), who want to follow their third year exploration course during their second year programme. These students should first see the study advisor to discuss the viability of this option and then send a 100-150 word motivation to the course lecturer at least 20 days before the closing date of course enrolment. If you are selected, the lecturer will enroll you in the course.

  • Bachelor’s students from other academic programmes from Leiden University who have passed the propaedeutic phase of their programme and who want to follow this course as a level 300 elective. Please send a 100-150 word motivation to the course lecturer at least 20 days before the closing date of course enrolment. If you are selected, the lecturer will enroll you in the course.

N.B.: Availability for this course for BA2 CADS students and students from outside Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology is limited. Selection will be based on both the motivation of the student and number of available seats.

Course Description

What is medical anthropology and how do medical anthropologists study health, illness and the body? How are health and access to health care (unequally) distributed in society? How do we understand cultural contexts of illness experience? Building on previous courses in the curriculum of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, this course offers insight into current discussions in medical anthropology. We study meanings and experiences of health and illness from an anthropological perspective and examine how local and global forces affect illness, suffering, pain, and healing. Topics include, amongst others: medical anthropology and public health; cultural contexts of illness; social inequality and the politics of health; practices of caregiving; illness narratives; end-of-life care; HIV/AIDS; and Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Assessment of the course includes a qualitative interview exercise and report, response notes, a group assignment, a book essay, and a final paper. Class attendance is mandatory. This is a reading-intensive course. The sessions will consist of a mixed format of lectures, seminars (discussion of the literature), exercises, film-screenings, discussion of assignments, and making a policy brief. Students are expected to read the assigned literature before the sessions.

Course Objectives

The course will help students:

  • Understand core discussions in medical anthropology

  • Challenge presumptions about the body, health, and illness by assessing socio-cultural dimensions

  • Develop critical thinking and writing skills that allow them to engage in social scientific discussions on medical issues

  • Increase interview skills and analyse an interview qualitatively

  • Improve discussion skills by participating actively in debates during the sessions


Dates of lectures can be found on our website.

Mode of Instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • Lectures/seminar/exercise sessions 12×3 h = 48 sbu

  • Qualitative interview + interview report = 34 sbu

  • Weekly literature and response notes (200-600 words/10sbu each) (7 out of 9) = 70 sbu

  • Group assignment = 20 sbu

  • Monograph reading + book essay = 60 sbu

  • Final paper (2500-3000 words) = 48 sbu

Assessment Method

Seven response notes on the assigned readings, a book essay, an interview report, a discussion paper, and a group assignment. More details of the assignments and assessment will be announced in the syllabus.

Re-takes of the final paper are possible but only if final grades are below 6,0 and students have participated actively in the course and submitted satisfactory responses to at least most of the assignments.

Class attendance is mandatory.

Registration in My Studymap

Registration for the lectures in My Studymap is mandatory for all students. Registration closes 5 days before the start of the course. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

  • Exchange students: If you have officially been admitted for this course during the Admission Procedure, you will be registered for the lectures by the faculty’s Student Service Centre.

Confirming your exams

Students need not register for the examination via My Studymap, because this course does not include a single final examination.


Brightspace is the digital learning environment of Leiden University. Brightspace gives access to course announcements and electronic study material. Assignments will also be submitted in Brightspace. Announcements about and changes to courses will be made via Brightspace. Students are advised to check Brightspace daily to remain informed about rooms, schedules, deadlines, and details of assignments. Lecturers assume that all students read information posted on Brightspace.

  • How to login

The homepage for Brightspace is: Brightspace

Please log in with your ULCN-account and personal password. On the left you will see an overview of My Courses.

Course Literature

The preliminary course syllabus and reading list will be available on Brightspace by December 2023.


Dr. Annemarie Samuels Dr. N. Lemos Dekker