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Medical Anthropology




Admissions requirements

It is recommended that students have followed one of following foundational 100-level courses in the major Global Public Health: Introduction to Epidemiology and Global Health, Health Systems and Management or Social Determinants of Health. If you did not take one of these courses please contact the instructor prior to the course.


This course provides a medical anthropological perspective on key topics in Global Public Health. Throughout the course, we look at conditions of disease 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.

Course objectives


  • Have an active understanding of the main theories and concepts in the field of medical anthropology

  • Using a specific course concept to critically comment on representations of global health issues in politics, policy, and media.


  • Apply medical anthropological concepts to actual case-studies, working from empirical data to theory and the other way around.

  • Deconstruct an ethnographic text and present findings in a clear and concise manner

  • Present analyses in clear academic writing, using conventions in social science literature

  • Through a practice diary students will practice interviewing and analysis skills.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The two-hour weekly session will be run as a seminar, consisting of introductory lectures and in-depth discussion of weekly readings. Students are expected to lead the discussion on several case-studies. Students are expected to attend every class session, to carefully read all articles, and to prepare comments and questions for discussion beforehand. Lecturer(s) will call on individual students to ask for their reactions and questions about specific readings. You are also expected to read and present one of the seminal ethnographies in medical anthropology listed in the syllabus


Assessment 1: In-class participation
Weight: 15%, deadline: weeks 1-7
Learning aim:
Assessment 2: Group Presentation of Ethnography
Weight: 17,5%, deadline: weeks 2,3,4,5,6
Learning aim: Being able to critically review the argument in a book and situate the book in broader discussions within medical anthropology
Assessment 3: Practice diary
Weight: 2 x 17,5 % (adding up to 35%), deadline: week 2, 5
The assignments include a metrics assignment and an interview exercise.
Assessment 4: Letter to the Editor
Weight: 32,5%, deadline: week 8


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

A compulsory list of literature will be provided before the start of the course containing key-chapters from past and present seminal works by medical anthropologists. There is no compulsory textbook for the course.
Students will also select and read one of the following full-length ethnography and prepare a student-presentation.
These ethnographies include:
1. Emily Yates-Doerr (2015) The Weight of Obesity: Hunger and Global Health in Postwar Guatemala
2. Tiantian Zheng (2009) Red Lights: The lives of Sex workers in Post-socialist China
3. Julie Livingston (2012) Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic
4. Ruben Andersson (2014) Illegality Inc. Clandestine Migration and the business of Bordering Europe


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Josien de Klerk