nl en

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 the propaedeutic phase.

  • 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.

N.B.: Because of the limited number of available places for this course, selection may have to take place from among students from other academic programmes from Leiden University.

The following category will be registered and selected by our administration after explicit admission procedure:

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students who have been admitted to this course.

Course Description

What is medical anthropology and how do medical anthropologists study health, illness and the body? This course will offer a broad introduction to the field of medical anthropology. We will 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. Among the topics will be: medical anthropology and public health; cultural contexts of illness; social inequality and the politics of health; gendered dimensions of health; practices of caregiving; illness narratives; end-of-life care; and HIV/AIDS. Assessment of the course includes a qualitative interview exercise and report, response notes, a class assignment on the Covid-19 pandemic, a book review, and a final paper. Attendance at classes is mandatory and participation is part of the assessment. This is a reading-intensive course. The sessions will consist of a mixed format of lectures, seminars (discussion of the literature), exercises, film-screenings and discussion of assignments. 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 = 36 sbu

  • Qualitative interview + interview report = 24 sbu

  • Weekly literature and response notes (max.600 words/8sbu each) (9 out of 10) = 72 sbu

  • Assignment on Covid-19 pandemic = 10 sbu

  • Monograph reading + book review = 60 sbu

  • Final paper (3000 words) = 40 sbu

  • Additional literature = 38 sbu

Assessment Method

Weekly response notes, a book review, an interview report, a discussion paper, and a class assignment on the Covid-19 pandemic. 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.


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 course syllabus and final reading list will be available on Brightspace by December 2020.


  • Registration in uSis is mandatory for the lectures for all participants. Please consult the course registration website for information about registration periods and further instructions.

  • Registration for the exam is NOT necessary because this course has no final classroom-based exam.

  • 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.


Dr. Annemarie Samuels