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Medical Anthropology


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Completion of two 100-level GPH courses:

  • Health systems and Management,

  • Social Determinants of Health,

  • Health, Society & History, and/or

  • Global Histories of Health, Disease and Medicine


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.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course students will:


  • LO1 Can extract the conceptual/analytical lens from an anthropological article and apply this to a practical global health problem

  • LO2 Can outline the main medical anthropological debates on the following topics: 1. Evidence production in Global Health 2. Sexual and Reproductive health 3. Chronic Illness 4. Care 5. Technologies and health 6. Anthropocene/Interspecies.

  • LO3 Know what is meant with representation in Medical Anthropology and how this translates in discussions on methods, knowledge production, ethics and evidence.


  • LO4 Know how to translate theoretical concepts into concrete discussion questions

  • LO5 Can present ‘anthropological knowledge’ in different formats (podcast, presentation, academic letter) and know how form influences knowledge production.

  • LO6 Are able to practice reflexivity (how your own positionality shapes the way you interpret the world).


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This class runs as seminar. There will be two contact-moments 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 carefully reading texts, listening to podcasts, and actively translating theory into practice. Students will have to prepare partly in groups. Students will practice and receive formative feedback on their analytical skills, working with applying theoretical concepts in practice and reflecting on their own positionality through in-class work.

This course comes with intensive work in one week of the course: a group of students will be responsible for one case-study discussion based on the readings of the class and (by choice) additional literature. This forms the basis for an interactive discussion in class. The practice diary forms the foundational work for the final assignment.

Assessment Method

  • Participation 15%

  • Practice diary (55%, cumulative), including:

  1. Metrics assignment (19%), week 2
  2. Case-study presentation – group assignment (19%) – between week 3 and 6
  3. Engaging with an anthropological theme (17%)– week 7
  • Letter to the editor 30%- 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.

Reading list

A reading list will be made available via Brightspace 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,