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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, Social Determinants of Health; Health, Society and History or Health Systems & Management. 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 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.

Course objectives

By the end of the course students will

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

  • have learned how to apply medical anthropological concepts to actual case-studies and formulate questions that lead to a focused in-class discussion.

  • have acquired the necessary analytical skills to integrate these key issues and topics in medical anthropology in the final literature review paper

  • are able to write a concise literature review based on social science articles.

  • have acquired the necessary skills to analyze global health policy/practice through a medical anthropological lens


Once available, timetables will be published here.

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: 10%, deadline: weeks 1-7
Learning aim: to lead and participate in, discussions on course readings through in-class student-lead discussions around case-studies and in the interactive closing.

Assessment 2: Group Presentation of Ethnography
a) Presentation
Weight: 20%, deadline: weeks 2,3,4,5,6 (5 in total)
Learning aim: Being able to critically review the argument in a book and situate the book in broader discussions within medical anthropology
b) Book review of 1000 words
Learning aim: ability to deconstruct a book-length anthropological text, situate methodology, concepts and evidence presentation within theoretical debates and draw out the relevance of the evidence for approaching particular global health questions.
Weight: 15 %, deadline: weeks 2,3,4,5,6

Assessment 3: Practice diary
Weight: 25%, deadline: week 3, 4, 5, 6
Learning aim: Analysis of the representation of actual public health issues and practice different skills (analysing, interviewing, observing). The assignments include an observation exercise, an interview exercise, a newspaper review and a filmreview

Assessment 4: Final Paper
Weight: 30%, deadline: week 8
Learning aim: Using a specific concept/theory from medical anthropology to critically comment on comment representations of global health issues. Being able to present these analyses in clear academic writing, using social science literature.


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 full-length ethnography and prepare a student-presentation.


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


Dr. Josien de Klerk