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Medical Anthropology


Please note: this course description is not fully up-to-date for the academic year 2019-2020. A new version with marginal changes will be presented on this page shortly.

Admission requirements

There is a very limited number of available places for this course so only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the Bachelor programme “CA-DS” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse. Only ONE third year's course on level 300 is obligatory according to your programme.

  • Students enrolled for the Minor CA-OS who have not followed another CA-OS course on level 300.
    If due to too many applicationsa selection of participants needs to be made, students who have already followed other "verdiepings"-courses on level 300 will be de-registered.

The following two categories will be registered by our administration after explicit admission procedure:

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

  • Pre-master students who have completed their admission procedure for the master CA-DS and have been formally admitted to this course as part of the pre-master programme.

Please see the Usis-registration procedure below.


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 illness and health from an anthropological perspective and we will examine the ways in which local and global forces affect illness, suffering, pain, and healing. Topics will include, amongst others: 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; global mental health; end-of-life care; HIV/AIDS; addiction; and new reproductive technologies. The assessment of the course includes a qualitative interview exercise and report, response notes, a book review, and a final paper. Class attendance is mandatory and participation is part of the assessment. This is a reading-intensive course. The sessions will consist of a mixed-format of lecture, seminar (discussion of the literature), exercise, film-screening and discussion of assignments. Students are expected to read the assigned literature prior to the sessions.

Course objectives

The course will help you to:

  • Understand core discussions in medical anthropology

  • Challenge taken for granted positions on the body, health and illness by assessing their socio-cultural dimensions

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

  • Increase interview skills and qualitatively analyse an interview

  • Advance discussion skills by active participation in debates during the sessions

Time table

Dates and room numbers can be found on our website, under "3e jaar, Semester 2, Hoorcolleges".

Mode of instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • Lectures/seminar/exercise sessions 12×3 h = 36 sbu

  • Qualitative interview + interview report = 26 sbu

  • Study of literature (+/- 1000 pp) and weekly response notes (10 out of 12) + book review = 170 sbu

  • Final paper (3000 words) = 40 sbu

Assesment method

  • Weekly response notes – pass/fail, 10 out of 12 need to be passed

  • Book review – 20% of the final grade

  • Interview report – 20% of the final grade

  • Final examination paper (2500-3000 words) – 45% of the final grade

  • Class participation – 15% of the final grade

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

Class attendance is mandatory.


The blackboard module will be active.
All participants must register for this course on Blackboard.

Reading list

Two ethnographic monographs and a number of articles/book chapters. The course syllabus and final reading list will be available on blackboard by early December 2019


  • Registration in Usis is obligatory for the lectures (H) for all participants. Please consult the course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions.

  • Registration for the exam is NOT necessary because this course does not have one final (classical) exam.

  • Registration on Blackboard is obligatory for all participants.

  • Exchange students: If you had officially been admitted for this course during the Admission Procedure, you will be registered for the lectures by our Student administration service.


Dr. A. Samuels