Alma Sheppard-Matsuo artwork

Medical Anthropology

This course explores the social and cultural contexts of health, disease, and healing.  We will focus on two central claims of medical anthropology:

* Sickness involves more than biological dysfunction. It is also produced by larger scale forces, involving the political economy, history and forms of inequality of specific societies. The disease profile of entire populations as well as the personal experience of individuals reflect such macro-social forces .

* Biomedicine (“Western” or “scientific” medicine) is not culture-free or value-neutral.  The organization of medical knowledge is not inevitable. It has a history and it depends on shifting social forces. The ways people understand illness and devise treatments bear the marks of distinctive cultural worldviews and political arrangements.

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