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School of Social Sciences

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BSocSc Social Anthropology
Explore human behaviour and relationships and the challenges across different cultures.

BSocSc Social Anthropology / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Medical Anthropology

Unit code SOAN30061
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Anthropology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Substantive topics will include: the interface between medicine and anthropology; bodies and embodiment; personhood; gender; health and illness of babies and children; epidemics; identity and otherness; stigma; explanations of misfortune; ritual; psychiatry; carers and healers; dying and death; health policy.

A distinctive feature of the course will be the lecturer's extensive and continuing research into HIV/AIDS in Central and Southern Africa.


This course unit aims to provide a critical overview of contemporary theoretical issues in medical anthropology. Drawing extensively upon recent ethnographies from different parts of the world in order to contextualise theoretical approaches, the course will examine some key debates and relate these debates to wider issues of theory and method in social anthropology.

Learning outcomes

  • critically evaluate different, and at times competing, anthropological understandings of health and illness
  • conduct a cross-cultural analysis of the ways in which people perceive health and illness and the ways in which they act in the face of suffering
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of local and global efforts to explain the causes of disease with particular reference to biomedical, political economy and structural violence approaches
  • analyse efforts to mitigate the consequences of epidemics and illness, with particular reference to public health policies and health promotion

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures/Films/Group work . Group work will consist of presentations and discussions of key texts in the reading pack and the opportunity to seek clarification of the material presented in lectures.

Assessment methods

2000 word Non-Assessed Essay
3 hour Exam - 100%

Feedback methods

All students will be offered the opportunity to submit their essay plan for feedback. Feedback will be given on the assessed essay for the course.

Recommended reading

Farmer, P. 1999. Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Reynolds-Whyte, S. 1997. Questioning Misfortune: The Pragmatics of Uncertainty in Eastern Uganda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Helman, C. 2001. Culture, Health and Illness. London: Butterworth-Heineman.
Kleinman, A., V. Das and M. Lock (eds) 1997. Social Suffering. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lindenbaum, S. and M. Lock (eds) 1993. Knowledge, Power and Praxis: The Anthropology of Medicine and Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 3
Lectures 20
Seminars 9
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anthony Simpson Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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