Print Version

Effective: Summer 2014

Grade Type: Letter Grade, the student may select Pass/No Pass
Not Repeatable.
FHGE: Non-GE Transferable: CSU/UC
4 hours lecture. (48 hours total per quarter)

Description -
This course is an introduction to Medical Anthropology, a subfield of the discipline of anthropology that seeks to understand and highlight how health, illness and healing practices are culturally constructed and mediated. Students will investigate global, cross-cultural and local issues related to health, sickness, healing, epidemiology, aging and dying from an applied and biocultural perspective, using anthropological theory and ethnographic fieldwork methods. Students will be exposed to diverse cultural interpretations of health, sickness and healing, the importance of viewing medical systems as social systems, understanding the socio-cultural context of medical decision making and therapy management, the principles of cultural competency, and the recurrent and ongoing problems of socioeconomic inequality and ecological disruptions that have an impact upon the differential distribution and treatment of human diseases.

Course Objectives -
The student will be able to:
  1. Describe the history of the field of medical anthropology and how it is organized today, including career paths.
  2. Compare and contrast theories and methods utilized by researchers and practitioners within the field of medical anthropology.
  3. Recognize the role of culture, biology and ecology in the origins and social construction of illness or disease and in the culture specific production of health.
  4. Describe symptoms, diagnosis and therapies of different medical systems across cultures.
  5. Distinguish between the training, and contrast the authority, of non-Western and Western healing professionals.
  6. Evaluate the role of applied medical anthropology in national and international health development programs and the development of public health policy.
  7. Develop intercultural sensitivity and skills that promote cultural competency in a healthcare setting.
Special Facilities and/or Equipment -
When taught as an online distance learning section, students and faculty need ongoing and continuous Internet and Email access.

Course Content (Body of knowledge) -
  1. Introduction to Medical Anthropology
    1. Medical anthropology as a subfield in a four-field anthropological approach
    2. The historical development of medical anthropology
    3. Medical anthropology today: an applied approach
  2. Theory and methods in Medical Anthropology
    1. Sociocultural, biocultural and ecological theories
    2. Introduction to ethnographic fieldwork theory and methods, including the analysis and interpretation of data
  3. Role of culture, biology and ecology on concepts of health, illness and healing
    1. The concept of culture
    2. Evolutionary and ecological perspectives on disease
      1. Human biological variation
      2. Changing indicators of health from foraging societies to industrialized societies
      3. Models of ecology, culture and health
    3. Social construction of disease and illness categories.
      1. Perceptions of internal and external body
      2. Beliefs concerning mutilation of the body
      3. The social production of health and treatment
      4. Culture bound syndromes
  4. Medical systems across cultures
    1. Naturalistic medical systems
    2. Supernaturalistic and magical medical systems
    3. Power and organization in medical systems across cultures
      1. Resource control and decision-making
  5. Healing roles across cultures
    1. Characteristics, authority and training of healers
    2. Shamanism in a cross-cultural perspective
  6. Applied Medical Anthropology
    1. Contributions in formulation of public policy
    2. Work of applied specialists to world health problems and health inequities resulting from globalization
  7. Cultural competency in healthcare
    1. Cultural and linguistic barriers resulting in health disparities
    2. Cultural competency history and policy
    3. Practice of cultural competency skills
Methods of Evaluation -
Methods of evaluation may include in-class objective examinations including multiple choice, completion, matching items and true/false; in-class and out-of-class writing assignments including essays and short papers; oral presentations and/or papers presenting individual or group research or fieldwork; assessment of participation in class discussions and exercises.
Representative Text(s) -
Brown, Peter J. and Ron Barrett. Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology. McGraw-Hill, 2010.
Singer, Merrill and Hans Baer. Introducing Medical Anthropology: A Discipline in Action. AltaMira Press, 2011.
Wiley, Andrea S. and John Allen. Medical Anthropology: A Biocultural Approach. Oxford University Press, 2009.
McElroy, Ann and Patricia Townsend. 2009. Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective, Fifth Edition. Westview Press.

Disciplines -
Method of Instruction -
Methods of instruction may include:
  1. lecture
  2. all-class and small group discussions
  3. multimedia presentations
  4. in-class group exercises
  5. individual and group research or field projects.
Lab Content -
Not applicable.
Types and/or Examples of Required Reading, Writing and Outside of Class Assignments -
Two hours of work outside of class are required for each hour of lecture or equivalent. Representative out-of-class reading, writing and other assignments can include:
  1. Reading assigned texts, articles or handouts and studying class notes.
  2. Doing various homework, including writing reading response essays and short papers.
  3. Preparing an oral presentation or written research paper based on individual or group research or fieldwork.
  4. Conducting research based on secondary sources.
  5. Conducting ethnographic fieldwork in a local setting.