This class will examine medicine, health, affliction and the body in global perspective. We will cover a diversity of topics, including disease, pain and disability; reproduction and childbirth; body modification and commodification; biotechnology and bioethics; end of life debates; and medical humanitarianism. The class will begin by examining historically how Western medical knowledge and intervention has shifted radically over the last several hundred years. It will go on to explore the sometimes conflictual relationship between traditional and local understandings of health and the body as against the present-day Western model of health, what some call “biomedicine. Additionally, we will focus on how increased globalization has created enormous health disparities in life expectancy and other measures around the world. The course will show how illness very often connects to large, global patterns of power and inequality, including the exposure of the poor to environmental health hazards of many kinds. Finally, we will examine the widespread current efforts to improve global health and the successes, paradoxes and limitations of these efforts.
Students will gain some exposure to the principles of anthropological theory and social theory, especially in the fields of medical anthropology and global health studies. They will also gain a knowledge of key issues in thinking about cross-cultural questions of health and the body in relationship to social difference such as class, gender and race. Through the examination of particular cases, they will also come away with greater knowledge of particular areas of the world, including regions in South America, Africa, and Asia.
Teaching and Evaluation Methods
Each student will paired with another, and responsible for leading the discussion of the readings at least once during the semester. In addition, a typed, single-spaced page of notes about the readings for that week will be due at the beginning of that week. These notes are a precious device for making sure that students come to class ready to contribute to the discussion. Each student will also be part of a larger group of four that will do a presentation on an issue relate to culture, health, and globalization There will be two 5-7 page double-spaced papers, and a final exam.
Grades will be calculated as follows: reading notes/class participation, 25%; papers, 25% each, final exam, 25%.
There will be a number of articles and readings available on the course website. In addition, we will view some short films in class and read all or part of the following books:
Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
Julie Livingston, Improvising Medicine: an African oncology ward in an emerging cancer Epidemic
Elizabeth Roberts, God’s Laboratory: Assisted Reproduction in the Andes
Anne Allison, Precarious Japan
Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil