Health, Healing and Culture: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology (in English)

Universidad Pablo de Olavide

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Health, Healing and Culture: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology (in English)

  • Host University

    Universidad Pablo de Olavide

  • Location

    Seville, Spain

  • Area of Study

    Anthropology, European Studies, Global Health

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course description
    This course is an introduction to Medical Anthropology, and it focuses on the relationship between individual and culture. The student will have available a range of readings that will help to illustrate the different relationship between culture and the subject’s perceptions of health and healing. This introductory course aims to provide students with a basic understanding of some of the anthropological approaches and tools that are relevant to the study of the health and illness and to the improvement of the impact and sustainability of health work. It is aimed at those new to anthropology and can thus be used as a introduction to the subdiscipline for health novice social scientist. It will introduce students to the topics, theories, and methods of the discipline, applied to the scientific study of the social and cultural determinants of health. We will explore topics such as mental health and illness, systems of healing, woman’s health, ethics, intercultural competence, and practical uses for health care settings. In addition to this, it will enable you learn theoretical concepts and no less importantly, to become able to use them in cases and examples directly connected to daily life, including examples of actual topics. The course will include the latest anthropological perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic since the COVID -19 pandemic has disrupted the normal lifestyle of people across the globe. Conducted in English.

    Course goals and methodology
    This course aims at providing a basic understanding of some of the anthropological approaches and tools that are relevant to the study of health and illness. We will delve into the connections between our conceptions of health and healing processes and sociocultural contexts. This course will introduce Medical Anthropology, which is the subfield of anthropology concerned with how human societies respond to and shape the experiences of health, illness, and recovery. As we move on, we will delve into to more specific and complex aspects, such as the meaning and value of healing in particular cultures, different etiological systems, ethno-medical systems, reproductive health, and mental illnesses, among others. Classes will consist of lectures and class discussions. Students are encouraged to use a Blackboard site, where the professor will post slides, journal articles, assignment instructions and additional resources such as audiovisual material.
    The general objectives that this course addresses will enable you to:
    • Demonstrate an analytical understanding of a range of concepts, principles and definitions used in medical anthropology.
    • Show awareness of cultural competence in health care, enabling effective work across racial, ethnic, and cultural lines.
    • Be able to explain the role of the main social and cultural determinants of health.
    • Explain how culture influences our perception of health and healing, and become aware of the risk of ethnocentrism.
    • Be able to apply what you learn to your daily life and own experiences.

    There is no textbook required for this course. Therefore, students are not expected to purchase any material. The instructor will post the class material on Blackboard, which is accessible both on campus and off campus. To log in, you need to sign in on using the username and password you received in your orientation folder. Coursework will include lectures, students’ presentations, videos, outside readings and short written assignments. Participation is a key factor in this course. Engaging in discussions and presenting the contents that you will actively learn about the theory but also about how to apply it, getting feedback and guidance and assuring proper understanding. Students will be expected to come prepared to class, reading the daily assignment. In class, the instructor will use audiovisual materials to supplement the information presented in the readings. Every session will be structured around class discussion, focusing on the readings assigned and the audiovisual material presented.

    Learning Objectives
    By the end of the semester, students who complete all necessary assignments will be able to:
    • Be able to define and explain what culture and Medical Anthropology are, and their meaning in different cultures.
    • Describe the nuances separating illness from disease.
    • Debate and think critically about different perceptions and experiences of health, and of healing processes as a result of acculturation.
    • Identify processes related to health and illness as diverse as cultural backgrounds can be identified.
    • Discuss with an appropriate vocabulary about cultural influences, healing processes and medical systems.
    • Demonstrate the ability to traslate knowledge into practice using examples and cases.


    Required Texts

     • Abrams, ElM et al (2021). COVID-19 and the impact of social determinants of health. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Volume 8, Issue 7, 659 - 661

    • Boddy, J., & Boddy, J. (2016). The normal and the aberrant in female genital cutting: Shifting paradigms. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 6 (2), 41–69.

    • Boseley, S (2016). NHS can fund 'game-changing' PrEP HIV drug, court says. The Guardian. August, 2nd

    • El Guindi, F (2020) “What the Coronavirus Crisis Needs from Anthropology.” Anthropology News website Farmer, P. & Kleinman, A. (1989). AIDS as human suffering. Daedalus, 118 (2),135-160

    • Foster, G. (1976). Disease etiologies in Non-Western medical systems, American Anthropology, 78 (4), 773-782 


    Course Requirements and Grading
    Students will be evaluated on their ability to articulate and critically apply the terms, concepts and theories from class and readings verbally, during class discussions, as well as in writing, on exams and in written assignments. The final grade for the course is comprised of the following:
    • Focus Essay (25%) - April, 20th
    • Class presentations (10%)
    • Participation (15%)
    • Midterm exam (25%) - March 7th
    • Final exam (25%)

    Course Contents

    Lecture 1. Course presentation 

    Lecture 2. Introduction to Medical Anthropology Case study: COVID-19 

    Lecture 3. Doing Anthropology. COVID-19 and Ebola 

    Lecture 4. Medical pluralism I 

    Lecture 5. Medical Pluralism II 

    Lecture 6. The relationship between  anthropology and biomedicine 

    Lecture 7. Tabboos and invisibilisation. The role of medical anthropology.  Short essay 

    Lecture 8. Non-Western disease etiologies 

    Lecture 9. Social Determinants of health 

    Lecture 10. Culture and the subject  The body in anthropology 

    Lecture 11. Traditional anthropologist and political economy anthropologist. The case of HIV and COVID-19. 

    Lecture 12. Mid-term preparation Activity: Social Determinants of Health Mid-term exam  

    Lecture 13. Reproductive Health 

    Lecture 14. Mental health in different cultures 

    Lecture 15. Communication in clinical settings 

    Lecture 16. Intercultural competence

    Lecture 17. Citizenship, governance and health. The case of HIV and AIDS 

    Lecture 18. Experimental subjects, ethics (House: episode 8 “informant consent”) 

    Lecture 19. Interventions 

    Lecture 20. COVID-19: Ongoing Global Responses and Social Impact

    Lecture 21. Activities: Field cases and trials Documentary 

    Lecture 22. Healing in different cultures  (Final focus essay deadline) 

    Medical Anthropology Presentations 1 (non-participant observation) 

    Medical Anthropology Presentations 2 (non-participant observation) 

    Medical Anthropology  Presentations 3 (non-participant observation) 

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations


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