Topic outline

  • General

    Gorky and his mother, source:

    Electricity makes you float:

    SSC 680

    Fall 2017

    Apple Tree

    Nelli Sargsyan's email:

    Iain Haukka's email:

    People conceptualize health, illness, and healing processes differently based on their cultural knowledge and experiences in the society in which they live. Given this, in this course we will examine social suffering, the multiplicity of systems of healing, and medical practices to gain a richer understanding of the different ways of conceptualizing and experiencing health, wellbeing, illness, and healing cross-culturally. After we examine the ways culture affects human health, we will look into the ways that different diseases and epidemics point to an uneven distribution of power and resources across time and space. We will also examine how different technologies change biocultural and social practices over time. We will enter into our cross-cultural examination of these issues from varied ethnographically-grounded anthropological perspectives that point to the complex ways in which biological, environmental, cultural, political, and economic processes intersect. Plan student Iain Haukka will be a co-teacher of this course.

    Main Textbook: Reader in MedicalAnthropologyTheoretical TrajectoriesEmergent Realities(2010), edited by Byron J. Good, Michael M. J. Fischer, Sarah S. Willen, and Mary-Jo Del Vecchio Good. Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-4051-8314-7. You can purchase the book here.

  • Week 1: Introduction

    August 31

"Introduction," in A Reader in Medical Anthropology (RMA): read carefully 

    "Part I: Antecedents: Introduction" (RMA): read carefully

    Ch. 6 (RMA): read as much as you can

    Ch. 8 (RMA): read as much as you can


    Farmer, P. (2015). Who lives and who dies? London Review of Books, 37(3), 17-20.

    Byron Good et al, "Reflexivity, countertransference & clinical ethnography”

    • Week 2 (Part 1): Wellbeing, Illness and Narrative, Body and Experience

      Sept 5: Developing Definitions

      Ch.s 1, 2, 4 (RMA)

      Ch. 9 (RMA)

      Carol Breckenridge et al, eds. "The Critical Limits of Embodiment: Disability Criticism”

      Sep 7

      Byron Good, 'Theorizing the "subject” of Medical and Psychiatric Anthropology', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 18 (2012), 515-535. You can also listen to it as a lecture here.

      Scheper-Hughes, N and M M Lock (1987) The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1 (1): 6-41.

      Film: (dir. Taggart Siegel, Alchemy Films, 2001)

    • Week 3

      Sep 12

      Ch. 11 (RMA)

      Carlos J. Moreno-Leguizamon (2014), "02: Wellbeing in Economics, Psychology, and Health Sciences: A Contested Category,” in Wellbeing : Policy and Practice. Edited by McNaught, A., La Placa, V., & Knight, A.Banbury: Lantern Publishing, pp. 7-16. (available electronically from the library also available as PDF below)

      Brenda Happell, Stephanie B. Ewart, Chris Platania-Phung, Julia Bocking, Brett Scholz & Robert Stanton (2016) What Physical Health Means to Me: Perspectives of People with Mental Illness, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 37:12, 934-941, DOI: 10.1080/01612840.2016.1226999

      Sep 14

      L. Garro. 2000. Cultural meaning, explanations of illness, and the development of comparative frameworks. Ethnology 39(4):305-334.

      Gananath Obeyesekere. 1985. "Depression, Buddhism, and the work of culture in Sri Lanka.” In A. M. Kleinman & B. Good (Eds.), Culture and Depression, (pp. 134- 152). Berkeley: University of California Press.

      Draft 1 of Short Paper #1 due through Google Drive by 11:59pm on Sunday, September 17th

    • Week 4: Part 1a. Social Suffering, Systems of Care, Healing, and Medical Practices

      Sep 19

      Ch. 10

      M. Tapias. 2006. Emotions and the intergenerational embodiment of social suffering in rural Bolivia. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20(3): 399-415

      Seth Holmes, Ch. 4: "How the Poor Suffer”: Embodying the Violence Continuum." In Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. (available electronically through the library online database)


      Drawing Hallucinations

      Remembering the Murder you did not commit

      Is trauma genetic?

      Sep 21

      Ch.s 13, 14, 15, 40

      Film: The Horse Boy 

        Reflections on assigned material/CB entries due before each class meeting time

      • Week 5:Part 1b. Aging, Death, and Dying

        Sep 26

        P. Kontos. 2006. Embodied selfhood: An ethnographic exploration of Alzheimer's disease. In: Thinking about Dementia, Leibing and Cohen eds. Pp. 195-217. (see the PDF below).

        Collins, Harry M. and Trevor J. Pinch. 2005. Defying Death: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In Dr. Golem: How to Think about Medicine, pp.132-153. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (available through the library online database)


        Livingston. "Reconfiguring old age: Elderly women and concerns over care in southeastern Botswana”

        Kaufman and Morgan. The anthropology of the beginnings and ends of life.

        C. Ikels. 1998. The experience of dementia in China. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 22(3): 257-283.

        My Life without Me (Isabel Coixet):

        In America (Jim Sheridan)

        Red Beard (Akira Kurosawa)

        Sep 28

        Lester, Rebecca J. 2009. Brokering authenticity: Borderline personality disorder and the ethics of care in an American eating disorder clinic. Current Anthropology 50(3):281-302.

        W. Dressler et al. 2007. Cultural consonance and psychological distress: Examining the associations in multiple cultural domains. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 31(2): 195-224.


        Elizabeth A. Povinelli, The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy, and Carnality. (Duke University Press, 2006).

        Wendy Brown. 1995. "Wounded Attachments,” in States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity. Princeton University Press, pp. 52-76.

        Carol Cain, "Personal stories: Identity acquisition and self-understanding in Alcoholics Anonymous,” Ethos 19, no. 2 (1991): 210-253.

        Eva Illouz, "Triumphant Suffering,” in Saving the modern soul: Therapy, emotions, and the culture of self-help (University of California Press, 2008), pp. 152-196.

        E. Summerson Carr, Scripting Addiction: The Politics of Therapeutic Talk and American Sobriety (Princeton University Press, 2010). Selections.

        Reflections on assigned material/CB entries due before each class meeting time

        • Week 6: Part 2. Governmentalities and Biological Citizenship, and Postcolonial Disorders (Intersections of biological, environmental, cultural, political, and economic processes)

          Oct 3

          Ch.s 17, 18

          Adams, Vincanne, S. Miller, S. Craig, A. Samen, Nyima, Sonam, Droyoung, Lhakpen, and M. Varner 2005. The challenge of cross-cultural clinical trials research: case report from the Tibetan Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 19(3): 267-289.

          In Coma While Refugee


          Film: Shadows and Illuminations

          Kaufert, Patricia A. and JOHN. D. O'NEIL 2007 [1990]. Cooptation and Control - the Reconstruction of Inuit Birth. In Beyond the Body Proper: Reading the Anthropology of Material Life. Body, Commodity, Text. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 4(4):427-442.

          Hardin. Fasting for Health, Fasting for God: Samoan Evangelical Christian Responses to Obesity and Chronic Disease

          A. McElvoy & P. Townsend. 2009. Interdisciplinary research in health problems. In: Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective, 5th Edition. Pp. 33-80.

          In class:

          Oct 5

          Ch. 39

          K. Oths. 1999 Debilidad: A biocultural assessment of an embodied Andean illness.  Medical Anthropology Quarterly 13(3):286-315.

          G. Armelagos et al. 2005. Evolutionary, historical and political economic perspectives on health and disease. Social Science and Medicine 61(4):755-765.


          Film: Memory of My Face

          M. Lock & V. Nguyen. 2010. Local biologies and human difference. In: An Anthropology of Biomedicine. Pp. 83-110.

          Maynard T. & Lloyd's (2015). Food system shock: The insurance impacts of acute

          disruption to global food supply (Lloyd's Emerging Risk Report 2015). London:


          • Week 7

            Oct 10

            Ch. 19

            B. Piperata. 2008. Forty days and forty nights: A biocultural perspective on postpartum practices in the Amazon. Social Science & Medicine 67: 1094-1103.

            In class: Dorothy Roberts: 

            Torsten Heinmann:


            Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 2006 [2003]. Keeping an Eye on the Global Traffic in Human Organs. In Whitaker: 563-568. (Reprinted from The Lancet 361:1645-48.)

            Fairhead, J. (2015). Understanding social resistance to Ebola response in Guinea.


            Oct 12                                                    Hannah and Hailey leading the class

            J. Eisenberg et al. 2006. Environmental change and infectious disease: How new roads affect the transmission of diarrheal pathogens in rural Ecuador. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103(51): 19460-19465.

            K. Smith & N. Christakis. 2008. Social networks and health. Annual Review of Sociology 34: 405-429.


            Good, B., Subandi & Delvecchio Good, M.J. 2007, The Subject of Mental Illness: Psychosis, Mad Violence, and Subjectivity in Indonesia, in Biehl, Good & Kleinman (eds), Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations, University of California Press, pp. 243-272.

            Begoña Aretxaga, 2008. "Madness and the Politically Real: Reflections on Violence in Post- dictatorial Spain.” Postcolonial Disorders University of California Press: 43- 61.

            Anne M. Lovell (2013), "Elusive Travelers: Russian Narcology, Transnational Toxicomanias and the great French Ecological Experiment”, in Eugene Raikhel and William Garriott eds., Addiction Trajectories, Duke University Press.

            Margaret Lock and Vim-Kim Nghuyen. 2010. Anthropology of Biomedicine. Wiley-Blackwell, UK.

            Complete CB entries/Reflections on Assigned Material Before Each Class Meeting Time

            Short Paper #2 due through Google Drive by 11:59pm on Tuesday, October 17th

            • Week 8: Part 3. Health Inequalities

              Oct 17                                                 No Class

              Ch. 37

              T. Leatherman. 2005. A space of vulnerability in poverty and health: Political-ecology and biocultural analysis. Ethos 33(1): 46-70

              N. Krieger & G. Davey Smith. 2004. "Bodies count,” and body counts: social epidemiology and embodying inequality. Epidemiologic Reviews 26: 92-103.

              Film: The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo


              João Biehl, Vita

              Philippe Bourgeois, Righteous Dopefiend

              Seth Holmes, Fresh Fruits, Broken Bodies 

              Sam Quinones, Dreamland: the true tale of America's opiate epidemic

              Chomsky, A. (2000). 'The threat of a good example': Health and revolution in Cuba. In J. Y.

              Kim, J. V. Millen, A. Irwin, & J. Gershman (Eds.), Dying for growth: Global inequality and the health of the poor (pp. 331-357). Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press.

              Oct 19                                             Alicia, Lucy, and Trevor leading the class

              Ch 1. From Stories in the Time of Cholera: Racial Profiling during a medical nightmare (available through library online database)

              Wenzel, T., Kienzler, H., & Wollmann, A. (2015). Facing violence - A global challenge. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 38(3), 529-542.

              Grisel (2017), Bodies of Hope and Destruction


              Trostle, J. A. (2010). On creating epidemics, plagues, and other wartime alarums and

              excursions: Enumerating versus estimating civilian mortality in Iraq. In A. Herring & A. C.

              Swedlund (Eds.), Plagues and Epidemics: Infected Spaces Past and Present (pp. 61-80).

              Oxford: Berg.

              Farmer, P. 1999.  Rethinking "emerging infectious diseases” (ch.2) and Immodest claims of causality (ch. 10) In Infections and Inequalities. Pp. 37-58 and 228-261

              Complete CB entries/Reflections on Assigned Material Before Each Class Meeting Time

              Oct 21 Comic Arts Festival and Symposium (Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT) Graphic Medicine Panel

              • Week 9

                Oct 24

                C. Gravlee et al. 2009. Genetic ancestry, social classification, and racial inequalities in blood pressure in southeastern Puerto Rico. PLoS One 4(9): e6821.

                Krieger. 2010. The science and epidemiology of racism and health: Racial/ethnic categories, biological expressions of race, and the embodiment of inequality - an ecosocial perspective. In: What's the Use of Race? Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference. Pp. 225-256 (available through library online database)

                Recommended Films:


                Unnatural Causes

                Oct 26

                Robertson, William (2017). The Irrelevance Narrative: Queer (In)Visibility in Medical Education and Practice. In Medical Anthropology Quarterly:1-18.

                Complete CB entries/Reflections on Assigned Material Before Each Class Meeting Time

                Final Project Proposal due through Google Drive by 11:59pm on Sunday, October 29th    

                • Week 10: Part 4. The Biotechnical Embrace, Bioscience, Biotechnologies

                  Oct 31

                  Ch.s 21, 23 (RMA)



                  Saunders, Barry. 2008. CT Suite: The Work of Diagnosis in the Age of Noninvasive Cutting.

                  Kaushik Sunder Rajan, "Subjects of speculation: emergent life sciences and market logics in the United States and India,” American Anthropologist 107, no. 1 (2005): 19-30.

                  Allan Ehrenberg. 2010. "The "Social” Brain: An Epistemological Chimera And A Sociological Fact,” Francisco Ortega & Fernando Vidal, Eds., Neurocultures. Glimpses Into An Expanding Universe. New York/Frankfurt/Berlin: Peter Lang.

                  Allan Young. 2007. PTSD of the virtual kind - trauma and resilience in post 9/11 America. In Trauma and Memory: Reading, Healing, and Making Law. Austin Sarat, Nadav Davidovitch, and Michal Alberstein eds., pp. 21-48. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

                  Lock, Margaret, 'Unbound Subjectivities and New Biomedical Technologies', in A Companion to Psychological Anthropology, ed. by Conerly Casey and Robert B. Edgerton (Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2007), pp. 298-314

                  Nov 2

                  Ch.s 24, 26 (RMA)

                  In class:

                  Complete CB entries Before Each Class Meeting Time

                  • Week 11

                    Nov 7

                    Ch.s 27, 28 (RMA)

                    In class:

                    Nov 9

                    Ch.s 29, 30 (RMA)

                    Complete CB entries Before Each Class Meeting Time

                    • Week 12

                      Nov 14

                      I. Hacking. 2000. Madness: Biological or constructed? In: The Social Construction of What? Pp. 100-124.

                      M. Lock & V. Nguyen. 2010. Who owns the body? In: An Anthropology of Biomedicine. Pp. 205-228.

                      In class: Nadine Burke Harris on Adverse Childhood Experience

                      Nov 16

                      G. Downey & D. Lende. 2009. The encultured brain: Why neuroanthropology? Why now? 

                      J. Dumit. 2003. Is it me or my brain? Journal of Medical Humanities 24:35-47.


                      China Mill (2014) Decolonizing Global Mental Health

                      In class: Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome

                                     How Meditation Can Reshape Our Brains

                      Complete Two CB Entries

                      Final Project Presentations due through Google Drive before class meeting time on Tuesday, November 21st

                      • Week 13

                        Final Project Presentation due through Google Drive before class meeting time on Tuesday, November 21st

                        Nov 21

                        S. Choudhury et al. 2009. Critical neuroscience: Linking neuroscience and society through critical practice. BioSocieties 4: 61-77.

                        Elizabeth A Wilson, 2011. 'Neurological Entanglements: The Case of Paediatric Depressions, SSRIs and Suicidal Ideation', Subjectivity, 4:277-297.


                        Roepstorff, Andreas, and Chris Frith, 'Neuroanthropology or Simply Anthropology? Going Experimental as Method, as Object of Study, and as Research Aesthetic', Anthropological Theory, 12 (2012), 101-111

                        Daniel Lende and Greg Downey, 2012. "Neuroanthropology and the encultured brain.” In The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology. MIT Press.

                        Slaby, Jan, and Suparna Choudhury, 'Proposal for a Critical Neuroscience', in Critical Neuroscience, ed. by Suparna Choudhury and Jan Slaby (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), pp. 27-51

                        B. Kohrt. 2005. "Somatization” and "comorbidity”: A study of Jhum-Jhum and depression in rural Nepal. Ethos 33(1): 125-147.

                        Nov 23                 No Class

                        Complete Two CB entries

                        • Week 14

                          Nov 28: Global Health?

                          Anne Fadiman (1997), Ch. 3: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” in "The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures.”

                          Janelle S. Taylor (2003). "The Story Catches You and You Fall down: Tragedy, Ethnography, and "Cultural Competence," in Medical Anthropology Quarterly 17(2):159-181.

                          In class: Anne Fadiman

                          Nov 30

                          Iain's Presentation 

                          Ch. 32 (RMA) skim

                          Ch. 34 (RMA) read carefully

                          Derek Summerfield. 2012   

                          In classVikram Patel. 2012 "


                          Hanefeld, J., & Walt, G. (2015). Knowledge and networks - key sources of power in global

                          health Comment on "Knowledge, moral claims and the exercise of power in global health.”

                          International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 4(2), 119-121.


                          Complete Two CB entries

                          Final Project Draft 1 due through Google Drive by 11:59pm on Sunday, December 2nd

                          • Week 15: Part 5: The Relevance of the Field

                            Dec 5

                            Scheper-Hughes, N. (1990). Three propositions for a critically applied medical anthropology. Social Science & Medicine, 30(2), 189-197.

                            S. McGarvey. 2009. Interdisciplinary translational research in anthropology, nutrition, and public health. Annual Review of Anthropology 38(1): 233-249. (optional)


                            Wiley. 2004. Toward relevant research: Adaptation and policy perspectives on maternal-infant health in Ladakh. In: An Ecology of High-Altitude Infancy: A Biocultural Perspective. Pp. 178-203

                            Thin, N. (2009) Why anthropology can ill afford to ignore well-being. In G. Mathews and C. Izquierdo, eds. Pursuits of happiness: Well-being in anthropological perspective. Berghahn. (pp. 23-44)

                            Complete one CB entry

                            Final Project Final Draft due through Google Drive by 11:59pm on Friday, December 8th