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. (available through the library online database)

        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