Faculty of Arts


Medical Anthropology

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for ANTHRO 324.


Medical Anthropology is a subfield of general anthropology and draws most especially on biological and social/cultural anthropology to address issues of human health and disease. Included in the subfield are studies of the co-evolution of humans and diseases, human ecology, cultural constructions of health and illness, medical knowledge and practices relating to health, illness and healing, provision of health services, health effects of development and globalisation, and the relationship between health, politics and economics. While not all of medical anthropology is applied, there is a strong trend in that direction.

This course introduces a framework of understanding issues in health and illness which draws from biological anthropology and social/cultural anthropology.

  • A major objective of this course is to provide you with the information, resources and academic experiences that enable you to bring an appropriate range of perspectives to bear on topics within medical anthropology.

Also important is knowledge of how medical anthropology is central to current debates in anthropology and can add a unique perspective to interdisciplinary health research and practice. As health is a complex topic, it is rarely possible to address an issue in the anthropology of health by using just one theoretical framework or a single research method. 

  • Examining how different approaches may be satisfactorily combined to address particular topics is another course objective.

As you will realise by the end of the course, there is a large and growing literature in the dynamic field of medical anthropology. We have selected from it only a very limited number of topics and debates to pursue in class. However, if you have a particular interest, we encourage you to formulate this into an essay topic. For example, there may be students from a nursing background who would like to analyse some aspect of nursing, or people interested in development studies who could define a health and development topic. Some class time will be spent identifying areas of interest and formulating topics. 

  • Developing skills in research topic formulation is another course objective.

You are expected to make full use of the university libraries in researching your essay. You are also expected to use the theoretical and analytical skills gained in the course to examine your particular essay topic.

  • Researching and writing analytically about your topic is the final course objective.

View the course syllabus

Availability 2018

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Dr Heather Battles
Associate Professor Judith Littleton


Holmes, Seth (2015) Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies Berkeley: University of California Press. (Available as an e-book from the library, hard copy, Kindle or audible)


Coursework + exam


ANTHRO 324: 15.0 points


15 points from ANTHRO 201, 203, HLTHSOC 200, SOCSCIPH 200 or 30 points at Stage II



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