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ANTH323 Anthropology of Health

A global and cross-cultural exploration of the concepts of health, healing and illness. Exploration of the commodification, medicalisation, moralities and aesthetics of embodied health via a research essay.

This paper provides an overview of the most rapidly expanding subdiscipline in anthropology - the field of medical anthropology. During the semester we will develop ideas about the nature of health, suffering (both individual and structural), the anthropological meaning behind terms such as healing and curing, and the variety of ways in which people experience embodied selfhood from a diverse array of cultural perspectives.

We will also study the complex varieties of health care workers and carers in any local situation and the ideological relationships between health and notions of commerce, aesthetics, morality and identity. In doing so we will attempt to develop a cross-cultural meaning of the complex and taken for granted concept of health.

To successfully achieve this goal, we must also critically examine the dominant local model of health in New Zealand, which is represented by a local and culturally specific version of cosmopolitan (or Western bio-) medicine. The approach through which we will conduct this task is known as critical interpretive medical anthropology and is based on a political economy approach to the study of health and illness complemented with insights from phenomenological anthropology.

Paper title Anthropology of Health
Paper code ANTH323
Subject Anthropology
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2018, expected to be offered in 2019
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $868.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,656.70

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18 200-level ANTH points or 108 points
ANTH 223
Schedule C
Arts and Music
May not be credited together with ANTH310 passed in 2001 or 2002.
This paper is designed for students with and without strong backgrounds in Anthropology.
Contact or
Teaching staff
Convenor: Professor Ruth Fitzgerald
One tutor to be advised
Paper Structure
Internal assessment: Either a reflective essay drawing in part on a book review (for non-Anthropology majors) or a very small-scale practical research assignment (for Anthropology majors), plus several pop quizzes.

External assessment: Multiple-choice end of semester exam.

The paper involves active learning, and students are requested to read their required weekly readings before attending class.
Teaching Arrangements
One 2-hour lecture per week with some informal student participation in the last four weeks of the paper

One hour-long tutorial per week
Required reading is from journal articles and book chapters available electronically through the library using course reserve.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • Be able to make a reasoned judgement about the complex and culturally specific meanings of health within their chosen study site and support this interpretation with evidence
  • Demonstrate high-level written and verbal communication skills

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Not offered in 2018, expected to be offered in 2019

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system