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ANTH223 Anthropology of Health

An introduction to the global and cross-cultural exploration of concepts of health, healing and illness. Exploration of the commodification, medicalisation, moralities and aesthetics of embodied health and biomedical care.

This paper introduces you to the fascinating world of medical anthropology. Explore how to interpret the meaning and experiences of healing and suffering while also developing your critical thinking skills. How does the political economy impact our well-being? What are idioms of distress? Are there such things as culturally grounded illnesses? How do ideologies of health operate in contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand? This paper is taught in yearly rotation with ANTH 222.

Paper title Anthropology of Health
Paper code ANTH223
Subject Anthropology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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ANTH 103 or ANTH 105 or 54 points
ANTH 323
Schedule C
Arts and Music
This paper is suitable for students both with and without strong backgrounds in anthropology. Students need to have successfully passed at least one semester of full-time university studies to enrol in this paper. Assignments have been carefully designed to suit a multidisciplinary student audience.

Professor Ruth Fitzgerald

Teaching staff

Professor Ruth Fitzgerald

Paper Structure

100% internally assessed. Assessment includes a critical reading analysis, a weekly open book single question quiz on blackboard about the key weekly lecture points, a book review essay, and a final capstone assignment that explores a contemporary issue in medical anthropology that applies to Aotearoa/New Zealand, analysed via the thematic lines of critical enquiry developed in our lectures. The due date for this last assignment is scheduled in the exam period by the examination office but submitted via a Turnitin assignment box on blackboard. 

Teaching Arrangements

We meet together for a 2-hour lecture once a week with a break in the middle of the session. We work with a ‘flipped classroom’, so there is plenty of opportunity for you to talk as well as listen in these sessions. In addition we have one hour a week of tutorials where we get to discuss ideas in small groups.


Course readings are provided from peer reveiwed journal articles in the field of medical anthropology through eReserve on Blackboard.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global Perspective, Interdisciplinary Perspective, Lifelong Learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical Thinking, Cultural Understanding, Ethics, Research, Self-Motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students will emerge from this course of study with an excellent basic knowledge of the variety of anthropological meanings attached to the concept of health. They will have enhanced their capacity to write essays and to communicate arguments verbally in an evidence-based, respectful and inclusive tone. They will appreciate the moral and politico-aesthetic values attached to health and demonstrate the critical thinking skills required to recognise and assess ideologies of health in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Friday 10:00-11:50 9-13, 16-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Friday 16:00-16:50 9-13, 16-21
A2 Friday 15:00-15:50 9-13, 16-21