Key Perspectives in Medical Anthropology

Subject 505-503 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: One 2-hour seminar per week.
Total Time Commitment: Students should expect a total time commitment outside the stated contact hours of at least three hours for each hour of contact in this subject.

505-502 Culture, Health and Illness

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Centre for Health and Society

School of Population Health

Subject Overview:

This subject examines a range of classic and current theoretical debates within the discipline of anthropology: on rationality and cultural difference; objectivity and reflexivity; modes of anthropological representation and the politics of applied anthropological research.

Topics and themes include the cross- cultural study of illness causation; emotion; ideas of psychopathology in different societies and psychological anthropology; ideas of embodiment and the relationship between culture, linguistic communication, expressive behaviour and health. Where possible, the texts selected for reading include examples of the application of Medical Anthropology so that the theoretical approaches are clarified through practical instances.

This subject explores different emotions and bodily states as they are perceived across cultures and at the ways these are represented within the discipline of Anthropology. Theoretical analyses of debates about universality, cultural relativism, and human rights in the context of health, scholarly objectivity and political advocacy are sometimes explicit in the readings, but students are expected to read critically so that they develop analytical and interpretative skills. This subject is conducted as a seminar series in which students are required to read and discuss the set texts for each week. Each student will be expected to choose a discussion topic for a specific class during the first week's class and take responsibility for leading the discussion on the given day.

  • have a critical understanding of recent developments in theories of Medical Anthropology and be able to apply these interpretatively.
  • have developed an advanced capacity to formulate comparative explanations of illness causation, drawing on a variety of explanatory models of cultural, social and behavioural determinants of health.
  • have developed skills in designing research projects on cross-cultural disease aetiology and illness experience using anthropological theories and methods.
  • be able to contextualise socio-cultural studies and present them in terms of policy and practice in the fields of International Development.

Written work, approximately 5,000 words comprising one class paper (1500 words -20%) and an essay (3500 words - 75% ).

Prescribed Texts: None
Recommended Texts:

A set of readings will be available for purchase.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Notes: This subject is a Group 1 elective in the Master of Public Health.

Related Course(s): Master of Public Health
Master of Social Health (Interdisciplinary)
Master of Social Health (Medical Anthropology)

Download PDF version.