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BSocSc Social Anthropology

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
The Anthropology of Health and Wellbeing

Unit code SOAN30251
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Social Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

Use a range of case study materials to explore the diverse ways in which cultural ideas and social organisation shape health and wellbeing  in a variety of contexts internationally.  The course emphasises ways in which human action can improve  or have a damaging impact on health and wellbeing outcomes for different social groups.   Students will be introduced to examples of public policy responses to health and wellbeing as well as issues impacting on health and wellbeing at  different scales from the personal to the global.

Aims

Use a range of case study materials to explore the diverse ways in which cultural ideas and social organisation shape health and wellbeing  in a variety of contexts internationally.  The course emphasises ways in which human action can improve  or have a damaging impact on health and wellbeing outcomes for different social groups.   Students will be introduced to examples of public policy responses to health and wellbeing as well as issues impacting on health and wellbeing at  different scales from the personal to the global.

Syllabus

Health and wellbeing are priority areas of social life for people everywhere but often very difficult to achieve.  Access to social support, shelter and security are difficult for many people in many parts of the world.  Medical tourism, access to health insurance  and wealth play an increasing role in widening the gaps between those able to benefit from  health care and those excluded from treatment.  Conditions which enable wellbeing are often undermined by contemporary social processes at the same time as new technologies for self-optimisation, `health hacking’  (using popular science insights to develop strategies for  maximising diet and fitness)  and the commodification of wellbeing claim to address human vulnerabilities.


This course uses ethnographic case studies to examine how interactions between people, societies and systems generate health or illness and wellbeing or illbeing in a range of contexts. The course explores the ways in which health and wellbeing articulate with politics and inequality. Topics covered by the course include Human Society and Health, Wellbeing and Care, Disability and Ageing,  Gender and Reproductive Risk, Exclusion and Destitution,  Social Protection,  Socio Emergence and New Epidemics (dengue, Ebola, SARS), the Political Economy of Health Provision, Medical Tourism, Health Insurance,  the Wellness Industry and  Health Hacking and Personalisation

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will consist of ten three -hour seminars which comprise presentation elements with interactive student-led participatory learning.  Additional one-hour seminars will be held for for postgraduate students.

Knowledge and understanding

Interpret the complex interplay of cultural, social and political factors which determine health and wellbeing across a range of contexts at the personal and social level.  Through engagement with detailed case studies students will gain insights into how ideas about health and well-being are culturally constructed, how the political economy of health is organised and how inequalities within health and social systems are mutually constituted.  Students will be able to  identify social dimensions of health and wellbeing internationally, understand how everyday social  practices determine health and wellbeing outcomes and appreciate the interrelation between social science knowledge and social policy.  Topics addressed by the course are likely to include : wellbeing and care, illness and ageing, disability,  destitution, epidemics, socio-emergence,  health commodification, health tourism, the wellness industry and self- optimization.

Intellectual skills

Students will learn to analyse ethnographic and case study materials to  draw out core contributors to health and social outcomes,  critically situate health and wellbeing in social contexts, think through possible entry points for policy intervention and political engagement in improving health and wellbeing .

Practical skills

Locate and identify relevant case study material in academic databases, read and distil key arguments from relevant materials, present summaries and analytical syntheses in response to questions clearly orally and in writing.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Students will develop their searching and and analytical skills through self directed reading. Workshop teaching and seminar discussions will enhance students  capacities to think critically about policy narratives . Students will develop their skills in presenting complex arguments and   differentiating between different kinds of evidence and qualitative social science materials. These skills are transferable beyond the course. Students willhave gained insights into wellbeing, ill health and disability which they can apply in their everyday life and which will positively impact on their interaction with others.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

Formative essay mid course (1500 words) –   optional 
 
3 hour seen exam (100%) 

 

Recommended reading

Mattingly, C. (2014). Moral laboratories: Family peril and the struggle for a good life. Univ of California Press, Biehl, J. (2013). Vita: Life in a zone of social abandonment. Univ of California Press. Livingston, J (2005) Debility ad the Moral Imagination in Botswana, Indiana University Press;   Staples, J. (2018). Doing disability through charity and philanthropy in contemporary South India. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 52(2), 129-155. Wendland, C. L. (2012). Moral maps and medical imaginaries: clinical tourism at Malawi's college of medicine. American Anthropologist, 114(1), 108-122; Ruckenstein, M., & Schüll, N. D. (2017). The datafication of health. Annual Review of Anthropology, 46, 261-278., Hartblay, C. (2017). Good ramps, bad ramps: Centralized design standards and disability access in urban Russian infrastructure. American Ethnologist, 44(1), 9-22. Tronto, J. C. (2010). Creating caring institutions: Politics, plurality, and purpose. Ethics and social welfare, 4(2), 158-171.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maia Green Unit coordinator

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