BAEcon Development Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
The Anthropology of Health and Wellbeing

Course unit fact file
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? Yes

Overview

This course makes use 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. 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. The course investigates ways in which human action can improve or have a damaging impact on health and wellbeing outcomes for different social groups.

Aims

This course makes use 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. 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. The course investigates ways in which human action can improve or have a damaging impact on health and wellbeing outcomes for different social groups.

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 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, Gender and Reproductive Risk, Exclusion and Destitution,), Chronic conditions, the Political Economy of Health Provision, Global Health, Medical Tourism, Health Insurance and Pandemics.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will consist of ten two part live on campus lectures covering the ten core topics which structure the course unit. Recordings of lectures with transcripts are available online which support students with diverse learning needs. Lectures are supplemented by small group tutorials (seminar groups) which meet weekly on campus. Small group teaching will prioritise student led learning through exercises, group discussions and dialogue. Students have the option to do a formative written piece mid semester on which they will receive feedback.

 

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 include: wellbeing and care, non-communicable diseases, disability, health commodification, medical tourism, reproductive inequalities, medical racism and pandemics.

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 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 will have 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

4000 word final essay (100%)

Feedback methods

Feedback takes place through class discussion and an optional 1500 word piece on which students can receive feedback prior to their final assessed essay. Students receive detailed feedback on their assessed work. The course lecturer provides office hours at which students can seek additional guidance during the semester. 

 

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 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 180

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maia Green Unit coordinator

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