Not currently offered
Course code



10 units


2000 level

Course handbook


This course offers an introduction to medical and critical medical anthropology, and the related cross-cultural and inter-cultural belief systems that relate to health and illness. We will explore different cultural understandings and conceptualisations of health and illness causality, and consider the practices different cultural groups use and apply to take care of their health and illness. Using a wide range of ethnographic case studies, the different lectures will examine cross-cultural and inter-cultural approaches to the social construction of health and illness, the role of symbolism in healing, shamanistic practices, embodiment and emotions, biomedicine and science-based approaches to health and illness, reproduction, gender, health and surrogacy, cultural differences between health and well-being, alternative healing practices, health promotion and regulation, bodily and mental disorders, as well as the working with medical technologies (such as organ transplantation, and more generally, screening the body).



    Learning outcomes

    On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

    1. Demonstrate knowledge of the ways in which experiences are socially constructed and culturally understood.

    2. Demonstrate a capacity to think critically and creatively about different societies and cultures.

    3. Employ written skills.

    4. Appraise the ability to critically analyse cultural understandings, representations and social practices.

    5. Prioritise an understanding of different theoretical perspectives used to investigate both cultural and social practices of health and illness.


    Topics may include:

    1. Theories of the way in which experiences are symbolically, socially and culturally constituted.
    2. Theories of social and cultural approaches to health and illness.
    3. Ethnographic studies of how relationships are negotiated, understandings mediated and meanings constructed, with a particular emphasis on cultural difference.
    4. Classic and contemporary ethnographic studies of health and illness.
    5. The political economy of health and illness.

    Assumed knowledge

    40 units of study at 1000 level

    Assessment items

    Quiz: Quiz 1 (10%)

    Essay: Essay (35%)

    Quiz: Quiz 2 (15%)

    Written Assignment: Take Home Exam (40%)

    Contact hours



    Online 1 hour(s) per Week for 12 Weeks


    Online 1 hour(s) per Week for 12 Weeks

    The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.