Anthropology 147 Comparative Healing Systems
Dr. M. Rivkin-Fish
Office: 305A Alumni Building
Office Hours: Thurs. 10:45- 12 noon &
Phone: 962-3353 (best to email)
instructions below for
appropriate use of
410 B Alumni
Office hours: Th 11-12
Sections: 602, 605, 606
Office: 410 B Alumni
Sections: 601.603, 604
People all over the world experience illness, but their understandings of the causes of
affliction and approaches for restoring health differ enormously. This course examines the social,
cultural, historical, and political-economic dimensions of health, illness, and healing. Through a
variety of case studies, we will learn about the ways medical anthropologists study disease
etiology, the experience of suffering, and the social organization of health care. Western
medicine, also called “biomedicine,” will also be an object of our analysis. We will investigate the
ways “biological facts” are shaped by the cultural and social organization of Western society, and
explore the ways that the delivery of biomedical health care services involves particular
understandings of the body and appropriate social relationships. Emphasis will also be placed on
the ways historical processes of colonialism, structural inequalities, and the circulation of new
technologies impact the meanings and practices of health and disease. The course aims to teach
students to think about health, disease, and medicine in cross-cultural and global terms.
: Upon completion of ANTH 147, the student should be able to:
Demonstrate knowledge of the global diversity of cultural understandings about health,
illness, the body, and systems of healing affliction.
Explain some of the ways biomedicine is shaped by Western cultural ideas and the
specific contexts in which it is practiced.
3) Understand how practitioners of health development and clinical medicine often
encounter clashes between their cultural knowledge and the cultural knowledge of those
they seek to help, and describe anthropological approaches to addressing such
There are 3 required books for the course, and one recommended textbook. These are available
for purchase at the Student Stores bookshop. If you decide not to purchase the recommended
textbook, you can access the required readings from it on Blackboard.
Mulcahy, Joanne. 2001.
Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island
. University of Georgia