Institute for Global Health


Anthropological Perspectives on Global Health

Medical anthropology exists in a creative tension between the positivism of biomedicine and the more interpretative perspectives of social anthropology. This module will introduce you to key issues in the anthropology of medicine and development, through a survey of classical and current issues, concepts and topics, with this tension as a central thread. The aims of the course are to: (a) understand cultural influences on health and illness in a variety of contexts around the world; (b) generate an understanding of how social and historical analysis can be used to situate, understand, critique and refine action in global health.

Module Code: CIHDG040 (Postgraduate) CIHD3006 (Undergraduate)

UCL Credits: 15

Module Organisers: Dr Rodney Reynolds (postgraduate cohort) (Undergraduate cohort lead tbc). Please direct queries to the course administration team in the first instance igh.adminpg@ucl.ac.uk

Who can study this course?

MSc/PG Dip and iBSc Global Health and Development students. Other UCL MSc/PG Dip and undergraduate students, affiliates, TropEd students, taster and short course students subject to availability.

Admission Requirements

MSc and PG Dip students: Open to all UCL MSc/PG Dip Global Health and Development, and to any UCL MSc/PG Dip students.

Undergraduate students: Open to all iBSc Global Health and Development students, other UCL undergraduate and affiliate students.

tropEd students: evidence that you are registered as a tropEd student, successful completion of core course.

Taster students: UK Bachelor’s degree in a relevant/allied subject awarded with a 1st or upper 2nd class Honours or an equivalent qualification.  Two academic or professional reference letters.

Short course students: Professional work experience in a relevant area and/or UK Bachelor’s degree in a relevant/allied subject awarded with a 1st or 2nd class Honours or an equivalent qualification.

In addition to the above, all students must demonstrate a GOOD standard of English Proficiency with 6.5 in each of the subtests.

Course length 10 weeks 
Course dates09 9 January to 20 March 2019
Days and times Wednesdays from 09.00 to 13.00. Assessment to be completed in final week.



Some of the key questions considered in this course are:

  • What does it mean to be ill and healthy in different societies?
  • How is the body understood in different medical systems and what are the consequences of this for health-seeking behaviour?
  • Are some illnesses culturally-specific and why?
  • How are medical technologies changing our conceptions of the self?
  • Why do people do things that are medically unsound?
  • What do anthropological fieldwork, social and historical analysis teach us about the determinants of health and illness?
  • How can we use insights from anthropology, including social and historical analysis, within development and health programmes?

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, seminars, assignments, self-study. The Moodle virtual learning environment will be used as an information portal for participants and source for reading materials.


Postgraduate: Written essay 90% (2500 words) and Oral presentation 10% (20 minutes followed by 10 minutes Q&A).

Undergraduate: Oral exam 90% (20 minutes presentation followed by 10 minutes Q&A).  Oral presentation on set readings in class 10% (20 minutes followed by 10 minutes Q&A).

Assessment Dates

Post graduate oral presentations 22 March 2017.

Postgraduate essay due 9am 10 April 2017.

Selected Reading List

Good BJ (Ed.), Fischer MJM (Ed.), Willen SE (Ed.), DelVecchio Good M-J (Ed.). (2010) A Reader in Medical Anthropology: Theoretical Trajectories, Emergent Realities. Wiley-Blackwell

Singer M & Erickson PI. (2011) A Companion to Medical Anthropology. Blackwell

Biehl J and Petryna A. (2013) When people come first: critical studies in global health Princeton University Press

Hahn, R, & Inhorn, M. (2009) Anthropology and Public Health: Bridging Cultures and Societies. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

Lock, M. & Nguyen, V.K. (2010) The Anthropology of Biomedicine. University of California Press.