UCL Anthropology


Medical Anthropology

Medical Anthropology examines how health and well-being are socially and culturally constituted in comparative and transnational contexts and the ways in which culture influences the experience of illness, the practice of medicine and the process of healing for the individual and community. It explores how the experiences and perceptions of the body, self or notion of the individual or person influence the illness experience. It is also concerned with how cultural values and practices dynamically shape and are themselves shaped by biomedical research and practice and non-Western medicines and healing traditions.

Medical Anthropology at UCL is a cutting-edge subsection in the department providing one of the most comprehensive and exciting programmes of teaching and research. Those working in this section are uniquely committed to actively developing Medical Anthropology at the intersections with clinical practice, primary care, public health, bioethics, science and technology and cultural psychiatry.

Current research related to Medical Anthropology in the department draws from a broad field of expertise that foregrounds social, cultural, psychological, and biological perspectives and includes:

  • Healing Rituals and Psychiatric Care among the Navajos and in Bhutan; Patients' Experiences of Treatment and the Culture of Medicine in the US and UK (Joseph Calabrese)
  • The anthropology of ethics and mindfulness-based therapy in the UK & Thailand (Joanna Cook)
  • Psychopharmaceuticals and community mental health, subjectivity and psychoanalysis, science and technology studies, migration and borders, in Ireland and the US (Michael D'Arcy)
  • Genomic Knowledge/Technologies, Biosocialities and Cancer in, UK, Cuba and Brazil (Sahra Gibbon)
  • The anthropology of malaria and vector-borne infectious diseases in the Philippines and South East Asia; Photovoice and participatory visual methodologies (photography, film and mapping) (Dalia Iskander)
  • Science and Medicine of Immunology and Personhood in South East Asia (David Napier)
  • Ageing, care, and creative health (play and games) in the United States and the United Kingdom (Carrie Ryan)

Teaching in medical anthropology forms a core part of the department’s undergraduate teaching. The medical anthropology section also offers two specific programmes for prospective students. These include

Applied and cross or interdisciplinary research is at the heart of the Medical Anthropology at UCL. These particular strengths are reflected in our research platform on Subjectivities and Biosocialities of Health and Illness. Through innovative applied teaching and learning practice, we actively promote dialogue between anthropology, clinical practice, scientific knowledge, primary and public health in different national and global arenas generating collaborations and affiliations with other departments and institutions inside and beyond UCL.

We have a weekly public Medical Anthropology Research Seminar with speakers invited from across the world to present and discuss their work. There are also a number of active research and reading groups in the department with current interest in topics such as ‘Cosmology, Ontology, Religion and Culture’, and ‘Biosocialities, Health and Citizenship’ and ‘Reproduction’ which offer students and staff an informal and productive learning environment for generating new ideas and developing critical engaged thinking.