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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: Contagion (SCAN10070)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryInfectious diseases have impacted human relations in profound and far reaching ways. Drawing on a range of pathogens, this course examines their historical, social and economic impact.
Course description Infectious diseases have had a profound impact on human history. In this course we take a broad historical approach to understanding the relationships between people and microbes. Drawing on the work of cultural historians, anthropologists, epidemiologists we take a wide-ranging cross disciplinary look at the phenomenon and the impact that infectious diseases have had on societies across the world. We shall look at the role of fear, migration, the state, globalisation and trade, the rise of magic bullets and antibiotics, the part of the laboratory and modern diagnostics, and art in both the way that infections have moulded culture, and our responses to this.

Indicative themes may include the following: How history and contagion are intertwined and the relationship between the two; migration, the state, and the impact of infectious disease control policies; the way art has responded to contagion, and the relationship to fear and anxiety in the face of death (for example from Goya to Romero); how have eradication narratives have impacted on our relationship with microbes (eg smallpox); What has AIDS and tuberculosis taught us about the socio-political drivers of infection?; What role has the development and availability of antibiotics (the magic bullet) had in the rise of so-called ¿super-bugs¿; How have these organisms been identified, and what is the role of the laboratory in science and society; ¿The coming plague¿ and what happens when bugs cross from animals to humans; What has been the impact of the Ebola crisis on international relations and our understanding of outbreaks?; How do pathogens fit into warfare and terror?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Anthropology courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. A clear understanding of the role of infectious disease in both history and social organization.
  2. Able to understand how infectious disease leads to a deeper understanding of issues relating to globalization, international politics and global health.
  3. Able to analyse these issues ¿ of infection, and its consequences - from an anthropological perspective.
  4. To develop an understanding of infectious diseases from perspectives not directly related to their core disciplinary training, for example historical dimension for anthropologists, or anthropological analyses for medical students.
  5. To learn from each other on the key disciplinary issues from which students draw (for example, medicine and anthropology).
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsInfectious disease; history; contagion; plague; ebola; medical anthropology
Course organiserDr Ian Harper
Tel: (0131 6)50 3816
Course secretaryMiss Lizzie Robertson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3079
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