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

Postgraduate Course: The Anthropology of Pharmaceuticals (SCAN11013)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryPharmaceuticals are fascinating objects because they connect the practices of a global industry with subjective experiences of healing, transactions between prescribers and patients, contradictions between self-care and health commodification, shifting boundaries between the normal and the pathological, patents and intellectual property, legal and ethical claims to health as a human right, competing standards of "best evidence," and the regulatory policies of national and international institutions.
Anthropologists have long explored the uses of medicinal substances, but mostly with a focus on how non-biomedical healing traditions employ herbal remedies. An "anthropology of pharmaceuticals", defined as the ethnographic study of mass-manufactured medications, has been emerging only since the late 1980s. This field of enquiry took shape when a limiting emphasis on patients' "irrational uses" of drugs was eschewed in favour of a broader engagement with their entire trajectory from manufacturing, marketing, distribution, prescription and consumption down to governmental regulations and evaluations of safety. This also brought new attention to how drugs beyond biomedicine are industrially produced or how multinational drug corporations draw on traditional pharmacological knowledge.
Course description Weekly topics:
(1) the social lives of medicines;
(2) cultural expectations and placebo effects;
(3) pharmaceuticalization and redefinitions of "normal" health;
(4) access to life-saving medications and corporate social responsibility;
(4) clinical trials as a global industry;
(5) pharmaceutical industries beyond biomedicine.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course, students will know anthropologists' key approaches to the social and cultural dimensions of pharmaceuticals. They will be able to locate the anthropology of pharmaceuticals in relation to medical anthropology, social anthropology and related social sciences. They will be familiar with the most influential anthropological analyses of pharmaceuticals and be able to reflect critically on them. They will have a better grasp of the global pharmaceutical industry and its practices.
Reading List
Applbaum, K. 2004. The Marketing Era: From Professional Practice to Global Provisioning. New York: Routledge.
Biehl, J. 2007. Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival. Photographs by Torben Eskerod. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Bode, M. 2008. Taking Traditional Knowledge to the Market: The Modern Image of the Ayurvedic and Unani Industry, 1980-2000. Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan.
Hayden, C. 2003. When Nature Goes Public: The Making and Unmaking of Bioprospecting in Mexico. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Lakoff, A. 2005. Pharmaceutical Reason: Knowledge and Value in Global Psychiatry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Moerman, D. 2002. Meaning, Medicine and the 'Placebo Effect'. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nichter, M. 2008. Global Health: Why Cultural Perceptions, Social Representations, and Biopolitics Matter. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
Petryna, A. 2009. When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Petryna, A., A. Lakoff, & A. Kleinman (Eds.) 2006. Global Pharmaceuticals: Ethics, Markets Practices. Durham: Duke University Press.
Whyte, S., S. Van Der Geest, & A. Hardon. 2002. Social Lives of Medicines. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Stefan Ecks
Tel: (0131 6)50 6969
Course secretaryMs Jessica Barton
Tel: (0131 6)51 5066
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