Postgraduate Course: Anthropology of Global Health (PGSP11379)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||Medical anthropologists often deal directly with problems in global health initiatives, whose agendas are frequently intertwined with international development institutions. Increasingly a link is being made (and contested) between disease control and poverty reduction. Some anthropologists who work in applied contexts attempt to translate public health knowledge and policy into effective action. Other anthropologists reflect critically on how governmental health initiatives are ever more central to everyday life and how global health organizations are producing a transnational government of the body. This takes place through processes of globalization, as 'universal' concepts and practices related to health and illness travel to different parts of the world and interact with local agendas. In this course, we explore the tensions between different standpoints alongside case studies on how anthropologists engage with global health agendas.
This course is affiliated with the University's Global Health Academy, www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/global-health
The term 'global health' is used to refer to our interconnected health in a globalised economy, to the goal of achieving universal coverage for basic health services, and to the emergence of transnational systems of governance and delivery in response to those challenges. This course explores the distinctive contribution that an anthropological approach to globalisation and health can make to this rapidly changing field of research and practice. This contribution ranges from the translation of public health knowledge and policy into effective action in specific social and cultural contexts, to critical reflection on how global health organizations are producing a transnational government of the body.
The course takes a problem-based approach and focuses on 'grand challenges' in global health, such as those posed by global pandemics, humanitarian crisis, or the limited reach of child and maternal health programmes in 'resource-poor' locations. Through a series of ethnographic case studies, we will examine how the concepts and practices associated with global health interventions travel to different parts of the world and interact with local agendas. This will provide the basis for an exploration of the possibilities for anthropological engagement with global health problems, institutions and programmes.
1. Introduction: What and where is global health?
This session will explore the emergence of 'global health' as a concept, a network of institutions, and a problem. We will discuss anthropology's relationship to global public health practice; from positions that work within the frame of public health to those that advocate a more critical repositioning of relations with these practices.
2. Neoliberalisation of global health
In this session, we will investigate the impact of the neoliberalisation of national economies on their health sectors, a key concern in critical global health. We will look at the role of global health bureaucracies (like the WHO and Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria) and aid agencies in transforming national governmental and non-governmental responses to epidemics.
3. Humanitarian crises
Today, images of suffering in famine, war and the aftermath of natural disasters are beamed around the world, demanding a response from people sitting in living rooms in the US or the UK. How, this class explores, have we all become implicated in the suffering of strangers? This session will focus on humanitarian biomedicine as a particular form of development work, entailing particular moral sentiments and ethical hazards. We will explore the emergence of suffering and crisis as key problems in humanitarianism and will introduce current anthropological thinking about the politics and valuation of human life that humanitarian biomedicine entails.
Eradication of particular disease agents has long been a goal for global public health, and so far has been successful in freeing the world from smallpox and rinderpest. But what is eradication, what kind of world does it engender, and how does it shape the way we think about disease? When we imagine a world free of disease, what consequences does this have for the prominence of social determinants of disease? This week we will discuss these questions in light of: the WHO Global Malaria Eradication Campaign; the resistance of people in India to the Smallpox Eradication Campaign, and in Northern Nigeria to the Poliomyelitis Eradication Campaign; and the essential role of pastoralist herders in the Horn of Africa to the successful eradication of rinderpest in 2011.
5. Politics of evidence and data in global health
In this session, we will discuss the nature of data production and consumption in global health. We will investigate the history of the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) and the metric┐s role in global health policy making before looking at the nature of data production and legitimization in different spheres of health governance.
6. Chronic disease
The global health infrastructure emerged largely in response to the threats posed by acute illness episodes, whether in relation to obstetric-related injuries, diarrhoea, malaria, or emerging infectious diseases. Yet as the incidence of chronic diseases grow, such as cancer and diabetes, governments in low and middle income countries are increasingly having to respond to the challenges that accompany widespread chronic disease. Chronic disease is different from many other kinds of public health concerns in that its etiology is rooted in health behaviour or lifestyle. In this session, we will deploy ideas of structural violence and socially-produced global inequality to think about the chronic disease epidemic as a slow-moving, never-natural disaster. As behaviour/lifestyle comes under scrutiny, everyday life becomes the subject of medical expertise, raising key problematics of care.
7. Reproductive and maternal health
Sexual, reproductive, and maternal health are overlapping spheres of health that are constant features of global health discourse and interventions, yet worldwide, basic needs are consistently unmet. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries. However, reproductive and maternal health are often disjointed in strategies and interventions: in the Sustainable Development Goals, sexual and reproductive health are prioritized in Goal 5: Gender Equality, while maternal health is featured in Goal 3: Health and Wellbeing, and more often associated with infant health. In this lecture, we will trace the historical and contemporary significance of reproductive and maternal health in programmes of population governance and development. With a particular focus on abortion, we will examine why these spheres of health that act as core metrics for development are so highly contested, and what the implications are for health, care, and access.
8. Antimicrobial resistance
Recent debates on global health identify anti-microbial resistance (AMR) as an object of anthropological examination. The history of AMR coincides with the development of modern medicine and drug developments. Epidemiologic transitions highlight how emerging infections and chronic diseases complicate medical interventions across the globe. In this lecture, we examine how biomedical community and governments have responded to the spread of AMR in various settings.
9. Community health workers
The rise of the professionalized Community Health Workers (CHWs) in recent decades has been described as a great public health revolution. CHWs are local workers, typically with a secondary education, trusted by the community in which they live and serve. Global health agencies and national governments are investing huge amounts of resources in CHW programmes across the world. In this lecture we will critically evaluate the emergence of this global health phenomenon for its potentials and pitfalls by focusing on health workers┐ experiences and challenges in the field.
10. Anthropological Engagements
This session will provide the opportunity for reflection on the distinctive contribution that anthropology can make to global health. We will draw on the readings we have covered throughout the course to reflect on the value of ethnographic evidence, how anthropologists develop their arguments, and the possibilities and limitations of anthropological writing.
Student Learning Experience:
The course is hands-on and seminar based. It will consist of a combination of lectures, group activities, presentations, debates and discussions. Students will be expected to undertake all of the core reading for each week and to contribute substantially to the online and class learning environment. We encourage you to make connections between theory, ethnography and global health policy. The course provides an introduction to anthropological perspectives on global health and is open to students with backgrounds in social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 10,
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Assessment will be based on a book review essay (30%) and a long essay (70%). The review essay should answer the question 'what can anthropology contribute to global health?' with reference to a book-length monograph from the list provided. The book should be used as a peg for a lively review that explores the contribution of anthropology to contemporary debates in global health more widely. The long essay will be based on an essay question provided by the course convenor.
||Assessment: Students will be expected to reflect on feedback from their book review essay and build on the marker's comments when developing their long essay.
Formative assessment: Students will be given individual oral feedback on essay plans for the second assignment.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- show an advanced understanding of both applied and critical anthropology in relation to international health
- grasp the relationship between globalization and health from an anthropological perspective
- show an appreciation of how an anthropological understanding of international health can be applied to health systems in the U.K.
- engage anthropological arguments in relation to health policy and practice and clearly present those arguments in seminars and essays.
- set their own anthropological research agenda in relation to global health issues
|Please see course handbook for the current reading list.|
Arnold, D. 1993. Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Baer, H.A., Singer, M. & Susser, I. 1997. Medical Anthropology and the World System: A Critical Perspective. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.
Briggs C & C Mantini-Briggs 2003. Stories in the Time of Cholera: Racial Profiling during a Medical Nightmare. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London. University of California Press.
Brodwin P, 1996 Medicine and Morality In Haiti: the Contest for Healing Power. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Desjarlais, R., Eisenberg, L., Good, B.J. & Kleinman, A. (Eds.). 1995. World Mental Health: Priorities, Problems, and Responses in Low-Income Countries. New York: Oxford University Press.
Farmer P, 1992. AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the geography of blame. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.
Farmer, P. 2003. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hacking, I. 1999. The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hewlett B & B Hewlett 2006. Ebola, Culture and Politics: The Anthropology of an Emerging Disease. Wadsworth.
Justice J, 1986. Policies, Plans, & People: Culture and Health Development in Nepal. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Moerman, D. 2002. Meaning, Medicine and the 'Placebo Effect'. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ong A & S Collier (eds) 2005. Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems. Malden MA, Oxford, Carlton: Blackwell Publishing
Petryna, A. 2002. Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Scheper-Hughes, N. 1992. Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Skultans V and Cox J, 2000. Anthropological approaches to psychological medicine: Crossing Bridges. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsly Publishers.
Treichler, P. 1999. How to Have a Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Trostle, J. 2005. Epidemiology and culture. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Vaughan M, 1991. Curing their ills: colonial power and African illness. Stanford University Press.
Young, A. 1995. The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Stefan Ecks
Tel: (0131 6)50 6969
|Course secretary||Ms Julia Jaworska
Tel: (0131 6)51 1659