Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Contagion (PGSP11421)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) 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.

The aims of the course are for students to develop an understanding of the role of infectious disease in both history and social organization; to understand how infectious disease leads to a deeper appreciation of issues relating to globalization, international politics and global health; to be able to analyse these issues ¿ of infection, and its consequences - from an anthropological perspective.
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 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?

The course will involve lectures, followed by student presentations and discussion. A key aim will be the opportunity to share approaches to the subject - grounded in the students disciplinary training (be that historical, political or anthropological) - but with an emphasis on anthropological approaches to the issues.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have a clear and critical understanding of the role of infectious disease in both history and social organization.
  2. Appreciate how infectious disease leads to a deeper understanding of issues relating to globalization, international politics and global health.
  3. Able to critically 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
Abel, E. 2007. Tuberculosis and the Politics of Exclusion: A History of Public Health & Migration to Los Angeles. New Brunswick, New Jersey, London: Rutgers University Press.
Alcabes, P. 2010. Dread. Public Affairs.
Arnold, D. 1993. Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic-Disease in Nineteenth-Century India. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Barry, J. 2009. The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. Penguin.
Bollet, J. 2004. Plagues and Poxes: The Impact of Human History on Epidemic Disease. Demos.
Bordin, G & D'Ambrosio, L. 2010. Medicine in Art. Los Angeles: The Paul J. Getty Museum. (p85 - 121: Disease).
Borofsky, R. 2005. Yanomami: The Fierce Controversy and What we can Learn from It. University of California Press.
Browning, B. 1998. Infectious Rhythm: Metaphors of Contagion and the Spread of African Culture. New York & London: Routledge.
Bud, R. 2009. Penicillin: Triumph and Tragedy. Oxford: OUP.
Bynum, H. 2012. Spitting Blood: The history of tuberculosis. OUP.
Camus, A. The Plague.
Cocker, R. 2000. From Chaos to Coertion: Detention and the Control of Tuberculosis. New York: St Martins Press.
Condrau, F & Worboys, M. 2010. Tuberculosis Then and Now: Perspectives on the History of an Infectious Disease. McGill-Queens University Press.
Crawford, D. 2009. Deadly Companions: How microbes shaped our history. OUP.
Diamond, J. 1998. Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. Vintage.
Dormandy, T. 1998. The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis. Hambledon Continuum.
Farmer, P. 2001. Infections and Inequalities. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Farmer, P. 2007. AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame. The University of California Press.
Fassin, D. 2007. When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Garret, L. 1994. The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a world out of Balance. Penguin Books.
Harries. P. 2007. Butterflies and Barbarians: Swiss Missionaries and Systems of Knowledge in South-East Africa. Oxford, Harare, Johannesburg, Athens: Ohio University Press.
Harrison, M. 2012. Contagion: How Commerce has Spread Disease. New Haven &London: Yale University Press.
Koch, E. 2013. Free Market Tuberculosis: Managing Epidemics in Post-Soviet Georgia. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
Kumar, A. 1998. Medicine and the Raj: British Medical Policy in India, 1835 - 1911. New Delhi, Thousand Oaks, London. Sage Publications. (Chapter 5: Diseases and Medical Research)
Murphy, B. 2014. Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus. Penguin.
Nichter, M. 1992. Of Ticks, Kings, Spirits and the Promise of Vaccines. In Leslie, C & Young, A. (eds) 1991. Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge. Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford. The University of California Press.
Nguyen n, V K. 2010. The Republic of Therapy: Triage and Sovereignty in West Africa's Time of AIDS (Body, Commodity, Text). Duke University Press.
Pringle, P. 2012. Experiment Eleven: Deceit and Betrayal in the Discovery of the cure for Tuberculosis. London, Berlin, New York, Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Quamman, D. 2013. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. Vintage.
Setel, P. 2000. A Plague of Paradoxes: AIDS, Culture, and Demography in Northern Tanzania. University of Chicago Press.
Whelehan, P. 2009. The Anthropology of AIDS: A Global Perspective. University Press of Florida.
Watt, S. 2000. Epidemics and History: Disease, Power and Imperialism. Yale University Press.
Williams, G 2011. Angel of Death: The Story of Smallpox. Palgrave MacMillan.
Wills, C. 1997. Yellow Fever, Black Goddess: The Coevolution of People and Plagues. Helix Books.
Zigon, J. 2011. HIV is God's Blessing: Rehabilitating Morality in Neoliberal Russia. University of California Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Laurie Denyer Willis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3878
Course secretaryMrs Beth Richardson-Mills
Tel: (0131 6)51 1659
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information