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

Undergraduate Course: Understanding Medicine: Social Science Perspectives (SCAN10082)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course introduces intercalating medical students on the BMedSci Honours in Anthropology and Sociology of Medicine to key social scientific research, concepts, and approaches for understanding medicine as a social phenomenon, as embedded within culture and as actively shaping it.
Course description It is widely acknowledged that medicine does not stand outside of culture and society. But what does it mean when we talk about the social or cultural dimensions of medicine and healthcare? How and why do social scientists study medicine, health and illness? And what might social scientific approaches contribute to medical knowledge, policy and practice?
This course introduces students to key anthropological and sociological research, concepts and approaches for studying medicine and healthcare. It asks: what is distinctive about the ways anthropologists and sociologists think about and engage with medicine and healthcare; what can the social scientific knowledge contribute to medical thinking and practice; and how might social scientists productively engage with the wider field of medicine and healthcare in different cultural contexts?
Far from being a monolithic entity, what counts as medicine, health and illness is diverse, contested, constantly changing and contingent. Drawing on in-depth readings and discussions of key texts, the course will explore different aspects of medical knowledge and practice. This will include:

The role that different models and metaphors play in shaping understandings of medicine, health and illness. We will interrogate how some models and metaphors have changed over time, while others have persisted, and will discuss the consequences they have for medical knowledge and practice, as well as relevant communities and populations.

Different ways of knowing and sources of knowledge in medicine. We will explore different perspectives on what counts as valid medical knowledge, evidence and expertise, focusing on the role that different practices and technologies play in this.

The social construction and enactment of disease, focusing on the interaction between disease classification and diagnostic technologies and practice.

Different perspectives on what constitutes treatment and care. We will look at issues of access, compliance, and inequalities, and will explore what counts as "good" care in different cultural contexts and stages in the life-course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites Students MUST also take: ( Anthropology of Health and Healing (SCAN10062) OR Sociology of Medicine (STIS10013)) AND Anthropology and Sociology of Medicine Dissertation (SCAN10083)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assignment 1: Reflection on key metaphor (700 words) (20%)
Assignment 2: Final Essay (3,000 words) (80%)

Feedback Assessment will take place through two written assignments that build on each other and will be completed during the course of the semester. We have decided on these assignments to ensure that the students, who may as yet be confident writing social science essays, receive high quality feedback and support in preparation for the final essay that constitutes 80% of their mark for the course.

Feedback will also be provided on the outline of research idea (linked to SCAN10083 Anthropology and Sociology of Medicine Dissertation) that students will be expected to submit, but will not be assessed on.

Students' work will be returned to them within 15 working days of submission, ensuring that they are able to use the feedback they receive to inform their subsequent submissions. Students will have ample opportunity to discuss their feedback with the course organisers.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Acquire an understanding of key anthropological and sociological studies related to medicine, health and illness.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of social scientific concepts about and approaches for studying medicine in different cultural contexts.
  3. Engage with and evaluate social scientific arguments and claims relating to medicine, health and illness.
  4. Identify a suitable research topic and develop a feasible plan of how to study it as a social scientist.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to present complex arguments about the social and cultural dynamics of medicine and healthcare, both verbally and in writing.
Reading List
Helman C.G. (2007). Culture, Health and Illness. Fifth Edition. Oxford: Hodder Arnold.

Lock M. and Nguyen V-K. (2010). An Anthropology of Biomedicine. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.

Nettleton S. (2013). The Sociology of Health and Illness. Third Edition. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Additional Indicative Readings:

Fadiman, A. (1998). The Sprit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrer, Straus and Giroux.

Farmer, P. (2006). (2nd Edition). Aids and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame. Second Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Fassin, D. (2007). When Bodies Remember: Experiences and the Politics of AIDS in South Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Feudtner, C, (2003). Bittersweet: Diabetes, Insulin and the Transformation of Illness. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Livingston, J. (2012). Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic. Durham: Duke University Press.

Martin, E. (2009). Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Murphy, M. (2006.) Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience and Women Workers. Durham: Duke University Press.

Nguyen, V-K. (2010). The Republic of Therapy: Triage and Sovereignty in West Africa's Time of AIDS. Durham: Duke University Press.

Wailoo, K. (2001). Dying in the City of the Blues: Sickle Cell Anemia and the Politics of Race and Health. Chaple Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students should have strengthened their skills in:
- understanding and analysing social science research, concepts and evidence;
- drawing on existing research to develop and support their own ideas and arguments;
- engaging with social science research to inform medical research, practice, and policy;
- presenting information visually, orally, and in writing.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Ian Harper
Tel: (0131 6)50 3816
Course secretaryMiss Karen Leung
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