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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Undergraduate Course: Medical Sociology (STIS10002)

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) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryFrom the moment we are conceived to the time of our death, medicine plays a profound role in all our lives. But how should we understand ┬┐medicine┬┐ as a domain that has become so ubiquitous in the modern world? And how might social scientists study it? This course explores the complex ways that medicine, as professional practice, system of knowledge and form of power, is shaped by and in turn shapes society.
The course focusses on: core theoretical insights that have emerged from seminal sociological studies of medicine (e.g. on the nature of professions, biomedical power and knowledge, the body, subjectivity and selfhood); applied research that contributes to medical policy and practice (e.g. the improvement of healthcare services, informing the regulation of new therapies); key contemporary issues in biomedicine (e.g. the rise of genetics and personalized medicine; the ┬┐pharmaceuticalization┬┐ of society; the ethical consequences of new medical technologies).
Course description The course is designed to provide a broad overview of the field of medical sociology, drawing on the specific expertise of the conveners and, where relevant, guest lecturers. Adopting a broadly historical approach, we will chart the emergence and development of medical sociology as a distinct sociological sub-discipline from the 1950s onwards. Topics covered will include, but will not be limited to: the nature and role of professional organisation in medicine; critical analyses of the medicalization and (bio)medicalization of society; social dynamicsthat shape experiences of health, illness and disease; micro and macro factors that influence the interactions between patients and medical professionals; patient organisations, health social movements and the shifting roles, identities and expertise of patients; the emergence, regulation and consequences of new biotechnologies for patients, professionals, and policy-making. The course will combine insights from sociological works on medicine, health and illness, applied research and case studies of contemporary topics and controversies. Students will engage with and analyse a range of different materials from media representations of patients through to health-related policy documentation.
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 2 social science courses (such as Sociology, Politics, Social Policy, Social Anthropology, etc) at grade B or above. 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. Understand the historical context, key theoretical insights and practical application of sociological studies of medicine.
  2. Develop a critical understanding of Western scientific medicine as a profession, institution, system of knowledge, form of power, and therapeutic practice.
  3. Understand how Western scientific medicine has evolved and transformed, including issues such as how and why biomedicine has come to dominate understandings of disease, the processes of medicalization, demedicalization and biomedicalization, the shifting challenges to medical power including health consumerism and the rise of patient experts.
  4. Apply complex concepts and critical thinking to key contemporary issues and policy challenges pertaining to biomedicine.
  5. Interpret, evaluate, and use a wide range of different types of data, empirical material and arguments relating to the social dimensions of medicine, health and illness.
Reading List
1. Freidson, E. (1970). Profession of Medicine: A Study of the Sociology of Applied Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2. Foucault, M. (1973). The Birth of the Clinic. London: Tavistock Publications Limited.
3. Epstein, S. (1996). Impure Science: AIDS, Activism and the Politics of Knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press.
4. Rose, N. (2006). The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power and Subjectivity in the 21st Century. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
5. Jain, S.L. (2013). Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us. Berkeley: University of Californian Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Gillian Haddow
Course secretaryMiss Katarzyna Pietrzak
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