Medical Anthropology: Medicine and Culture

Medical Anthropology Syllabus Spring 2019



Class visit to Mercy Birth Center (midwife-led low intervention birth center), St. Louis MO, April 2019


“I loved how Dr. Cooper facilitated and expanded discussion within class without forcing her opinions on students or limiting discussion. I would have loved to hear more of Dr. Cooper’s insight about some of the topics discussed in class but also understand the point of courses is to understand the student’s knowledge, not neccesarily to make the instructor’s thoughts present.”

“Dr. Cooper is a great professor and one of my favorite professors I’ve had throughout my three years at SLU. She is very informative and truly cares about her students, their thoughts, and is always willing to help if they need it. Her medical anthropology class should be required for all pre–med or health related majors to take, as I believe you learn so much about the Western medical system, healthcare, and the realities of it all.”

“I respect Dr. Cooper so much. I had another professor this semester who didn’t respect his students and it really made me appreciate how much Dr. Cooper cares about and respects her students. (I said respect so much, whoops) In her class, we are all equals. She has so much knowledge and encourages us to share our knowledge as well. I felt like I learned so much in this class even though it wasn’t an aspect of Anthro I particularly cared about. I would take every class of hers if I could.”

“This course honestly changed my career path. I am really looking forward to practicing medicine in communities where it is less accessible.”

“Dr. Cooper is the best professor at this institution. Give her tenure NOW. She has had such a huge impact on my life and how I see the world. She is a life–changing professor. If not tenure, then make her the president of SLU.”

States of illness and health are not simply the result of biological processes. If we want to understand why people get sick and how they get better, we must also study the social and cultural aspects of medicine and disease. This course is an introduction to medical anthropology: the study of cultural meanings, social relations, and systems of power that shape experiences of illness and health. Medical anthropological research produces powerful insights about the extra-biological aspects of health and health care that can reduce disease burdens and improve health outcomes. In this class, students engage with ethnographic texts and films from Western and non-Western medical settings in order to learn how health, illness and healing practices are culturally shaped, transformed, and contested.

Students in this course conduct a semester-long research project (either a country study or an ethnographic project on health and medicine). Ethnographic project titles include:

Pills and pregnancy: Looking at barriers to care for expectant drug users

Health care among the St. Louis Bosnian and Herzegovinian populations

The effects of aging: Looking anthropologically at sociality in a neoliberal context

Scientific and human aspects of biomedicine: Pre-med students’ perspectives

Examples of country studies: Cuban health care and Ayurveda in Kerala

Cuba Presentation PDF

Ayurveda in Kerala PDF



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