Medical Materialities


This course will draw from the fields of medical anthropology and material culture studies to consider the importance of materiality in healing practices in a broad range of cultures and time periods, including our own. We will examine how perceptible bodily features, conditions, and excretions have been used to diagnose and explain illness as well as health, and the roles that the (non-chemically active) material qualities of substances and treatments have played in healing. More specific topics will include the relationship between medicine and magic; folk and popular medicine; biomedicine as an ethnomedical system; the power of placebos; marketing of medicines in the past and present; new technologies of monitoring and reproduction; organ transplants; and the impacts of material inequalities upon health. Class meetings will be seminar style. Assignments will include a research paper or project on a topic of your choice (digital projects are welcome), a research presentation, and leading class discussion.

3 credits.