Get the Syllabus – Biocultural Medical Anthropology

For those of you who are interested, here’s the list of readings for my class on Biocultural Medical Anthropology.  To make sure I had good articles, I drew on syllabi from other professors I really respect, and also dug into the latest literature.  I’m excited about this course!

I did cut out all the grading and policy details.  If you’re really interested in that, drop me an email.

Anthropology 5937: Biocultural Medical Anthropology

Prof. Daniel Lende, Fall 2010, University of South Florida


This course provides a comprehensive grounding in biocultural medical anthropology, which emphasizes understanding how health and healing are shaped by both biological and cultural processes.  This class will examine disease, illness, human biology, embodiment, public health, methods, and belief systems.  From the biology of stress to the biopolitics of medicine, students will engage in substantive discussion and read central pieces of the scientific and anthropological literature.  While the class is focused on biocultural dynamics, students will also cover the biological mechanisms of disease and applied biocultural practice.

Required Texts:

Wiley, Andrea & Allen, John. 2009. Medical Anthropology: A Biocultural Approach.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Nichter, Mark. 2008. Global Health: Why Cultural Perceptions, Social Representations, and Biopolitics Matter. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Knapp, Caroline. 1997. Drinking: A Love Story. New York: Dial.

Schedule of Classes and Readings

Week One

Aug 24: Introduction to Class

Book: None    

Aug 26: Biocultural Perspectives on Health & Disease

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 1-2


- R. Hahn & M. Inhorn. 2009. Introduction. In: Anthropology and Public Health: Bridging Differences in Culture and Society, Second Edition. Pp. 1-31.


- G. Armelagos et al. 2005. Evolutionary, historical and political economic perspectives on health and disease. Social Science and Medicine 61(4):755-765.

-A. McElvoy & P. Townsend. 2009. Interdisciplinary research in health problems. In: Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective, 5th Edition. Pp. 33-80.

-P. Farmer et al. 2006. Structural violence and clinical medicine. PLoS Medicine 3(10): e449.

-A. Kleinman. 2010. The art of medicine: Four social theories for global health.  Lancet 375:1518-19.

-S. McGarvey. 2007. Population health. Annals of Human Biology 34(4):393-396.

-R. Nesse. 2008. Evolution: Medicine’s most basic science. The Lancet 372: S21-S27.

Week Two

Aug 31: Diet & Nutrition

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 4


-D. Himmelgreen & N. Romero Daza. In press. Nutrition. In M. Singer & PI Anderson, eds., Companion to Medical Anthropology.

-T. Leatherman. 2005. A space of vulnerability in poverty and health: Political-ecology and biocultural analysis. Ethos 33(1): 46-70.


- C. Victora et al. 2008. Maternal and child undernutrition: Consequences for adult health and human capital. Lancet 371(9609): 340-357.

- B. Turner et al. 2007. Human evolution, diet, and nutrition: When the body meets the buffet. In: Evolutionary Medicine and Health. Pp. 55-71.

Sep 2: Growth & Development

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 5


- C. Worthman. 1999. The epidemiology of human development. In: C. Panter Brick and C.M. Worthman, eds. Hormones, Health, and Behavior. Pp. 47-104.  

- N. Krieger & G. Davey Smith. 2004. “Bodies count,” and body counts: social epidemiology and embodying inequality. Epidemiologic Reviews 26: 92-103.


-S. Stinson. 2000. Growth variation: Biological and cultural factors. In: Human Biology: An Evolutionary and Biocultural Perspective. Pp. 425-463.

- J. Hoddinot et al. 2008. Effect of a nutrition intervention during early childhood on economic productivity in Guatemalan adults. Lancet 371: 411-416.

- K. Hampshire et al. 2009. Saving lives, preserving livelihoods: Understanding risk, decision-making and child health in a food crisis. Social Science & Medicine 68(4):758-765.

Week Three

Sep 7: Inequality

Book: None


- R. Wilkinson. 2006. The impact of inequality. Social Research 73(2): 711-732.

- M. Marmot M. 2007. Achieving health equity: From root causes to fair outcomes. Lancet 370: 1153-63.

- C. Hertzman & T. Boyce. 2010. How experience gets under the skin to create gradients in developmental health. Annual Review of Public Health 31: 329-347.


- N. Adler & J. Stewart. 2010. Health disparities across the lifespan: Meanings, methods and mechanisms. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1186:5-23.

- C. Kuzawa & E. Quinn. 2009. Developmental origins of adult function and health: Evolutionary hypotheses. Annual Review of Anthropology 38:131-147.

Sep 9: Reproductive Health

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 6


- M. Lock & V. Nguyen. 2010. Local biologies and human difference. In: An Anthropology of Biomedicine. Pp. 83-110.

- K. Oths. 1999 Debilidad: A biocultural assessment of an embodied Andean illness.  Medical Anthropology Quarterly 13(3):286-315.


- M. Tapias. 2006. Emotions and the intergenerational embodiment of social suffering in rural Bolivia. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20(3): 399-415.

- D. Lende & A. Lachiondo. 2009. Embodiment and breast cancer among African-American women. Qualitative Health Research 19: 216-228.

- B. Piperata. 2008. Forty days and forty nights: A biocultural perspective on postpartum practices in the Amazon. Social Science & Medicine 67: 1094–1103.

Week Four

Sep 14: Aging

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 7


- C. Ikels. 1998. The experience of dementia in China. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 22(3): 257-283.

- P. Kontos. 2006. Embodied selfhood: An ethnographic exploration of Alzheimer’s disease. In: Thinking about Dementia, Leibing and Cohen eds. Pp. 195-217.

Due: Revision of Wiki Entry


-D. Crews & B. Bogin. 2010. Development, senescence and aging. In Clark Spencer Larsen, ed., A Companion to Biological Anthropology. Pp. 124-153.

 – P. Kontos & G. Naglie. 2009. Tacit knowledge of caring and embodied selfhood. Sociology of Health and Illness 31(5): 688-704.

Sep 16: Infectious Disease: Pathogens & Immunity

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 8


- T. McDade. 2005.  The ecologies of human immune function. Annual Review of Anthropology 34: 495-521.

- P. Brown, M. Inhorn & D. Smith. 1996. Disease, ecology, and human behavior. In: Medical Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Method, Revised Edition. Pp. 183-218.


- J. Eisenberg et al. 2006. Environmental change and infectious disease: How new roads affect the transmission of diarrheal pathogens in rural Ecuador. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103(51): 19460-19465.

- K. Smith & N. Christakis. 2008. Social networks and health. Annual Review of Sociology 34: 405-429.

Week Five

Sep 21: Infectious Disease: Globalization

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 9


-R. Barrett et al. 1998. Emerging and reemerging infectious diseases: The third epidemiological transition. Annual Review of Anthropology 27:247-271.

- Farmer, P. 1999.  Rethinking “emerging infectious diseases” (ch.2) and Immodest claims of causality (ch. 10) In Infections and Inequalities. Pp. 37-58 and 228-261.

Due: Draft of Wiki Entry


-L. Manderson et al. 2009. Social research on neglected diseases of poverty: Continuing and emerging themes. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 3(2): e332.

- E. Anderson-Fye. 2004. A “Coca-Cola” shape: Cultural change, body image, and eating disorders in San Andrés, Belize. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry 28(4): 561-595.

Sept 23: Emerging Diseases: Malaria & HIV

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 10


-H. Williams & C. Jones. 2004. A critical review of behavioral issues related to malaria control in sub-Saharan Africa: What contributions have social scientists made? Social Science and Medicine 59(3): 501-523.

-P. Farmer et al. 2001. Community-based approaches to HIV treatment in resource poor settings. Lancet 358: 404-409.


- V. Kamat. 2008. Dying under the bird’s shadow: Narrative representations of degedege and child survival among the Zaramo of Tanzania. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 22(1): 67-93.

Week Six

Sep 28: Stress & Social Inequality

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 11


-R. Sapolsky. 2005. The influence of social hierarchy on primate health. Science 308(5722):648-652.

-T. McDade. 2008. Beyond the gradient: An integrative anthropological perspective on social stratification, stress, and health. In C. Panter-Brick & A. Fuentes, eds., Health, Risk and Adversity. Pp. 209-235.


-N. Schoenberg et al. 2009. Situating stress: Lessons from lay discourses on diabetes. In: Anthropology and Public Health: Bridging Differences in Culture and Society, Second Edition. Pp. 94-113.

-E. Mendenhall et al. 2010. Speaking through diabetes: Rethinking the significance of lay discourses on diabetes. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 24(2): 220-239.

- M. Nichter. 1981. Idioms of distress: Alternatives in the expression of psychosocial distress: A case study from South India. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 5(4), 379-408.

-R. Sapolsky. 2004. Immunity, stress and disease. In: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Pp. 144-185.

- W. Dressler. 2004. Culture and the risk of disease. British Medical Bulletin 69: 21-31.

- M. Flinn. 2007. Why words can hurt us: Social relationships, stress, and health. In: Evolutionary Medicine and Health. Pp. 242-258.

Sep 30: The Impact of Race – Genetics or Experience?

Book: None


- A. Goodman. 2000. Why genes don’t count (for racial differences in health). American Journal of Public Health 90(11):1669-1702.

-C. Gravlee et al. 2009. Genetic ancestry, social classification, and racial inequalities in blood pressure in southeastern Puerto Rico. PLoS One 4(9): e6821.

Due: New Wiki Entry


-C. Gravlee. 2009. How race becomes biology: Embodiment of social inequality. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139(1): 47-57.

-N. Krieger. 2010. The science and epidemiology of racism and health: Racial/ethnic categories, biological expressions of race, and the embodiment of inequality – an ecosocial perspective. In: What’s the Use of Race? Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference. Pp. 225-256.

- A. Kleinman. 2000. The violence of everyday life: The multiple forms and dynamics of social violence. In Violence and Subjectivity. Veena Das et al., eds. Pp. 226-241.

Week Seven

Oct 5: Mental Health

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 12


-W. Dressler et al. 2007. Cultural consonance and psychological distress: Examining the associations in multiple cultural domains. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 31(2): 195-224.

-R. Seligman & L. Kirmayer. 2008. Dissociative experience and cultural neuroscience: Narrative, metaphor and mechanism. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 32(1): 31-64.


- L. Weaver & C. Hadley. 2009. Moving beyond hunger and nutrition: A systematic review of the evidence linking food insecurity and mental health in developing countries. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 48(4): 263-284.

- M. Eggerman & C. Panter-Brick. 2010.  Suffering, hope, and entrapment: Resilience and cultural values in Afghanistan.  Social Science & Medicine 71:71-83.

- B. Pescosolido, C. Brooks Gardner & K. Lubell. 1998. How people get into mental health services: Stories of choice, coercion and muddling through from first-timers. Social Science and Medicine 46 (2): 275-286.

Oct 7: Neuroanthropology

Book: None


-G. Downey & D. Lende. 2009. The encultured brain: Why neuroanthropology? Why now?

-M. Cameron Hay. 2009. Anxiety, remembering, and agency: Biocultural insights for understanding Sasaks’ responses to illness. Ethos 37(1): 1-31.

-G. Downey. 2010. ‘Practice without theory': a neuroanthropological perspective on embodied learning. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 16: S22-S40.


- J. Dumit. 2003. Is it me or my brain? Journal of Medical Humanities 24:35-47.

-S. Choudhury et al. 2009. Critical neuroscience: Linking neuroscience and society through critical practice. BioSocieties 4: 61-77.

-B. Kohrt. 2005. “Somatization” and “comorbidity”: A study of Jhum-Jhum and depression in rural Nepal. Ethos 33(1): 125-147.

-C. Worthman. 2009. Habits of the heart: Life history and the developmental neuroendocrinology of emotion. American Journal of Human Biology 21(6): 772-781.

Week Eight

Oct 12: The Relevance of Medical Anthropology

Book: Wiley & Allen, Epilogue


-C. Worthman & B. Kohrt. 2005. Receding horizons of health: Biocultural approaches to public health paradoxes. Social Science and Medicine 61(4): 861-878.

-C. Hemmings. 2005. Rethinking medical anthropology: How anthropology is failing medicine. Anthropology and Medicine 12(2): 91-103.

Due: All Wiki Revisions


- D. Napolitano & C. Jones. 2006. Who needs ‘pukka’ anthropologists’? A study of the perceptions of the use of anthropology in tropical public health research. Tropical Medicine and International Health 11(8): 1264-1275.

 – A. Wiley. 2004. Toward relevant research: Adaptation and policy perspectives on maternal-infant health in Ladakh. In: An Ecology of High-Altitude Infancy: A Biocultural Perspective. Pp. 178-203.

Oct 14: Methods in Biocultural Anthropology

Book: None


- C. Worthman & E. Costello. 2009. Tracking biocultural pathways to health disparities: The value of biomarkers. Annals of Human Biology 36(3): 281-297.

-D. Hruschka. 2009. Culture as an explanation in population health. Annals of Human Biology 36(3): 235-247.

-C. Hadley & A. Wutich. 2009. Experience-based measures of food and water security: Biocultural approaches to grounded measures of insecurity. Human Organization 68(4): 451-460.


-C. Gravlee et al. 2009. Methods for collecting panel data: What can cultural anthropology learn from other disciplines? Journal of Anthropological Research 65(3): 453-483.

- J. Limon. 1989. Carne, carnales, and the carnivalesque: Bakhtinian batos, disorder, and narrative discourses. American Ethnologist 16(3): 471-486.

Week Nine

Oct 19: Healing

Book: Wiley & Allen, Ch 3


-T. Csordas & A. Kleinman. 1996. The therapeutic process. In Handbook of Medical Anthropology. Pp. 3-20.

-J. Frank & J. Frank. 1986. Therapeutic components shared by all psychotherapies. In: Cognition and Psychotherapy, A. Freeman et al., eds. Pp. 45-78.

Due: Initial Draft of PLoS Post


- K. Finkler. 1994.  Sacred healing and biomedicine compared. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 8(2):178-197

- M. Nichter & C. Nordstrom.  1989.  A question of medicine answering: Health commodification and the social relations of healing in Sri Lanka. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry 13: 367-390.

Oct 21: Ethnophysiology & Embodiment

Book: Nichter, Intro, Ch 1


-C. Helman. 2007. The body: Cultural definitions of anatomy and physiology. In: Culture, Health and Illness, Fifth Edition.

- G. Shepard. 2004. A sensory ecology of medicinal plant therapy in two Amazonian societies. American Anthropologist 106(2): 252-266.


- M. Lock & N. Scheper-Hughes. 1996. A critical-interpretive approach in medical anthropology: Rituals and routines of discipline and dissent. In: Medical Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Method, Revised Edition.

- N. Krieger. 2005. Embodiment: a conceptual glossary for epidemiology. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59(5): 350-355.

-L. Kirmayer. 1992. The body’s insistence on meaning: Metaphor as presentation and representation in illness experience. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 6(4): 323-346.

Week Ten

Oct 26: Illness Causality & Categories

Book: Nichter, Ch 2-3


- L. Rebhun. 1994. Swallowing frogs: Anger and illness in Northeast Brazil. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 8(4): 360-382.

- P. Farmer. 1999. Sending sickness: Sorcery, politics, and changing concepts of AIDS in rural Haiti. In: Infections and Inequalities. Pp. 158-183.


- R. Baer, L. Clark, & C. Peterson. 1998. Folk illnesses. In: Louie S, ed. Handbook of Immigrant Health.  Pp. 183-202.

- L. Garro. 2000. Cultural meaning, explanations of illness, and the development of comparative frameworks. Ethnology 39(4):305-334.

- L. Chavez et al. 2001. Beliefs matter: cultural beliefs and the use of cervical cancer-screening tests. American Anthropologist 103(4), 1114-1129.

Oct 28: Pharmaceuticals & Placebos

Book: Nichter, Ch 4


-D. Moerman & W. Jonas. 2002. Deconstructing the placebo effect and finding the meaning response. Annals of Internal Medicine 136: 471-476.

-S. Reynolds White et al. 2002. Mothers and children: The efficacies of drugs. In: Social Lives of Medicines. Pp. 23-36.


- J. Thompson et al. 2009. Reconsidering the placebo response from a broad anthropological perspective. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 33(1): 112-152.

- S. Van der Geest & S. Reynolds Whyte. 1989. The charm of medicine: Metaphors and metonyms. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 3(4): 325-344.

Week Eleven

Nov 2: Health Policy & Biomedicine Reconsidered

Book: Nichter, Ch 5-6


-A. Castro & P. Farmer. 2005. Understanding and addressing AIDS-related stigma: From anthropological theory to clinical practice. American Journal of Public Health 95(1): 53-59.

-M. Rotherham-Borus et al. 2009. Common factors in effective HIV prevention programs. AIDS and Behavior 13: 399-408.


- M. Nichter. 2002. The social relations of therapy management.  New Horizons in Medical Anthropology, M. Nichter and M. Lock, eds. Pp. 81-110.

- B. Good. 1994.  Medical anthropology and the problem of belief.  In: Medicine, Rationality and Experience. Pp. 1-24.

- L. Hunt. 2000. Strategic suffering: Illness narratives as social empowerment among Mexican cancer patients. In: Narrative and the Cultural Construction of Illness and Healing. Garro and Mattingly eds. Pp. 88-107.

- C. Briggs. 2003. Why nation-states and journalists can’t teach people to be healthy: power and pragmatic miscalculation in public discourses on health. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 17(3): 287-321.

Nov 4: NGOs to Policy

Book: Nichter, Ch 7-8


- M. Lock & V. Nguyen. 2010. Biomedical technologies in practice. In: An Anthropology of Biomedicine. Pp. 17-31.

- V. Smith-Oka. 2009. Unintended consequences: Exploring the tensions between development programs and indigenous women in Mexico in the context of reproductive health. Social Science & Medicine 68(11): 2069-2077.

Due: Proposal for Poster/Final Paper Project


- D. Mosse. 2004. Is good policy unimplementable? Reflections on the ethnography of aid policy and practice. Development and Change 35(4): 639-671.

- L. Schell et al. 2007. Advancing biocultural models by working with communities: A partnership approach. American Journal of Human Biology 19(4): 511-524.

- S. McGarvey. 2009. Interdisciplinary translational research in anthropology, nutrition, and public health. Annual Review of Anthropology 38(1): 233-249.

Week Twelve

Nov 9: Biopolitics and Biopower

Book: None


- M. Lock & V. Nguyen. 2010. Who owns the body? In: An Anthropology of Biomedicine. Pp. 205-228.

- J. Biehl. 2010. Human pharmakon: Symptoms, technologies, subjectivities. In: A Reader in Medical Anthropology: Theoretical Trajectories, Emergent Realities. Pp. 213-231.


-N. Rose. 2007. Beyond medicalisation. Lancet 369: 700-702.

-D. Fassin. 2008. The embodied past: From paranoid style to politics of memory in South Africa. Social Anthropology 16(3): 312-328.

- A. Petryna. 2009. Biological citizenship after Chernobyl. In: Anthropology and Public Health: Bridging Differences in Culture and Society, Second Edition.

- I. Hacking. 2000. Madness: Biological or constructed? In: The Social Construction of What? Pp. 100-124.

Nov 11: Veteran’s Day – No Class

Week Thirteen

Nov 16: Drinking – Falling in Love

Book: Knapp, Prologue, Ch 1-5


-D. Lende. 2005. Wanting and drug use: A biocultural analysis of addiction.  Ethos 33(1): 100-124.

-N. Dow Schull. 2005. Digital gambling: The coincidence of desire and design. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 597(1): 65-81.


-H. Kincaid & J. Sullivan. 2010. Medical models of addiction. In: What Is Addiction? Pp. 353-376.

Nov 18: Film: Dope Sick Love

Week Fourteen

Nov 23: Drinking – Complications

Book: Knapp, Ch 6 – 10


- A. Garcia. 2008. The elegiac addict. Cultural Anthropology 23(4): 718-746.


- D. Lende. 2007. Evolution and modern behavioral problems. In: Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives, W. Trevathan, E.O. Smith & J. McKenna, eds. Pp. 277-290.

Nov 25: Thanksgiving – No Class

Week Fifteen

Nov 30: Drinking – Addiction and Recovery

Book: Knapp 11-16


- D. Lende. In prep. Addiction and the brain: Turning neuroscience into neuroanthropology.

Due: Final Revision of PLoS Post (absolute deadline – if possible, complete earlier)


- NIDA Principles of Drug Treatment. Pp. v – 60

- H. Castañeda et al. 2008. Enabling and sustaining the activities of lay health influencers: Lessons from a community-based tobacco cessation intervention study. Health Promotion Practice 11(4): 483-492.

Dec 2: Poster Session

Week Sixteen

Dec 9: Final Paper due by 5:00PM

3 thoughts on “Get the Syllabus – Biocultural Medical Anthropology

  1. Pingback: From Good Study Habits to Better Teaching | Neuroanthropology

  2. Pingback: Daniel Lende: Looking for Graduate Students « Neuroanthropology

  3. Pingback: Resources for teaching medical anthropology | Somatosphere

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