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Anthropology of Healing

Course Code: ANTH 2220
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Anthropology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

An introductory consideration of medical/healing beliefs and practices cross-culturally, especially in non-Western/non-state societies. This course also considers the healing process itself.

Course Content

  1. History and scope of medical anthropology; medicine and culture.
  2. The body as cultural document: anatomy, physiology and explanations of biology; explanation as myth, explanation as science.
  3. Good food, bad medicine; bad food, good medicine: culture and nutrition.
  4. Social systems and medical care; core clinical functions; roles and specialists; diagnosis and divination; illness categories.
  5. The first healers: shamans and the shamanistic complex.
  6. Doctor/healer, patient/client: the healing relationship in the context of culture.
  7. Sex, gender and reproduction: the physical body and the social body; birthing as a cultural phenomenon.
  8. Pain in the body, pain in the mind, pain in the society: culture and the experience of pain.
  9. Leaf, vine and root: ethnopharmacology and the production of "medicines".
  10. The grannery has fallen: human lives and the production of meaning.
  11. Abandonment, abuse and personal identity in social interaction; childhood patterns, adult situations.
  12. The validity of psychological categories cross-culturally; illness and behaviour; cultural patterns, individual lives.
  13. Stress and the body: simple societies and stress, complex societies and stress, cultural control of stress reactions.

Methods of Instruction

The course will involve the use of a number of instructional methods to achieve its objectives, including the following:  lectures, seminars, presentations and films as appropriate and useful.

Means of Assessment

Assessment will be in accord with the Douglas College student evaluation policy.  Specific components

of evaluation will include some of the following: exams consisting of short answer questions and essay questions; research paper; seminar presentations; participation in class discussions.

Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester and will vary according to the instructor’s assessment of appropriate evaluation methods.

An example of one evaluation scheme:

Essay assignment  40%
Mid-term examination       20%
Final examination  30%
Participation  10%
Total 100%


Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the student will be able to:

  1. Discuss the scope and focus of Medical Anthropology
  2. Describe the relationship of traditional medical systems to modern clinical practices, their comparisons and contrasts.
  3. Compare and contrast the roles of traditional healers and modern biomedical practitioners.
  4. Discuss Shamanism and the Shamanic complex as major elements in traditional healing practices around the World.
  5. Describe the basic nutritional needs of human beings and explain how culture influences definitions of what is food and not food.
  6. Explain the concept of mental illness in relation to culture and belief.
  7. Discuss the concept of stress and cultural forms of stress management, as well as the long-term effects of stress on the body and mind.

course prerequisites

ANTH 1100 or permission of Instructor

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.