Naomi Adelson
Department of
Profile CV Students Courses

Professor Adelson is not currently teaching. This page will be updated when she returns to teaching.

Courses taught

Health and Illness in Cross-Cultural Perspective (AP/ANTH 3330)
What does health mean? What does illness mean? “Health and illness,” say Margaret Lock and Deborah Gordon (1988), “are not merely biological states, but are conditions which are ultimately related to and constituted by the social nature of human life.” Using critical and cross-cultural perspectives, we will examine the diverse ways in which individuals and societies understand, express, and manage illness and health and the diverse ways in which individuals and institutions perceive, define and contest illness categories. In doing so, we will see that medical anthropology offers a window into the relationship between our bodies and our social, cultural and political worlds.

The central goal of this course is for students to learn the fundamental concepts of the discipline of medical anthropology, to develop essential critical skills in reading and expressing those concepts and apply them to contemporary experiences and issues.


Bodies & Biotechnologies in Anthropology (GS/STS 6106)
How we see ourselves, understand the constitution of our body and our relationship to the biotechnologies that are so much a part of our everyday life worlds are all densely linked to our constructed perceptions of ourselves in the world. The disciplinary focus of anthropology offers students a critical theoretical perspective and point of departure for the study of bodies as “contingent formations of space, time, and materiality…”(Farquhar & Lock 2007). In this course students explore the critical spaces of engagement between those “contingent” bodies and biotechnologies and in that process consider how we “see”, make sense of, and connect with and through technologies.

Focusing in particular on biotechnologies as “places where nature and culture, health and illness, and communities of people intersect” (Caspar & Koenig 1996) we will examine the “moral anxieties”, rationales, assumptions, boundaries, processes and effects of the complex relationships between bodies and (bio)technologies and explore the “tacit distinctions separating humans from machines, kin from non-kin, female from male, and even nature from culture…” (Brodwin 2000). Guided by ethnographic examples and theoretical analyses in this expanding field of study, we will consider the ways in which biotechnologies are implicated in how living, dead, virtual, or nascent bodies are enhanced, transformed, created, mediated, connected, produced or abandoned.

Anthropology & Indigenous Peoples’ Health (AP/ANTH 4160)
From a medical anthropological perspective this course critically explores the historical and contemporary contexts of First Nations health, illness and healing. Students examine health inequities, policies and programs in historical, social, political and cultural context and in relation to the enduring effects of colonialism, including the social and embodied effects of a history of loss of indigenous lands, cultures, and political and economic autonomy. The course begins with an overview of medical anthropology theory in relation to the study of indigenous health. Students then explore the history of disease in First Nations Canada as a reflection of the historical transformations of the relations between indigenous and colonizing nations, focussing on diseases such as smallpox, tuberculosis, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. Through the course students learn about indigenous histories and practices of care and healing as well as the ways in which First Nations communities, organizations and leadership are developing innovations in health related practices. The course concludes with an analysis of health research modalities. Relevant issues are drawn from a range of current sources in order to explore the contemporary connections between health, disease, politics, culture, and representation.

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