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Gender, Health & the Body

Gender, Health & the Body concerns issues of:

Course Descriptions

1120 6.0 Making Sense of a Changing World: Anthropology Today

Course Directors: Profs. David Murray, Tania Ahmad

Time: Monday 12:30-2:30 VC 135 OR Wed. 12:30-2:30 VC 135


Thursday 2:30-4:30 TEL 0001

In this course you will use anthropological approaches to increase your understanding of global issues in diverse locales. This course challenges you to engage with other ways of knowing and being, and to rethink your taken-for-granted knowledge and beliefs through the comparative analysis of the human condition. This course will take a problem-based approach to a range of topics such as: the effects of race and racism, sources of religious conflict, alternate genders and sexualities, First Nations and health, international development and issues of social inequality. Students are encouraged to bring their own knowledge and experience as the first step in "thinking like an anthropologist" (i.e. rethinking the taken-for-granted). The emphasis in this course is developing skills (analytical thinking, writing).

This course will be team taught by two professors, each sharing and exploring their own research.

An intensive 6 credit, one term section of this course will also be offered in the winter term Wed 11:30-2:30 AND Thurs 11:30-2:30 SLH-C.

David Murray                Tania Ahmad
1130 6.0 Images of Resistance / Irresistible Images: Anthropology Through the Visual

Time: Not offered 2014-15

This course uses film, video, visual art, photography and social media such as webcams to explore foundational concepts in anthropology. We examine race, ethnicity, nationality, globalization, power, authority, politics, religion, gender, class, and sexuality through images produced by anthropologists as well as commercial and documentary filmmakers, photographers and artists. The course also examines visual representations of non-western cultures within and outside of western contexts, and asks questions about how visual technologies that can look deep into our bodies as well as far out into space are changing our understandings of what it means to be human in the 21st century.

Zulfikar Hirji

2170 6.0 Sex, Gender and the Body: Cross-Cultural Approaches to the Body, Gender, Sexuality & Kinship

Course director: Prof. Maggie MacDonald

Time: Wed. 10:30-12:30 TEL 0001

This course critically examines popular explanations of what is considered natural (and what is not) about sex, gender, the body and the family. Through a cross-cultural approach, biological models of natural gender roles, as well as sexual and familial relations, are explored and questioned.

Course credit exclusions:  AP/ANTH 2170 6.00 (prior to Fall 2012).


Format: 2 hrs lecture, 1 hr tutorial

3050 3.0 Disabling Lives: Anthropological Interpretations

Course Director: Prof. Gerry Wurzburg Time: Monday 2:30-5:30 FC 203



After considering approaches that are distinctive to the interpretation of disability, this course considers autobiographical interpretations from social science perspectives. The above perspectives will then be combined by asking students to consider disability biographies.

Course credit exclusions: ANTH 3000G 3.0; ANTH 3080 6.0

3080 6.0 Modes of Enablement: A Cultural Perspective on Physical Disability

Not offered 2014-15


Anthropological studies of disability examine disability in a context of a "localized and globalizing world" (Ingstad and Whyte (2009) looking at physical and intellectual disability within a context of "personhood," an understanding developed in the comparative study of disability. For the anthropologist and other social observers, personhood emerges from a "social model of disability."

This course considers visible and invisible dimensions of disablement: where the boundary between visible and invisible is defined culturally and socially. We explore the borderline quality of disabilities or their liminality (Turner), the relationships between the able-bodied and disabled, a difference that is socially-defined or reflected in social exclusion, in gender relations and in stigma.

Within both Euro-American societies, and in the Third World, distinctive disability cultures, like that which has emerged among the deaf, and the blind, extend to numerous other disabled 'communities' frequently most easily observed in cyberspace where they overcome barriers of exclusion. In this context, disability minorities may share a "Disability Consciousness," which defines their identity in contrast with the able-bodied. Course topics include a history of the relationship between "disability" and "normality," gender and disability, media (literature, film and television), as well as advertising and photography and disability. An additional focus of the course is the relationship between the disabled, and their support persons, relationships with medical professionals and what Albrecht refers to as "the rehabilitation business."

Winter term introduces the concept of "virtual disability, and is publicly" or how disabled persons escape marginality and stigma through online disability cultures. Winter a comparative perspective and focus on Disability Culture with a specific focus on 'deaf culture' and 'blind culture'. This course often attracts students with the experience working with disabled consumers. Moreover, a number of students have continued an interest in disability through their choice of courses, summer work and careers.

Format: Three seminar hours

3160 6.0 Sex, Love & Marriage: Cross Cultural Approaches to Kinship

Course Director: Dr Sandra Widmer Time: Thurs. 8:30-11:30 ACW 305

This course seeks to develop cross-cultural perspectives on such topics as marriage and mating, the formation of domestic groups, extended kinship ties and social networks, the kindred and various forms of descent groups, the family as a pathway to madness and many other topics. The stress will be on the importance of kinship as an ideology and set of symbols for ordering human relationships.

3190 3.0 Nutritional Anthropology: Food and Eating in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Not offered 2013-14

Nutritional anthropology, a subfield of medical anthropology, examines the relations between food, culture and biology. Food and eating -- although critical to human survival -- are both culturally constructed. We eat what we learn to categorize as food in culturally appropriate sequences and contexts. In this course, we examine the social and cultural basis of human food systems, beginning with the historical development of nutritional anthropology. The study of food and eating requires an understanding of the food system from multiple theoretical perspectives.

This year, we will focus attention on post-colonial theory and the political economy underlying the movement of food. We examine colonialism and food from a global perspective, and explore how colonialism and neocolonialism affect food availability, quality, and distribution. The course develops the concept of culinary colonialism and applies it to past and contemporary food practices. In addition to considerations of power and inequality, we examine commensality, the sharing of food, to understand how individuals and groups use their food resources for social, religious, and political ends.

The course concludes with a consideration of how and why food patterns are changing nationally and internationally, and how anthropology can be applied to improve food security for individuals and communities.

Format: Three seminar hours


3200 3.0 The Anthropology of International Health

Course director: Dr Arne Steinforth 

Time: (winter) Wed. 11:30-2:30 ACW 305

This course explores the field of international health from a critical anthropological perspective. We begin by tracing the emergence of international aid and development with attention to the cultural assumptions at play in the formation of problems and models by which to address them. We will then look at a range of serious health problems facing the developing world in greater depth, as well as the specific efforts of international experts and agencies to address them. Specific health topics will include infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, maternal and infant mortality, hunger and malnutrition, the integration of traditional healing into formal health care systems, and anthropological engagement in the field.

3230 6.0 Women, Culture & Society

Course director: Prof. Tania Ahmad

Time: Tues. 8:30-11:30 ACW 306

This course explores the contributions of anthropology to the study of gender, and the contributions of feminism to anthropology. We begin with a critical look at the history of androcentric bias in anthropological field work and theory and then trace the anthropological study of women's lives from the emergence of the "anthropology of women" in the 1970s to contemporary feminist anthropology.

Drawing on ethnographic examples from around the world, we will explore women's lives in depth, taking the perspective that sex, gender, and sexuality are best understood as socially and culturally constructed categories cross cut by race, class, religion and nation. Among the specific topics covered in this course are: marriage and the family, adoption and parenting, midwifery and childbirth, fashion and beauty, globalization and women's work, and women's agency and political activism. We will also address a number of theoretical and methodological dilemmas raised by the relationship between feminism and anthropology.

Format: Three seminar hours.


3240 6.0 Sexing the Subject: Sexuality from a Cross-Cultural Perspective

Course director: Prof. David Murray / Dr. Lynda Mannik

Time: Tues. 2:30-5:30 ACW 305

This course examines theories and practices of sexuality in our own lives and in the lives of people in other societies. In Canada 'common sense' notions about sexual behaviour assume essential and natural traits common to all humanity i.e., there are two genders, man and woman; they are related to each other through sexual attraction; sex is either for pleasure or for reproduction; and some sexual practices are deviant and immoral.

We begin this course by critically interrogating some of these assumptions, highlighting the development of biological determinism and social constructionism as dominant Western paradigms. We then turn to the study of sexuality in other societies, examining how anthropologists have tried to understand sexual practices and concepts that are, at times, very different from their own, and the various theoretical models through which these practices have been analyzed.

Throughout the course, we will critically reflect on how our own discourses about sex, sexuality, gender and society influence our understanding of people, and how these discourses have contributed to maintaining unequal social relationships. We will discover how in studying sexuality, history, politics, economics, race, and media must be all factored into the analysis. By the end of this course, we should have a better understanding of the range and meanings of sexual practices and discourses about sex cross-culturally.

Format: Three seminar hours

3280 6.0 Psychiatric Anthropology & Social Stress

Course Director: Dr Arne Steinforth Time: Thurs 8:30-11:30 ACW 304

This course is concerned with furthering the mutual interaction and utility of Medical Anthropology and modern Psychiatry, with regards to both our own multicultural society and the global community. The course particularly will focus on Psychiatry as a 'profession' or 'game of truth' – one intimately shaped by wider historical and socio-cultural factors, and will explore the nature, sources and validity of its 'knowledge' and practice, as well as its role in the wider arena of International Health as a truly Cultural Psychiatry. Canadian and other forms of Psychiatry, as well as their 'commodity-trade' and cultural sensitivity, will be examined. Up-to-date information on selected idioms of distress, disorders, public policies, and controversies also will be provided, as we head towards the DSM-V era.

Format: Three seminar hours

3330 6.0 Health & Illness in Cross-Cultural Perspective: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology

Course Director: Christianne Stephens

Time: Thurs 2:30-5:30 AWE 205

"Health and illness are not merely biological states, but are conditions which are ultimately related to and constituted by the social nature of human life" (Lock & Gordon). Using critical and cross-cultural perspectives, we will examine the diverse ways in which individuals and societies understand, express, and manage illness and health. 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.

Through this course you learn the central early and contemporary theories and methods of medical anthropology. This foundational underpinning will guide your critical study of health and illness, which will include topics such as: the diversity of medical beliefs and practices; the relationship between healers and patients; the national & international health arenas; the life cycle, gender and health; and the social implications of the new technologies of biomedicine.

Course exclusion: ANTH 4330 6.0 before 2012

Format: Three seminar hours

4120 3.0 Reconceiving Kinship: Anthropological Perspectives on Relatedness

Not offered 2013-14

This course explores contemporary debates in anthropology on the nature of kinship and relatedness. Beginning with a cultural critique of traditional perspectives, we consider how feminist theory, ender studies, and new reproductive technologies have reshaped the anthropological study of kinship.

4160 3.0 Anthropology and Indigenous People's Health

Course director: Christianne Stephens

Time: (Winter) Tues 2:30-5:30 VH 3005

From a medical anthropological perspective this course critically explores the historical and contemporary conditions of First Nations health, illness and healing, focusing primarily on the Canadian context and drawing from a variety of historical and contemporary places and issues. 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 land, culture, and political and economic autonomy.

The course begins with a brief 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, focusing 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 knowledge and 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.

Format: Three seminar hours

4330 3.0 Critical Issues in Medical Anthropology


Course director: Christianne Stephens

Time: (Fall) Tues 2:30-5:30 VH 3005

Comparative perspectives on health, illness and medical systems are studied from the viewpoint of anthropology and related disciplines. Emphasis is placed on understanding the roles of the practitioner and patient in their social and cultural contexts and the importance of applied medical anthropology to the wider community. Course credit exclusions: AP/ANTH 3330 6.00, AP/ANTH 4330 6.00 (prior to Fall 2013).

4440 3.0 Towards an Anthropology of Masculinities

Course Director:
Time: Not offered 2014-15

Taking its lead from feminist anthropology, an anthropology of masculinities is dedicated to analyzing formations of and relationships between gender, power, and culture in order to destabilize what is often taken for granted as a 'natural' category of being (which obfuscates a privileged positionality).

Course credit exclusion:

Format: Three seminar hours

4430 6.0 The Anthropology of Reproduction, Personhood & Citizenship

Course Director: Prof. Maggie MacDonald/Dr. Maya Shapiro

Time: Tues. 11:30-2:30 VH 3005


Human reproductive events and experiences are made meaningful through the complex interplay of biology, culture, and society. Powerful institutions within society such as biomedicine, law, and politics, also shape the way people imagine and manage their reproductive lives, as do global economic and development trends. This course draws on feminist perspectives on women's health and the body as well as theory and methods in medical anthropology to explore the complex relationships between reproduction, personhood, and citizenship through the study of contemporary and historical issues.

Topics will include: family planning and maternity care interventions in the name of colonialism and development; state and faith sanctioned uses of new reproductive and genetic technologies in realizing goals of nation, citizenship and family; pregnancy and motherhood as "skills of consumption" in North America; the globalization of the abortion debate through NGO funding policies; maternity care in contexts of poverty, violence, and migration; the implications of technology for parental and fetal personhood, and birthplace and citizenship issues worldwide. Students enrolling in this course should have some familiarity with health, reproduction or science studies through previous courses.

Format: Three seminar hours