Minor in Medical Anthropology/ Certificate in Culture, Medicine & Health

I have always been interested in both healthcare and social justice issues. Medical anthropology brought these two areas together and helped me gain an understanding of how deeply embedded issues of injustice, inequity and structural violence are in both creating and treating disease.  It also enabled me to go forward into medical school grounded in a deeper understanding of how these factors influence the therapeutic relationship between physicians and patients.  Exposure to this field should be a requirement for those considering healthcare careers, as I cannot imagine practising medicine without the insights gained from my medical anthropology courses.

Heather Osler,  MD, BA (York University)

Considering a health care profession in a culturally diverse place, in Canada or elsewhere? Interested in health and social justice work? Medical Anthropology is for you. The Department of Anthropology is pleased to announce two new programs for students interested in building their major program with either a minor or a certificate in medical anthropology.

Traditional Chinese Medicine shop

Medical Anthropology offers an anthropological lens on health and illness processes and the social, cultural and political factors that shape experiences of illness, patterns of health and disease, and issues of equity and access to health care services. Medical anthropologists study all medical systems as cultural entities using the ethnographic and critical research methods of the discipline. We explore the social, political and cultural dimensions of issues such as HIV/AIDS, Alcohol & Addiction, Mental Health, Global Health, Food and Nutrition, Complementary and Alternative Medicines and Reproductive Health.

Medical Anthropology has many practical applications. Students with this specialization can go on to professional programs such as medicine, nursing and public health or work in global health and health policy contexts. With a growing cultural diversity of those entering health care systems, medical anthropology offers crucial research and critical thinking skills in the analysis and interpretation of biomedical knowledge as well as an appreciation for culture in health care environments.

Reproductive health clinic, Senegal

The Department of Anthropology has been a leader in Canada in the development of courses in medical anthropology. For more than a decade, the department has consistently offered courses covering anthropological perspectives on food, nutrition, reproduction, Indigenous health, global health, and mental health. We offer a breadth of courses few other departments in Canada can match.

We offer a concentration in Medical Anthropology as either a Minor program OR as a freestanding Certificate program. Please click on the links below for more information:

Faculty Profiles

   Naomi Adelson

As a medical anthropologist, Naomi Adelson's theoretical interests are founded on a critical study of bodies and health and, more specifically, on the naturalization and medicalization of social and historical inequality. Professor Adelson works primarily with First Nations communities in Canada, and has conducted research in collaboration with the Whapmagoostui Cree of northern Québec since the late 1980s (Being Alive Well: Health and the Politics of Cree Well-Being, U of Toronto Press). Her research interests have included health and health disparities, concepts of stress, and the role of e-health and health communications technologies in the transforming landscape of health and health care in the Indigenous north. Currently, Professor Adelson is exploring a period of Whapmagoostui's recent past through the lens of the working history of a nurse who served this community through the mid-1960s.

   Denielle Elliott

Denielle Elliott is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work sits at the intersection of cultural anthropology, science and technology studies, and postcolonial and indigenous studies. Her research examines the politics and everyday ethics of medicine, science, and humanitarian interventions in the contexts of urban Canada (Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside) and Kenya. Her research and publications to date have focused on three core areas: First, the social and political-economic asymmetries in colonial and postcolonial medicine and the consequences for indigenous and subaltern communities; second, the moral paradoxes embedded within ‘good intentioned’ medical research and experimental medicine for these same communities; and third, the development of an arts-based approach in ethnography. She is a co-founder and co-curator at the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography, a research collective that bridges experimental methodologies, arts-based research and anthropology, focusing on the embodied, affective and imaginative in ethnographic fieldwork. She is the co-editor (with Dara Culhane) of A Different Kind of Ethnography: Imaginative Practices and Creative Methodologies (University of Toronto) and has a forthcoming book entitled National Scientific Projects, Statecraft and Politics in Kenya: Stories from an African Scientist (Routledge). Her newest project focuses on the social study of neurology, asking how experiments in ethnographic writing, arts-based methods, and sensorial methodologies can shift our understanding of what it is like to be diagnosed and live with acquired traumatic brain injuries (funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological research).

   Margaret MacDonald

Margaret MacDonald was trained as a medical anthropologist and specializes in research on women's reproductive health both in Canada and in low resource setting of the global south.  She is currently engaged in several projects. In Scaling up and Counting Down: the humanitarian logic of global campaigns to reduce maternal mortality, Professor MacDonald traces the development of international policy since the 1980s to promote safe motherhood. This project examines key policy moments and emerging tools in the effort to reduce maternal mortality in low resource settings: the controversial place of traditional birth attendants; the role of images in global health campaigns; and the surge of new biomedical-technical solutions.  In a related project called Reproductive Health in Senegal: Intersections of global policies and local realities, Professor MacDonald conducts collaborative research with NGOs that deliver maternal health programs in rural and remote areas of Senegal. Finally, her work on Midwifery in Canada focusses on the changing scientific and regulatory context of midwives’ key social and professional concerns including informed choice, diversity, and access to midwifery care.

   Eric Mykhalovskiy

Eric Mykhalovskiy became interested in health research after working with other AIDS activists to establish the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange in the early 1990's. That experience led to an enduring interest in the social organization of health knowledge which he pursues through research informed by Studies in the Social organization of Knowledge and Institutional Ethnography. Eric’s research traverses the conventional boundaries of sociologies with and of public health.  He is interested in the tensions that arise at the intersection of the public health and criminal law governance of HIV non-disclosure in Canada.  He is also working on a project related to the theorization of context within population health intervention research.  Eric has published widely on HIV criminalization. He is co-editor, with Viviane Namaste, of Social Science and HIV/AIDS: Critique, Research and Engagement (forthcoming, UBC Press) and is co-author, with Lorna Weir, of Global Public Health Vigilance: Creating a World on Alert (Routledge).  He is a senior editor of The Canadian Journal of Public Health and a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.  In 2015, he received the Liberal Arts and Professional Studies Award for Distinction in Social Justice Research and, in 2017, the CAHR-CANFAR Excellence in Research Award for the Social Sciences.

   Christianne Stephens

Christianne Stephens is trained as a medical anthropologist and health geographer. Broadly defined, her research explores health, healing, and well-being in cross-cultural perspective. She seeks to obtain a holistic, multi-perspectival, and nuanced understanding through the application of diverse theoretical frameworks including critical medical anthropology, intersectionality, embodiment, cultural epidemiology, structural violence and syndemics.  Research ethics is an emerging theme in her work. In March 2018 she co-organized (with Naomi Adelson) an interdisciplinary workshop on Ethics in Indigenous Research. Christianne’s scholarship combines theoretical innovation with critical analysis, long-term ethnographic fieldwork, collaborative research and the use of mixed methods in order to explore various dimensions of community health and well-being including mental health issues (historical and intergenerational trauma), environmental illness and contrasting/contesting perspectives on development and sustainability. She supports the use of citizen science in health knowledge production and acknowledges its potential for empowering racialized and marginalized populations. She was awarded the Canadian Anthropology Society’s (CASCA)  Richard F. Salisbury Award (2005) for her doctoral research in applied anthropology. Her dissertation “Toxic Talk at Walpole Island First Nation: Narratives of Pollution, Loss and Resistance” examined environmental illness, risk perception and risk communication within the context of Indigenous community health. This research was also recognized by McMaster University (selected as the best doctoral dissertation in the Social Sciences) and the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (Distinguished Dissertation Award nominee 2010). Her current project: “Letting the Body Tell Its Story:” Using Life History Research and Body Mapping as Tools to Depict Embodied Inequities in Indigenous People’s Health” utilizes a visual medium for documenting community level health outcomes and highlighting the multifactorial historical and contemporary determinants which shape them.

Sandra Widmer

Sandra Widmer conducts ethnographic and archival research on how Pacific islanders have engaged with biomedicine as a knowledge system that requires particular technologies and has been associated with colonial and postcolonial projects. She is interested in how biomedical care is connected to social equality, something that she recognized in the professionalization of indigenous medical practitioners who contributed to local fights for social justice despite the challenges of colonial attitudes and infrastructures. Relatedly, she writes on how parallel forms of healing co-exist with biomedicine, particularly when biomedicine is limited. She has learned about this from women who create socially significant caring spaces for pregnant women and from retired midwives and nurses who accompanied birthing women in different constellations of knowledge, technology and infrastructure: village dwelling, colonial mission hospital and post colonial government hospital.  Her new work considers metabolism research in health campaigns, which builds on her interests in women’s reproductive health.


Programs:

Minor in Medical Anthropology

Honours (Minor/Major) BA Program in Medical Anthropology (30 credits) PDF Checklist
The Minor can be combined with a major in the interdisciplinary program in Health and Society or Global Health. Medical Anthropology gives depth to these broad programs by offering an in-depth, personal perspective on health and disease as seen through the lens of our "participant-observation" ("ethnographic") method.

Course Requirements:

i) Core Requirements (21 credits total):

  • ANTH 2110 6.0 Core Concepts in Anthropology
  • ANTH 2330 6.0 Anthropology and Infectious Diseases: An exploration of the Social Networks of Microbes, OR ANTH 2170 6.0 Sex, Gender & the Body
  • ANTH 3330 6.0 Health & Illness in Cross Cultural Perspective: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology
  • ANTH 4330 3.0 Critical Issues in Medical Anthropology

ii) And 9 elective credits chosen from the following Anthropology, Sociology and Social Science lists:

  • ANTH 3190 3.0 Nutritional Anthropology: Food and Eating in Cross-Cultural Perspective
  • ANTH 3200 3.0 The Anthropology of International Health
  • ANTH 3280 6.0 Psychiatric Anthropology & Social Stress
  • ANTH 3560 6.0 Anthropology of the Senses
  • ANTH 4130 6.0 The Professional Anthropologist (work placement)
  • ANTH 4160 3.0 Anthropology and Indigenous Peoples' Health
  • ANTH 4430 6.0 The Anthropology of Reproduction, Personhood and Citizenship
  • ANTH 4570 3.0 The Brain, Self and Society
  • SOSC 3921 6.0  Indigenous Health and Healing: Interdisciplinary and Traditional Dialogues
  • SOCI 3820 6.0 Sociology of Health and Health Care
  • SOCI 4300 3.0 Sociology of Health Care Systems

Certificate in Culture, Medicine & Health

Certificate in Culture, Medicine & Health (24 credits) PDF Checklist

If you are a student in Social Work, Equity Studies, International Development Studies, Global Health, Disaster and Emergency Management or related fields that require critical social science skills for analyzing medical interventions, Medical Anthropology will be of interest to you.

This certificate provides a critical social science approach to health provision for those professional programs that deal with the health system, and health needs, of people from a broad range of cultural traditions. The certificate is a stand alone program that can be added to your degree after graduation, or in addition to your current program. The certificate program can be taken as a minor program in Medical Anthropology by those able to add a minor to their program.

Course Requirements:

i) Core Requirements (15 credits total):

  • ANTH 2330 6.0 Anthropology and Infectious Diseases: An exploration of the Social Networks of Microbes
  • ANTH 3330 6.0 Health & Illness in Cross Cultural Perspective: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology
  • ANTH 4330 3.0 Critical Issues in Medical Anthropology

ii) And 9 elective credits chosen from the following Anthropology, Sociology and Social Science lists:

  • ANTH 3190 3.0 Nutritional Anthropology: Food and Eating in Cross-Cultural Perspective
  • ANTH 3200 3.0 The Anthropology of International Health
  • ANTH 3280 6.0 Psychiatric Anthropology & Social Stress
  • ANTH 3560 6.0 Anthropology of the Senses
  • ANTH 4130 6.0 The Professional Anthropologist (work placement)
  • ANTH 4160 3.0 Anthropology and Indigenous Peoples' Health
  • ANTH 4430 6.0 The Anthropology of Reproduction, Personhood and Citizenship
  • ANTH 4570 3.0 The Brain, Self and Society
  • SOSC 3921 6.0 Indigenous Health and Healing: Interdisciplinary and Traditional Dialogues
  • SOCI 3820 6.0 Sociology of Health and Health Care
  • SOCI 4300 3.0 Sociology of Health Care Systems

Major in Medical Anthropology?

The Department of Anthropology does not offer a unique major program in Medical Anthropology. For those seeking such a major, we suggest that you pursue the courses outlined in the minor program in Medical Anthropology (30 credits) in addition to these core requirements of the Anthropology BA Honours (12 credits = 42 credits):

    • ANTH 3110 6.0 Acquiring Research Skills
  • ANTH 4110 6.0 Development of Theory in Social Anthropology

Resources:

Experiential Education Partner Agencies

We value experiential education, and have partnered with a number of agencies to provide work-study placements in ANTH 4130 6.0 The Professional Anthropologist:

Academic Resources