Health and Medicine

The social and cultural anthropology of health and medicine has been taught at Harvard since the early 1970s, and today represents an important component of the Department’s graduate and undergraduate teaching programs. This is a broad field that includes medical and psychiatric anthropology, global health, disability, social suffering, humanitarianism, death and dying, caregiving, public health, medical ethics, human rights and medical humanities. There are specific courses on the ethnography of chronic diseases, mental illnesses, local biologies and biomedicine and traditional healing systems. There are also theory and methods courses.

Other relevant courses deal with local biology, obesity and eating disorders, violence and trauma, and women’s reproductive health issues. Co-teaching is done with medical anthropologists from Harvard Medical School and with members of other FAS departments, such as History, History of Science, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Program on the Study of Religion, and African and African American Studies. Senior honors thesis and PhD dissertations have been written on a wide range of subjects. There are also a one year MA program and an MD-PhD program. Faculty who teach in this subfield include Arthur Kleinman, Byron Good, Susan Greenhalgh, Laurence Ralph, Jean Comaroff and Paul Farmer. There are opportunities for summer field research placements and also for pre- and post-doctoral research. There are collaborative relations with scholars in the social study of biomedical science, mental health, infectious diseases, health systems, gender studies, and other related fields. Graduates have gone on into medicine, public health, academics, business, and public policy fields.