INTHE4113 – Introduction to Medical Anthropology: key concepts and perspectives

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course introduces anthropological perspectives on health, illness and medicine, and explores the interactions between biology, society and culture. It aims to present a contextual and comparative approach in which cultural and social dimensions of health-related issues are emphasized, and placed within broader political and historical processes. It will also offer a people-centered approach to understanding global health policies and interventions.

Through lectures and group work we will make extensive use of examples from mainly Africa, Asia and Norway. Four themes will be central to the course:

  • cultural and social constructions of health, disease, illness and the body, and the role of medical pluralism.
  • the significance of power relations and inequality in the global distribution of health and illness.
  • the globalization of biomedical technologies,
  • the social, cultural and political implications of global health policies.

The course is taught over five days, through lectures and extensive use of seminars.

Learning outcome


You will learn about anthropological perspectives and approaches to topics  such as:

  • Social and cultural aspects in analysis of health, illness and medicine. 
  • Illness narratives and explanatory models of illness
  • Medical pluralism
  • Medicines and pharmaceuticals
  • Global health policies and practices
  • Clinical trials and interventions
  • Birth, death and dying


You will learn:

  • to think critically about the relations between culture, health and illness
  • to discuss the body in cultural perspective
  • to explain biomedicine as a social and cultural system
  • to explain how power relations and inequality are relevant to health and healing
  • to critically analyse the relationship between global health policies and practices and local perspectives
  • to explore the potential of socio-cultural perspectives within their own projects.

General competence:

  • You will be able to engage with debates about health, illness and medicine in a cross-cultural perspective, in both oral and written forms.


Students enrolled at the M.Phil in International Community Health programme will get first priority to the courses. The deadline for register in Studentweb and apply for courses is February 1.

Students enrolled in other Master's degree programmes at the UIO can, on application to, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

External applicants, not already enrolled as a student at UIO, are welcome to apply. Please email if you want admission to this course. You will have to provide the following documentation:

  • A completed Bachelor’s degree or a period of study comparable with a Norwegian Bachelor's degree from a recognised institution. Applicants with foreign education, please refer to the country list
  • A minimum grade point average (GPA) of C (in Norwegian scale) or equivalent from the specialization in your degree.
  • A language requirement documented by one of the tests/exams below:
    a) Passed examination in English foundation course (140 hours/5 periods per week) in Norwegian upper secondary school with a minimum grade of 4 (or an equivalent grade from a Nordic upper secondary school) or alternatively passed examination in English from second and/or third school year, or
    b) An internationally recognised English language proficiency test.
  • The applicants must have a specialization either within health sciences or social sciences.

Note: all documents must be official certified copies

Read more about admission for international applicants

Overlapping courses

5 credits overlap with MF9280 – Introduction to Medical Anthropology (discontinued)


Lectures and group work. You have to participate in at least 80 % of the teaching to be allowed to take the exam. Attendance at lectures will be registered.


Home exam.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Every spring


Every spring

Teaching language