SOSANT2550 – Medical anthropology

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Course content

This course gives a basic introduction to Medical anthropology. Medical anthropology studies the universal human experience of health and illness, and attendant practices of medicine and treatment, across societies and cultures, in specific local situations, and under the impact of global political, economic and ideological forces.

It links anthropological domains, from kinship and religion to politics and economy, and has significantly shaped the development of the overall discipline in recent decades. It has its roots in classic anthropological themes, such as magic, possession, witchcraft, the afterlife, and personhood in so-called ‘non-Western’ societies. But, equally importantly, medical anthropology has revealed the local specificity of ‘universal’ biomedical practices and thinking, and has more recentlyturned to history and societal change, colonialism and its impact, political-economic transformations, and science and technology.

The course covers basic topics like illness, care and medicines, and specific themes, such as childbirth, mental health, toxic pollution, infrastructure, hospitals and epidemics.

Learning outcome

Knowledge about

  • different anthropological approaches to key issues of health and healing around the world
  • medical anthropology as a subfield of general anthropology, its history and its ties into general anthropological themes
  • biomedicine in relation to local conditions, global historical forces, and other forms of medical thinking and practice
  • the role of medical anthropology as a tool of social and political critique


  • compare key current authors and texts in medical anthropology
  • discuss recent theoretical approaches to study issues of health and disease globally
  • approach familiar healthcare practices and situations with an anthropological gaze
  • critically analyse aspects of health policies and practices


  • communicate medical anthropological ideas orally and in writing
  • reflect on scholarly discussions and public debates about health, illness and medicine


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


The course consists of five lectures and five seminars. The course builds on active preparation and participation on the part of students. It is expected that reading is done before the lectures, and the lecturer will ask some basic cold questions on scheduled texts in the beginning of each lecture. The seminars will consist in part of presentations by the students, briefly summarizing individual readings. This will be explained and distributed in the first lecture.

Compulsory elements: 

  • 80 % participation in seminars.
  • mandatory one-page reflective, generative essay to be written in week 1 (discussed in the first seminar) on the effects of COVID-19 on lives across the world, engaging with personal experience, news stories or blogs (on, e.g., conspiracy theories and protest, social distancing and masks, care and loss, mobility restrictions and isolation, mental health, volunteering, vaccination); will be discussed in the seminar.
  • mandatory seminar presentation, five minutes, about one of the monographs on the reading list.
  • mandatory one-page reading summary on the monograph from the reading list; written feedback will be provided.



Take-home exam (choice of three questions) based on readings and own literature research (2000 words +/- 10%, excl. references).

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

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.You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or 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

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course

Autumn 2021

The course is offered irregularly.

Autumn 2021
Teaching language