Not available in 2020/21
AN281      Half Unit
Health and Welfare: Anthropological Perspectives

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Clara Devlieger OLD 6.08


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in Social Anthropology, Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Cape Town), Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Fudan), Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Melbourne) and Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Tokyo). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course will focus on the study of health and welfare from an anthropological perspective. The course departs from a focus on biomedicine, examining how anthropologists have analysed the individualising medical gaze and the consequences of biopolitics. We consider how understandings of illness, care and healing are socially defined in different socio-cultural contexts, paying attention to issues such as disease, old age, disability, and mental health. Such issues of health are increasingly shifting towards broader conceptions of ‘well-being’. As we progress, therefore, we turn to examine how such ideas of health increasingly insect with the policies and values of welfare, as the political management of well-being. Welfare is both a description of life, as well as a form of intervention that aims to improve those lives. We therefore consider how ethnographic approaches to redistributive work touch on issues concerned with what it means to fare well and how that might be secured in a world defined by inequalities. Ethnographic case studies here may include ethnographies of austerity, dependency and sharing.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 presentation and 1 other piece of coursework in the LT.

Indicative reading

Corsín Jiménez, Alberto, ed. 2008. Culture and Well-Being: Anthropological Approaches to Freedom and Political Ethics. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.

English-Lueck, J.A. 2010. Being and Well-Being: Health and the Working Bodies of Silicon Valley. Stanford University Press.

Ferguson, James. 2013. “Cosmologies of Welfare.” In Radical egalitarianism: local realities, global relations, edited by Felicity Aulino, Miriam Goheen and S. J. Tambiah, New York: Fordham University Press.

Jasarevic, Larisa. 2017. Health and Wealth on the Bosnian Market. Indiana University Press.

Langer, Susanne and Susanne Højlund. 2011. “An Anthropology of Welfare: Journeying Towards the Good Life.” Anthropology in Action 18, no. 3 1–9.

Livingston, Julie. 2005. Debility and the Moral Imagination of Botswana. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press.

Mathews, Gordon and Carolina Izquierdo, eds. 2009. Pursuits of Happiness: Well-Being in Anthropological Perspective. New York: Berghahn Books.

Mattingly, Cheryl. 2014. Moral Laboratories: Family Peril and the Struggle for a Good Life. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Song, Jesook. 2009. South Koreans in the Debt Crisis: The Creation of a Neoliberal Welfare Society. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Widlok, Thomas. 2016. Anthropology and the Economy of Sharing. London: Routledge.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2019/20: 32

Average class size 2019/20: 16

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication