Not available in 2020/21
SO232      Half Unit
Sociology of Health and Illness

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Carrie Friese STC S213


This course is available on the BSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


No specific pre-requisites, but this course is only open to second and third year students in Sociology and other programmes. It is not available as a first year option.

Course content

Sociology of Health and Illness explores the ways in which experiences of health and illness are socially patterned. We will also ask how the management of health and illness organizes social life. To explore experiences of health and illness, we will look at how specific 'medical disorders' (e.g., ageing, cancer, mental health, disabilities, reproductive and sexual health, obesity etc.)  are 'embodied' in socially patterned ways. Empirical studies of specific disorders will be read, in conjunction with analysis of other kinds of texts (e.g., popular writing, film, performance art, museum exhibits, etc.). To address how the management of health and illness organizes social life and vice versa, key theories in the sociology of health and illness will be explored. This will include Parsons's sick role; Weberian and feminist understandings of professional dominance; medicalization, demedicalization and biomedicalization; stigma and stigmatization; health inequalities and the social determinants of health; and Foucaultian notions of surveillance, biopolitics and governmentality.


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

Teaching will comprise of a one hour lecture and one hour class each week. 

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the MT.

The assessed examination is supported by ONE take home, mock examination that is formative. 

Indicative reading

S Nettleton The Sociology of Health and Illness (2006), 

P Starr, The Social Transformation of American Medicine (1982),

A Nelson Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination (2011),

Foucault The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception ([1973] 1994),

I Hacking The Social Construction of What? (1999),

A Frank, (1997) The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness and Ethics (1997),

E Martin Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture (2007),

Latimer The Gene, The Clinic and the Family (2013),

Kaufman (2015) Ordinary Medicine,

Raikhel and William Garriott (2013) Addiction Trajectories


In-class assessment (20%) in the MT.
Take-home assessment (80%) in the LT.

Weight 80%

Type –seen take-home exam where 3 questions need to be answered from 6 questions

Number of words: No more than 1,300 words per answer, and 3,600 words in total

Timing of submission: LT Week 0 


Weight 20%

Type-Participation. Students are to make TWO comments on the Moodle discussion board and respond to TWO other student’s comments from Weeks 1-11.The best mark of the two comments, and the best mark of the two responses will be averaged to give the participation mark.

Number of words. No more than 300 words per comment

Timing of submission: No later than 10:00 am on Friday of Weeks 3, 5, 8, 11

Assessed take home exam due in LT Week 0 (the week before the start of LT). A copy to be uploaded to Moodle by the specified time. 

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
First 27.9
2:1 57.4
2:2 8.2
Third 0
Fail 6.6

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: Sociology

Total students 2019/20: 28

Average class size 2019/20: 14

Capped 2019/20: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication