Not available in 2022/23
AN481      Half Unit
Health and Welfare: Anthropological Perspectives

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Clara Devlieger OLD 6.08


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

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 15 hours of seminars 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.

Fairhead, J. 2016. “Understanding Social Resistance to Ebola Response in Guinea”. African Studies Review, 59(3), 7-31.

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.

Igreja, V., Dias lambranca, B., & Richters, A. 2008. “Gamba Spirits, Gender Relations, and Healing in Post civil war Gorongosa, Mozambique”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 14(2), 353-371.

Langer, Susanne and Susanne Højlund. 2011. “An Anthropology of Welfare: Journeying Towards the Good Life.” Anthropology in Action 18(3), 1–9.

Livingston, J. 2012. Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic. Duke University Press.

Martin, E. 2007. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2021/22: 23

Average class size 2021/22: 11

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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