SO232      Half Unit
Sociology of Health and Illness

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Carrie Friese STC S213


This course is available on the BSc in Language, Culture and Society and BSc in Sociology. This course is not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped). Places are allocated on a first come first served basis.


No specific pre-requisites, but this course 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and classes totalling a minimum of 20 hours in MT.

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

Formative coursework

Class participation in the MT. This will consist of posting a 300-word comment on the course Moodle page on the course readings from a specified week.

Indicative reading

B Prainsack. Personalized Medicine: Empowered Patients in the 21st Century? (2017)

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

Mason, KA Infectious Change: Reinventing Chinese Public Health After and Epidemic (2016)

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

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

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

S Kaufman Ordinary Medicine (2015)

Eugene Raikhel and William Garriott Addiction Trajectories (2013)

G Davis. Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis (2015)

N Tousignant. Edges of Exposure: Toxicology and the Problem of Capacity in Postcolonial Senegal (2018)


Essay (90%, 3500 words) in the LT.
Class participation (10%) in the MT.

The assessment consists of class participation in the MT and a review essay of no more than 3500 words in the LT.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the first Tuesday of LT.

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

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2021/22: 33

Average class size 2021/22: 16

Capped 2021/22: Yes (34)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (MT)

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

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