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Gender Ethnicity & Health

ANT 402 Section 001

Spring 2016, Seminar

Dr. Lesley Weaver


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites

No prerequisites or none listed.

Prerequisites for this course are 12 hours of anthropology, graduate status, or permission of professor.

Course Description

UA Course Catalog Information


Core Designations:

This ‘W’[1] course explores in-depth the gendered, ethnic, cultural, and class dimensions that underlie the patterning of disease and illness worldwide, with special attention to the long-term health effects of racism, poverty, and sexism.  After an introduction to the fundamental anthropological understandings of gender and ethnicity—in terms of their biological and, especially, cultural constructions— a range of healthcare topics will be addressed, including: a) the complex interactions of mental illness, homelessness, alcoholism, and drug abuse,  b) AIDS,  c) bodily health and image, d) reproductive health, and, e) alternative health care.  Topics will be discussed based on assigned journal articles, books and films. A seminar format will be employed to allow a free interchange of ideas among all students, and students will be responsible for leading class discussions throughout the semester. Students’ writing itself, in the form of two written assignments, will be graded and commented upon and become part of the final grade. Prerequisites for this course are 12 hours of anthropology, graduate status, or permission of professor.

[1] This 3 credit hour course satisfies a W (writing) requirement.  As such, course enrollment will be limited to 20. W courses should be taken in a student’s own major when possible, and must be completely on this campus.

Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of this class, students will be able to

a)     Identify socially constructed aspects of illness based on gender, ethnicity, and class differences

b)     Critically assess various theoretical approaches to each of the following broad topics in the social science literature: illness, gender, and ethnicity

c)     Integrate the theoretical approaches learned in class to analyze a topic of the student’s choosing that was not presented in class

d)     Constructively evaluate theirs and others’ performance in class discussions and on papers

Required Texts

UA Supply Store Textbook Information


Outline of Topics



1)  1/13            Introduction:  Understanding Health


*Read the entire syllabus


Ch. 1-3  in Gender and the Social Construction of Illness, 2nd ed, Judith Lorber and Lisa Jean Moore


GRADS: The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, Gillman



2) 1/19-21       Gender Constructions


Ch. 4 & 8   in Gender and the Social Construction of Illness, 2nd ed, Judith Lorber & Lisa J. Moore


Man-Made Medicine and Women’s Health:  The Biopolitics of Sex/Gender and Race/Ethnicity, Nancy Krieger and Elizabeth Fee


Doing Health, Doing Gender: Teenagers, Diabetes and Asthma, Clare Williams


Constructions of Masculinity and their Influence on Men’s Well-being, Will Courtenay


Crenshaw part 2


GRADS: Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex, K. Crenshaw


Films: The Mask You Live In and Miss Representation


***Paragraph on Term Paper Topic due Feb. 2***


Additional Resources:

  • The Health of Women, in Magic, Science, and Health:  The Aims and Achievements of Medical Anthropology,  Robert Anderson

  • The Egg and the Sperm:  How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles, Emily Martin, in Gender and Health: An International Perspective, Carolyn Sargent and C. Brettell (eds), 1996.

  • Women and Health Policy: On the Inclusion of Females in Clinical Trails, Jean A. Hamilton, in above volume.

  • The Psychologisation of Illness, Ellen Goudsmit (1)

  • Sexualizing Governance and Medicalizing Identities: The Emergence of ‘State-Centered’ LGBT Health  Steven Epstein (2003) (1)



3) 1/25-27       What is “Race”, Really?


“Race Reconsidered” Debunks Race, Jason Antrosio


Ethnicity as a Taxonomic Tool, Doug Crews and James Bindon


Mixed-Race Chic, Rainier Spencer


Race and Ethnicity in Public Health Research: Models to Explain Health Disparities, W. Dressler, K. Oths, and C. Gravlee


GRADS:  Beyond the Gradient: An Integrated Anthropological Perspective on Social Stratification, Stress, and Health.  T. McDade


Additional Resources:

  • Cultural Congruity and the Cortisol Stress Response, Seamus Decker

  • Race, Ethnicity and Class, in Magic, Science, and Health:  The Aims and Achievements of Medical Anthropology,  Robert Anderson

  • Race and Mixed Race, Ranier Spencer,

  • Beliefs Matter:  Cultural Beliefs and the Use of Cervical Cancer-Screening Tests, Leo Chavez, Am Anth 103(4):1114-1129 (2001).

  • Interpreting Ideas about Diabetes, Genetics, and Inheritance, Diane Weiner In: Medicine Ways: Disease, Health and Survival Among Native American. CE Trafzer and D Weiner, eds.



4) 2/2-4                       Syndemics: Interactions of Mental Illness, Poverty, Drugs & Violence


 Drugging the Poor,                 Singer, M. 


Film: The House I Live In (2012; available on Netflix)


***DUE Feb 2:  Paragraph on term paper topic  (revision due Feb 23rd)***



5)  2/9-11        Syndemics:  Interactions of Mental Illness, Poverty, Drugs & Violence, cont.


Anthropology, Inequality, and Disease: A Review. V-K Nguyen & K Peschard


Nostalgia and Degeneration: The Moral Economy of Drinking in Navajo, G.Quintero


Homelessness in the World System, H. Baer, M. Singer, and I. Susser


A Dose of Drugs, A Touch of Violence, a Case of Aids, M. Singer


GRADS: Eating, drinking and being depressed: The social, cultural and psychological context of alcohol consumption and nutrition in a Brazilian community, William Dressler et al.


Film:  Taylor’s Campaign


Additional Resources:

  • Syndemics and Public Health: Reconceptualizing Disease in Bio-Social Context, M.Singer et al.

  • Pathologies of Power  2004  Farmer, P.  U of California Press

  • Drinking and Sobriety among the Lakota Sioux  2006  Medicine, B.  Altamira Press 

  • The Epidemiology of Homelessness in Black America, Gregg Barak

  • “Feeling worthless": an ethnographic investigation of depression and problem drinking at the Flathead reservation.  T Onell

  • Toward a (Dys)functional Anthropology of Drinking, Paul Spicer

  • The Impact of Sociocultural Differences on Health, Stephen J. Kunitz

  • A Description of How Ideology Shapes Knowledge of a Mental Disorder (PTSD), Allan Young, in Knowledge, Power, and Practice, S. Lindenbaum and M. Lock (eds), 1993.

  • City of God (film)


6) 2/16-18       Gender and Mental Health


 Bipolar Expeditions, Emily Martin


***DUE Feb 16—UNDERGRADS: 2-page book review*** 


Additional Resources:

  • Fields of Combat, E. Finley, Cornell Press

  • Of Two Minds, Tanya Luhrmann


7) 2/23-25       Living with AIDS


A Modern Plague: Gender and AIDS  (Ch 7 Lorber & Moore)


When HIV is Ordinary and Diabetes New, Emily Mendenhall


Highway Cowboys, Old Hands, and Christian Truckers:  Risk Behavior for HIV Infection Among Long-Haul Truckers in Florida, Dale Stratford, et al.


HIV/AIDS and the Gendering of Stigma in Tamil Nadu, South India, C Van Hollen


GRADS:  Volunteerism or Labor Exploitation: Harnessing the Volunteer Spirit to Sustain AIDS Treatment Programs in Urban Ethiopia, Kenneth Maes


Film: Morir Por Amor


***DUE Feb 23rd:  Revised paragraph on term paper topic (paper outline due April 3rd)***


Additional Resources:

  • Will to Live, Joao Biehl

  • Virginity Testing: Managing Sexuality in a Maturing HIV/AIDS Epidemic, Leclerc-Madlala 

  • Sex, Drugs, and Structural Violence: Unraveling the Epidemic Among Poor Women in the United States, M.Connors

  • Intravenous Drug Use and HIV Infection in Miami, J. Bryan Page, et al.

  • Trucking Through the AIDS Belt, Ted Conover, New Yorker, circa 1999

  • Intersections of HIV and [Domestic] Violence, S. Maman, Social Science and Medicine 50 (4): 459-478.

  • AIDS and cultural practices in Africa: the case of the Tonga (Zambia) Quentin Gausset

  • A Plague of Paradoxes  1999  Setel, D.  U of Chicago Press

  • AIDS, individual behavior and the unexplained remaining variation  Katz, A.  African J of AIDS Res 1(2):125-42 (2002)



8) 3/1-3                       AIDS, cont.


Unimagined Community, Robert Thornton 


Additional Resources:

  • Against Death: The Practice of Living with AIDS,  R. Ariss and G. Dowsett

  • Women at the Crossroads,    Renaud, M.L.

  • When Bodies Remember,  Didier Fassin


9) 3/8-10         Barbie or Bust?:  Cultural Constructions of the Body and Body Image


Hunger as Ideology, S.Bordo


The Anthropometry of Barbie:  Unsettling Ideals of the Feminine Body in Popular Culture, J. Urla and A. Swedlund


Body Norms and Fat Stigma in Global Perspective, A. Brewis


Learning to Be Local in Belize, R. Wilk


GRADS: Body, Image, and Affect in Consumer Culture, Featherstone


Film: Barbie Nation


+++++++++++++++++ Mar. 11-18   SPRING BREAK   +++++++++++++++++++


10) 3/22-24     Cultural Constructions of Body Image, cont.


Pretty Modern, A. Edmunds



11) 3/29-31     Bodies, cont.: Working on Bodies, Ethnic Ideals


Melanin on the Margins, Parameswaran


Plastic Paradise: Transforming Bodies and Selves in Costa Rica’s Cosmetic Surgery Tourism Industry, Ackerman


Genital Surgeries: Gendering Bodies (Ch 6  Lorber & Moore)


Eating Attitudes, Body Image Satisfaction and Self-Esteem of South African Black and White Male Adolescents, Gitau


GRADS: Nurturing and Negligence: Working on Others’ Bodies in Fiji, Anne E. Becker


Film:  Beauty Mark


Additional Resources:

Critical Therapeutics: Cultural Politics and Clinical Reality in Two Eating Disorder Treatment Centers (Mexico) R Lester

The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning, and Power, Carole Counihan

Obesity as a Culture Bound Syndrome, Cheryl Ritenbaugh

The Good Body: When Bigger is Better,  Cassidy, C.

A Way Outta No Way: Eating Problems Among African American, Latina and White Women. B. Thompson Gender and Society 6(4):546-61 (1992)

Fat Talk: What Girls and their Parents Say about Dieting.  2001  Nichter, M.


12) 4/5-7         Infertility and Reproductive Health


From Norplant to the Contraceptive Vaccine:  The New Frontier of Population Control, D. Roberts


Sexuality, Masculinity, and Infertility in Egypt, Inhorn


The birth of nanke (men’s medicine) in China: The making of the subject of desire, Zhang


‘‘Cycling Overseas’’:  Care, Commodification, and Stratification in Cross-Border Reproductive Travel, A. Whittaker and Amy Speier


GRADS: The Hen That Can’t Lay an Egg: Conceptions of Female Infertility in Modern China, Lisa Handwerker


***Due April 5:  Outline of Term Paper ***


Additional Resources:

  • Men’s Influences on Women’s Reproductive Health: Medical anthropological perspectives. M Dudgeon & M. Inhorn

  • The Cultural Constructions of the Premenstrual and Menopause Syndromes, Dona Davis (1)

  • Screening the Body: The PAP Smear and the Mammogram, Patricia Kaufert (1)

  • Women and the Debate over Mammography: An Economic, Political, and Moral History, Patricia Kaufert

  • The Politics of Mid-Life and Menopause:  Ideologies for the Second Sex in North America and Japan, Margaret Lock

  • Debilidad:  A Biocultural Assessment of an Embodied Andean Illness, Kathryn Oths

  • Deadly Reproduction among Egyptian Women: Maternal Mortality and the Medicalization of Population Control, Soheir A. Morsy


13) 4/12-14  Reproductive and Sexual Health over the Lifecycle


Regulated Passions:  The Invention of Inhibited Sexual Desire and Sexual Addiction, Janice Irvine

(Ch. 11, Deviant Bodies)


If a Situation is Defined as Real: Premenstrual Syndrome and Menopause, (Ch. 5 Lorber & Moore)


Nymphomania: The Historical Construction of Female Sexuality, Carol Groneman


From the Physician’s Campaign to Roe v. Wade, F. Ginsburg


GRAD: Between Innocence and Safety:  Epidemiologic and Popular Constructions of Young People’s Need for Safe Sex, Cindy Patton


Additional Resources:

  • Exemplary Elders’: Stigma, Stereotypes and Sexually Transmitted Infections among Older African Americans,  Bronwen Lichtenstein

  • Local Babies, Global Science: Gender, Religion, and in Vitro Fertilization in Egypt, Marcia Inhorn

  • Quest for Conception, Marcia Inhorn

  • Reproducing Reproduction: Kinship, Power, and Technological Innovation, Sarah Franklin and Helena Ragone (eds

  • A Handmaid’s Tale: The Rhetoric of Personhood in American and Japanese Healing of Abortions,  Tom Csordas

  • Controlling Births and Bodies in Village China, Susan Greenhalgh, American Ethnologist, Vol. 21(1):3-30 (1994)

  • Sexually transmitted diseases in Morocco: Gender Influences on Prevention and Health Care Seeking Behavior, LE Manhart, A Dialmy, et al., Social Science and Medicine 50(10):1369-1383 (2000)

  • Switching between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Viagra, E. Zhang Medical Anthropology 26(1):53-96 (2007)


14)  4/19-21    Reproductive Health, conclusion


Gutmann, M. Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico.

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