Medical Anthropology

Medical anthropology examines how cultural, historical, economic, and political forces shape ideas about health, wellness, illness, and disease. It studies how these forces influence health disparities, healthcare seeking, health related practices and perceptions of risk, the structure of medical systems, and more. Attentive to the afflicted, their caregivers, and those who create knowledge and values about health and illness in their many forms, medical anthropology is capacious in its approach, using methods and materials from all anthropological subfields and numerous scholarly disciplines.

The Medical Anthropology Concentration at the University of Arizona is built on over three decades of engaged scholarship. Founded by Dr. Mark Nichter in 1989, the medical anthropology program has grown into a nationally-recognized hub for critical studies of medicine in the US and abroad, including established research on political ecology and global health. Our current faculty extend this foundational work through research emphases in reproductive technologies, clinical and laboratory ethnography, surgical practice, evolutionary and embodied approaches to health disparities, transgender studies, medical expertise, nutrition, environmental health, and science and technology studies. Students enrolled in the Medical Anthropology Concentration will develop a strong theoretical foundation that will shape and guide research projects set around the globe. The Medical Anthropology Concentration is available to students enrolled in graduate studies in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona.

The concentration requires 12 credit hours of training in medical anthropology composed of

  • a) ANTH 536 and ANTH 571 (3 credits each);
  • b) one approved graduate seminar in medical anthropology (3 credits) relevant to the student’s research interests
  • c) an independent study (3 credits) in which the student produces a research report based on primary or secondary research, a grant proposal deemed competitive for funding, or a publishable paper on which they are a sole author or co-author.

Recommended courses for sociocultural students following coursework in medical anthropology for the minor at the Ph.D. level 

At least five of the following courses (15 hours) 

  • *536a Anthropology of the body, health, and illness
  • *536b Ethnomedicine 
  • *571a-b Medical anthropology in clinical and community contexts in the west
  • 675a Anthropology and International/Global Health
  • 675b continued
  • Anthropology and adolescent health
  • Gender and Health
  • Special seminars or reading courses in medical anthropology

*May count for major credits if more than 15 credits are taken in the medical anthropology concentration.

At least five cultural anthropology courses beyond the two semester culture core. The following course/topical areas have been commonly recommended to sociocultural students interested in medical anthropology by their committees. The listings reflect subject areas and not necessarily exact titles of seminars which change year to year.

  • Anthropology and public policy
  • Anthropology and development
  • Applied anthropology
  • Anthropology and globalization
  • Anthropology of religion
  • Anthropology of social movements
  • Colonialism, imperialism, and globalization (under different titles)
  • Culture and power: ecological anthropology
  • Political ecology: economic anthropology
  • Ethnicity and race
  • Gender, class and ethnicity
  • Gender related special seminar
  • History, anthropology, and social memory
  • Political economy (under different titles—in anthropology or related social science field]
  • Psychological anthropology
  • Structural and political violence
  • Human rights
  • Writing culture

Additional courses that have been strongly recommended by committees

  • At least one linguistic anthropology class: Language and culture, Language and gender, Discourse analysis, Narrative analysis
  • Human adaptation and/or a relevant biocultural seminar (for biocultural students, coursework fit to needs of academic program of study tailored by committee)
  • Epidemiology or biostatistics: one of these classes to meet School statistics requirement
  • Methods/data management course: in the school or another department
  • Grant writing/professional skills
  • Ethnographic area course/special reading course: in the school or another department

Medical anthropology postgraduate certificate
A graduate certificate in medical anthropology for motivated health science professionals, developing world social scientists, and social scientists in the USA who have been trained by departments that do not offer specialized training in medical anthropology is offered by the school. Requirements include 12 hours of coursework directly related to medical anthropology and a three credit research project resulting in a publishable paper or defendable grant proposal.

MD/PhD and MPH/PhD joint degrees
Details about seeking joint degrees should be sought from the medical anthropology concentration coordinator and require that candidates apply separately to each school or department. Students may attempt to secure both degrees simultaneously or sequentially (which generally makes more sense).