Course syllabus

Welcome to Medical Anthropology (ANTHRO 208)


                                         Well-Being Always Comes First

We all go through tough times during the semester, or see our friends struggling. There is lots of help out there. For more information, look at this Canvas page, which has links to various support services in the University and the wider community.


In 2020, Dr Heather Battles (Biological Anthropology) is the course coordinator, and Professor Judith Littleton (Biological Anthropology), Associate Professor Susanna Trnka (Social Anthropology) and Dr Jesse Hession Grayman (Development Studies) will contribute.

Course Prescription:

Medical Anthropology draws on biological and social/cultural anthropology to address issues of human health and disease. A distinct subfield, it includes studies of the co-evolution of humans and diseases, human ecology, cultural constructions of health and illness, medical knowledge and healing practices, and the political economy of health. Students are asked to research, think and write analytically about these topics.

Course Overview:

This course is part of the major for Anthropology, Anthropological Science, and Social Science for Public Health. The course is coordinated in alternating years from staff in Biological and Social Anthropology. Our aim is to present a balanced blend of both sub-disciplines each year, as well as both international and New Zealand-focused content. Each year we select one ethnography (book) for discussion and analysis – this year we will be reading The Children in Child Health: Negotiating Young Lives and Health in New Zealand, by Julie Spray (who recently graduated with her PhD from our programme). Based on her fieldwork among Māori and migrant Pacific children in South Auckland, this ethnography examines the intertwining issues of epidemic disease, malnutrition, stress, violence, self-harm, and death to address the problem of how scholars and policy-makers can recognize and respond to children as social actors in their health.

Required Texts:

Textbook: Joralemon, Donald. 2017. Exploring Medical Anthropology. 4th Edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Ethnography:  Spray, Julie. 2020. The Children in Child Health: Negotiating Young Lives and Health in New Zealand. Rutgers University Press.


Dr Heather Battles (Course Convenor), Assoc. Prof. Susanna Trnka, Prof. Judith Littleton, Dr Jesse Hession Grayman


Mon 10:00am – 12.00 pm
Wed 11:00 am - 12.00 pm

Location: Old Choral Hall, Room G54

Office hours (by appointment):

Dr Heather Battles - Social Sciences Building (SSB)/Te Puna Mārama Room 718, ext 87447

Feel welcome to use my office hours -- they will probably be especially useful when you are planning your essay. Don't wait till you have a BIG problem. Just email to arrange an appointment. Other lecturers can be consulted about their course content.


Please try your hardest to meet coursework deadlines. Extensions are possible if, for example, you or a family member falls ill, or some other circumstance beyond your control prevents you from completing your work.

You can apply for an extension by contacting me via email ( or during office hours.  You may need to provide supporting information, like a doctor's or counsellor's certificate, but the important thing is to get in contact.

Late submission of coursework is possible without an extension, so long as you are ready to accept a penalty by losing marks. Late penalties help ensure fairness, otherwise some students would have more time to complete work than others.

The maximum penalty for submitting work late when you do not have an extension is: 5%/day or part thereof, including weekends.

Everyone confronts difficulties at some point. So please talk to or email me if you are experiencing troubles finishing or submitting coursework. I will work with you wherever possible and, of course, it is better to get an assignment in than not at all (even if it is incomplete).


Your wellbeing comes first and, if you need advice or support, you are welcome to talk to me. Moreover, the University has a range of support services for students that can be accessed here:

The university provides ongoing support for students with visible and invisible impairments. Information about that support is available here:

If you need to apply for an aegrotat or compassionate consideration for a test, the relevant information can be found here:

If you need to apply for an aegrotat or compassionate consideration for an exam, the relevant information can be found here:

Course summary:

Date Details Due