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ANTH 290-052: Living Medicine
William Lachicotte
MWF 1:00-1:50 PM  Hanes 130


Studies of medicine often approach it as a technical matter, focusing on what medicine does for us: the healing of sickness, injury, and other bodily states. Scholars are fascinated by the science and technology of medicine: the clinical skills of physicians, the detective wonders of lab work, and the ever-growing number of machines, tools, and medications with which physicians, nurses, researchers, and technicians accomplish the tasks of medicine. Yet medicine is more than task and technique. It is also about human encounters, relationships, lives, and livelihoods. Medicine is a way of life, a fully social and cultural pursuit. Living Medicine (ANTH 290-052) examines the experience of medicine, the interpersonal and personal aspect of healing and being healed. It explores how medicine shapes the lives, not only of physicians, nurses, other medical professionals and workers, but also of patients, families, friends, and advocates — all who together comprise this vital arena of human interaction. In order to capture this lived aspect, class materials (film, video, and print) will consist primarily of first-person accounts — anecdotes, memoirs, autobiographies — and fictional dramatizations of people’s experience of medical practice. Scholarly readings, drawn from anthropology, sociology, history, and cultural studies, will supplement the reading and discussion of primary sources. Unlike many anthropology classes, which focus on ways of life that are unfamiliar to us, on overseas and small-scale societies, Living Medicine is set primarily in the U.S. and takes “biomedicine” (the name scholars give to our scientifically based kind of medicine) as its principal subject. The class is intended for undergraduates at all levels.


Anth 490-004: Anthropological Perspectives on the Energy Crisis
Robert Daniels
Tuesday 12:30-3:20  Alumni 308

oil age

Sooner or later we will run out of fossil fuels. On a human time scale, the amount of reserves, both known and as yet undiscovered, is finite. Worldwide demand is accelerating rapidly.
A number of independent oil geologists have argued

  • the critical transition will not be when oil reserves near exhaustion, but when worldwide production peaks and less and less oil can be produced no matter what effort or expense is made, and
  • this “peak oil” transition is not in the distant future but here now.

Taking these assessments as accurate, others have postulated such extreme ideas as the permanent collapse of electric power with the loss of all digitally encoded information, the collapse of nation states and the loss of civil order, and the collapse of industrialized food production resulting in a “die off” of the human population from a peak near 7 billion to less than 3 billion in the next 150-200 years.

Many political commentators see the oil crisis as the underlying explanation for the current geopolitical situation.

Anthropology is the social science that most fundamentally takes a global view, looks at the human species over the long (indeed evolutionary) time scale, and has investigated the collapse of past civilizations with a comparative, multidisciplinary, cultural-ecological approach. Surely anthropological theory and research has something to contribute to these debates.

This course will ask:

  • What is the validity of the dire predictions of “Peak Oil”?
  • What is the validity of the resource-based explanation of current events?
  • Can a comparative study of past civilizations help us to anticipate and prepare for the immediate future of our species?
  • In short, of what use is anthropology in understanding these issues?

This course will feature critical reading of books and articles. Grades will be based on attendance, discussion, position papers, class presentations, and a term project of the student’s choosing.

energy reader global climate change the end of growth the ecotechnic future