Medical anthropology examines the social, cultural, and political forces that affect health, disease and our understanding and experience of the body. It is grounded in the radical anthropological premise of openness to alternative understandings of the body, illness, disease, healing and curing. For instance, in this course we approach the "body" as biologically given as well as culturally "made-up" and historically situated, so that one can speak of "local biologies." Similarly, we approach psychiatric diagnoses such as schizophrenia and depression as products of a certain cultural, social, economic and political context. Thus, we explore whether these categories make sense in non-Western contexts, and how other systems of knowledge define cure and the distinction between the normal and the pathological.
The Evolution of Females and Males: Biological Perspective. Nature and Nurture. X and Y. Mars and Venus. These simplistic dichotomies cause problems when trying to understand biological evolution of the human sexes. The reproductive dilemmas of our ancient ancestors shaped our bodies and behaviors in complex ways, and evolution has granted the modern human species a remarkable flexibility. Despite common misunderstandings, our biology, including our sex designation, is not our destiny. This course takes a critical approach to evidence and beliefs. We abandon essentialist and typological thinking as we explore how the continuum of human sexuality resulted from endless cycles of selective pressure, and the adaptive consequences of this plasticity in modern cross-cultural contexts.
This course focuses on the challenges of tropical ecosystem conservation using primates as a model. Ecosystems from the inter-tropical belt are currently experiencing major biodiversity loss due to anthropic factors such as habitat degradation, bushmeat hunting, infectious diseases, alien species introduction and industrial development. Primates are slow-reproducing animals and are among the first affected by these changes. Using case studies from Africa, Asia and South America, this course covers the important theories behind tropical conservation and presents the main approaches used by conservationists to protect and restore ecosystems. This course is geared toward students interested in applying the scientific method to integrate human, ecological and economical variables to find innovative solutions to complex conservation issues.