21A.302J | Fall 2013 | Undergraduate

Dilemmas in Bio-Medical Ethics: Playing God or Doing Good?


The text below are required reading for the course.

[B] = Bridges, Khiara M. Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization. University of California Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780520268951. [Preview with Google Books]

[L] = Livingston, Julie. Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic. Duke University Press, 2012. ISBN: 9780822353423. [Preview with Google Books]

[RE] = Redfield, Peter. Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors without Borders. University of California Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780520274853. [Preview with Google Books]

[RO] = Roberts, Dorothy. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. Vintage Books, 1998. ISBN: 9780679758693.

[ROE] = Roberts, Elizabeth F. S. God’s Laboratory: Assisted Reproduction in the Andes. University of California Press, 2012. ISBN: 9780520270831. [Preview with Google Books]

[W] = Wendland, Claire L. A Heart for the Work: Journeys through an African Medical School. University Of Chicago Press, 2010. ISBN: 9780226893273. [Preview with Google Books]

Additional readings are listed in the table below.

Power, Knowledge, Practice, and the Body
1 Course Introduction: Biopolitics and Bioethics

Recommended Background Readings

Foucault, Michel. “The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century.” In Power (Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, Vol. 3). Edited by James D. Faubion. New Press, 2001. ISBN: 9781565847095.

———. “The Birth of Biopolitics.” In Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth (Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, Vol. 1). Edited by Paul Rabinow. New Press, 1998. ISBN: 9781565844346.

2 Bio-Medical Ethics and Biological Citizenship

Kuhse, Helga, and Peter Singer. “What is Bioethics? A Historical Introduction.” Chapter 1 in A Companion to Bioethics. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. ISBN: 9781444350845.

Lock, Margaret, and Nancy Scheper Hughes. “A Critical-Interpretive Approach in Medical Anthropology: Rituals and Routines of Discipline and Dissent.” Chapter 3 in Medical Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Method. Revised ed. Edited by Carolyn F. Sargent and Thomas M. Johnson. Praeger, 1996. ISBN: 9780275952655.

Rosenberg, Charles E. “Meaning, Policies, and Medicine: On the Bioethical Enterprise and History.” (PDF) Daedalus 128, no. 4 (1999): 27–46.

Rose, Nikolas, and Carlos Novas. “Biological Citizenship.” Chapter 23 in Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems. Edited by Aihwa Ong and Stephen J. Collier. Wiley-Blackwell, 2004. ISBN: 9781405123587. [Preview with Google Books]

3 Creating Doctors

Good, Byron J. “How Medicine Constructs its Objects.” Chapter 3 in Medicine, Rationality and Experience: An Anthropological Perspective. Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780521425766. [Preview with Google Books]

Good, Mary-Jo DelVecchio. “Narrative Strategies in Presentation and Performance.” Chapter 6 in American Medicine: The Quest for Competence. University of California Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780520216532. [Preview with Google Books]

———. “The Social Production of Physician Competence.” Chapter 7 in American Medicine: The Quest for Competence. University of California Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780520216532. [Preview with Google Books]

4 Medical Students in Malawi

[W] Prologue: Arrival Stories.

[W] Chapter 1: Introduction: Moral Order and Medical Science. Skim pp. 6–15, read pp.16–35.

[W] Chapter 4: Seeing Deeply and Seeing Through in the Basic Science Years.

[W] Chapter 5: The Word Made Flesh: Hospital Experience and the Clinical Crisis.

[W] Chapter 6: Resource Is a Verb: Realities and Responses.

[W] Epilogue: Departure.

(Un)ethical Medical Care and Experimentation

Medical Research and Ethical Medical Experimentation

Screening: The Lynchburg Story: Eugenic Sterilization in America

Chadwick, Gary L. “Historical Perspective: Nuremberg, Tuskegee, and the Radiation Experiments.” Journal of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care 3, no. 1 (1997): 27–28.

Proctor, Robert. “Nazi Medicine and the Politics of Knowledge.” In The “Racial” Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future. Edited by Sandra Harding. Indiana University Press, 1993. ISBN: 9780253208101. [Preview with Google Books]

[RO] Chapter 2: The Dark Side of Birth Control.

Jones, James. “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment: ‘A Moral Astigmatism’.” In The “Racial” Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future. Edited by Sandra Harding. Indiana University Press, 1993. ISBN: 9780253208101. [Preview with Google Books]

WMA Declaration of Helsinki - Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects, World Medical Association.

Optional Resource

National Bioethics Advisory Commission—Ethical and Policy Issues in Research Involving Human Participants, Summary, August 2001, Bioethics Research Library at Georgetown University.

6 Contemporary Approaches to Autonomy, Consent, Disclosure, and Culture

Blackhall, Leslie J., Gelya Frank, et al. “Bioethics in a Different Tongue: The Case of Truth-Telling.” Journal of Urban Health 78, no. 1 (2001): 59–71.

Frank, Gelya, Leslie J. Blackhall, et al. “A Discourse of Relationships in Bioethics: Patient Autonomy and End-of-Life Decision Making among Elderly Korean Americans.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 12, no. 4 (1998): 403–23.

Gordon, Elisa J., and Christopher K. Daugherty. “‘Hitting You Over the Head’: Oncologists’ Disclosure of Prognosis to Advanced Cancer Patients.Bioethics 17, no. 2 (2003): 142–68.

Tse, CY, Alice Chong, et al. “Breaking Bad News: A Chinese Perspective.” Palliative Medicine 17, no. 4 (2003): 339–43.


Biological Citizenship? Cancer and AIDS in Africa

Screening: It’s My Life


Human Subjects Research, Pharmaceuticals, and Resource-Poor Settings

Screening: Uganda – Your Money Or Your Life

Petryna, Adriana. “Ethical Variability: Drug Development and Globalizing Clinical Trials.” American Ethnologist 32, no. 2 (2005): 183–97.

Lurie, Peter, and Sidney M. Wolfe. “Unethical Trials of Interventions to Reduce Perinatal Transmission of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in Developing Countries.” New England Journal of Medicine 337, no. 12 (1997): 853–56.

Oguz, N. Yasemin. “Research Ethics Committees in Developing Countries and Informed Consent: With Special Reference to Turkey.” Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine 141, no. 5 (2003): 292–96.

Angell, Marcia. “The Ethics of Clinical Research in the Third World.” New England Journal of Medicine 337, no. 12 (1997): 847–49.

———. “Investigators’ Responsibilities for Human Subjects in Developing Countries.” New England Journal of Medicine 342, no. 13 (2000): 967–69.

———. “The Pharmaceutical Industry – To Whom Is It Accountable?New England Journal of Medicine 343, no. 25 (2000): 1415–17.

Recommended Reading

National Bioethics Advisory Commission—Ethical and Policy Issues in International Research: Clinical Trials in Developing Countries, Executive Summary (PDF), Bioethics Research Library at Georgetown University.

The(Bio)Politics of Intervention

Reproduction, Contraception, and Abortion

Screening: Skin Deep: Norplant in Poor Communities and 12th & Delaware

Ginsburg, Faye, and Rayna Rapp. “The Politics of Reproduction.Annual Review of Anthropology 20 (1991): 311–43.

[RO] Chapter 3: From Norplant to the Contraceptive Vaccine: The New Frontier of Population Control.


Race and Reproduction

Guest Lecturer: Khiara M. Bridges, Associate Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Anthropology, Boston University

[B] Chapter 1: Alpha Hospital: Unique, But Not Singular.

[B] Chapter 2: Pregnancy, Medicaid, State Regulation, and Legal Subjection.

[B] Chapter 4: The ‘Primitive Pelvis,’ Racial Folklore, and Atavism in Contemporary Forms of Medical Disenfranchisement.

[B] Chapter 5: The Curious Case of the ‘Alpha Patient Population’.

[B] Chapter 6: Wily Patients, Welfare Queens, and the Reiteration of Race.

[B] Epilogue


New Reproductive Technologies and International Reproductive Tourism

Guest Lecturer: Burcu Mutlu

[ROE] Introduction: Reproductive Assistance.

[ROE] Crazy for Bingo: Consuelo.

[ROE] Assisted Whiteness.

[ROE] Yo Soy Teresa la Fea / Ugly Teresa.

[ROE] White Beauty: Gamette Donation in a Mestizo Nation.

[ROE] Abandonment: Vanessa.

[ROE] On Ice: Embroyo Destinies.

[ROE] Conclusion: Care-Worthy.


Representing Medical Humanitarianism in Film

Screening: Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders

13 Medical Humanitarianism Redux

James, Erica Caple. “Haiti, Insecurity, and the Politics of Asylum.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 25, no. 3 (2011): 357–76.


Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2013
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