Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hour / session

Course Description

Since the colonial period, the contact between Africans and Europeans has challenged the philosophies, moralities, and conceptions of the body, illness, religion, and healing in each context. This course will evaluate how spiritual philosophies and religious practices within the traditions of Africa and the African Diaspora (the Afro-Atlantic) offer moral frames for experience that challenge and critique western models of embodiment. The course will analyze the ideas of race, gender, sex, and rationality that have permeated bio-medical and psychological conceptions of the mind and body. We will also explore some of the ways in which these understandings have also shaped western bio-medical notions of morality and deviance. We will analyze how the constructions of race, gender, and sexuality continue to be problematic in contemporary medical diagnosis, treatment, and medical research efforts in ways that require further analysis. While acknowledging its contributions to public health, we will debate the historical role of cosmopolitan medicine as an instrument of colonial power, state dominance, or social control within the Afro-Atlantic through the study of a variety of ethnographic and contemporary clinical contexts.

Course Structure and Requirements

The course will be run primarily as a seminar, with twenty minutes of lecture to introduce each new section, followed by discussion of each subject or ethnographic context under review. Students must come to class prepared, as class attendance and participation in discussion contribute a significant amount toward the final grade. In addition to this, each student will give one ten-minute presentation of one of the week’s readings during the course of the semester. Written assignments include one 5-7 page paper, and one 8-10 page paper.


Class Attendance and Participation in Discussion 30%
A Ten-minute Presentation 10%
5-7 Page Paper Written Assignment 25%
8-10 Page Paper Written Assignment 35%

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2005