Topics in Anthropology: Anthropology of Surgery

ANTH 499

Before anesthesia was discovered in the 19th century, surgery was a painful and horrific event that people rarely sought. Today, surgery is a prestigious medical specialty; whether elective or emergency, it is a part and parcel of biomedicine. This course explores the relationship between medicine and culture through the lens of surgery. The focus of this course will be on surgeries, including plastic surgeries, C-sections, bariatric surgeries, sex reassignment surgeries and organ transplantation. Taking surgery as a tool that is “good to think with”, in this course we will think, talk and write about surgical lives and raise the following questions: How do surgeries affect people’s lives and social relations in different cultural contexts? What do different societies’ approaches to surgery and surgical technologies tell us about their values about the body, gender, race, class, kinship, and morality? How do different political, economic, and societal contexts shape people’s access to and experiences of surgery? Drawing upon readings from varied perspectives and disciplines, students will be encouraged to think critically about the body, health, and medicine as they relate to questions/structures of culture and power.


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