All societies have some cultural ideas and belief systems about health and wellness. Culture shapes our understanding of bodily processes. Because of the significant influence of culture on perceptions and experiences of health and wellness, this minor thematizes the shifting cultural configurations of health in a globalizing world. Culturally grounded health and illness concepts, including notions about bodily integrity or emotional well-being, cultural models of illness causation and diagnostic practices, and the experiences, expressions, and treatments of human ailments unfold in concrete socio-cultural contexts. The courses in this minor provide an enhanced cultural understanding about health experiences in different parts of the world.
Notes about this minor:
This minor is closed to students majoring in sociology and anthropology who have chosen tracks in cultural anthropology or sociology.
Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).
The program code for Health and Culture Minor is HEALTH-MN.
What would a healthy society look like? What questions should we be asking of those in power to ensure health equity? What is health equity? The objective of this course is to develop a sociological language for answering these and other questions. To do so, students will evaluate the relationship between health and society – that is, the connections between contemporary health disparities and today’s social, physical, and political economic environments. This includes an analysis of macro-factors (climate change, environmental pollution, global and/or national economies, laws) and micro-factors (social media, neighborhood conditions, green spaces, poor- or low-quality housing, and leisure spaces). The course emphasizes that health is impacted by the social circumstances into which people are born; inequitable distributions of power; and social/legal categories of exclusion and inclusion. Though sociological in orientation, this course resonates with the disciplinary and professional aims of medical anthropologists, public health professionals, community health practitioners, and anyone committed to eradicating health disparities.
Choose four of the following:
Gender and Health
Cuisine, Culture, and Power
Physically, culturally, and socially, humans live through food and drink. Spanning the globe, as nearly limitless omnivores, humans have developed myriad ways of collecting and cultivating food and taking advantage of local environments. We also put food to work for us socially by creating cuisine. Through cuisine, we forge and nourish relationships, commune with deities, and through luxury choices, demonstrate our "taste" and lay claim to elite status. Through the cultural practices of production and consumption of food and drink, we wield power. Food and drink consumption patterns have sustained slavery, poverty, malnutrition, and illegal immigration, and have laid waste to the environment. In this class, we explore physical, cultural, social, political, and economic dimensions of food and become more aware of how the private, intimate act of a bite connects us to the rest of humanity.
Global Public Health
Bodies and Culture
Our bodies are more than mere physical entities; they are conditioned by culture, society, and history. We will take a comparative approach to the cultural construction of bodies and the impact of ethnic, gender, and racial ideologies on body practices (i.e. surgical alteration, mutilation, beautification, surrogacy, erotica). We will critically investigate the global formation of normative discourses of the body (regarding sexuality, AIDS/illness, reproduction, fat/food) in medical science, consumer culture, and the mass media. The course features discussion, writing, and project-oriented research, encouraging students to acquire a range of analytic skills through a combination of text interpretation and research.
This course evaluates global forms of “addiction” in medical, cultural, national, and transnational situations of encounter. Though primarily a EuroAmerican concept of illness, addiction is now discursively and experientially widespread, assuming the status of a “global form.” Addiction narratives and experiences shape people and social life everywhere, as scientific and cultural or national knowledge intersect to form subjectivities, identities of addicts, and communities of addicted bodies. Concepts of will, morality, the addicted self and other, and living and dying also impact the cultural, national and international infrastructures we build—whether and how, for instance, we put resources into medical or criminal justice systems and networks. A closer look at the intimate lives of addicts thus enables us to consider identity boundaries and crossings; addiction languages; family relations and parenting; self-made communities and social bonds; work at the economic fringes of society; personal and institutional violence; policing and navigating enforcement or incarceration; homelessness and legal, medical and social service bureaucracies; as well as transnational production, trafficking, forms of addiction, and policing. By the end of the course, students will comprehend concepts and theories of addiction, and global perspectives on people living with addiction.
Genocide and Post-Conflict Justice
The destruction and survival of societies often hinges upon the ideas and the social, cultural constructions of identity and belonging. When ideas fail to incorporate people, essentialist categories of identity, historical memory, and accounts of extreme violence become interrelated, potent sources of destruction. Slavery and exclusive ownership of resources leave people starving or living in perilously polluted environments. Globalizing cultural economies threaten local systems and self-representation. Group identities may be sites of crises within nation-states and global political, economic, and cultural processes. In this course, we will take critical, anthropological approaches to studies of ethnocide, genocide, and post-conflict justice. Students will use critical, anthropological approaches to assess ethnocides and genocides from the 19th century forced assimilation and slaughter of Native Americans and Amazonian Indians to more recent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Sudan, to understand the impact of globalization on techniques and technologies of genocides, the legal, moral/personal responsibility for genocides, media representations of genocides, and the affects of cultural, historical memory and social, global inequities upon future genocides. Students will use anthropological perspectives on genocide to assess post-conflict concepts of justice, reconstruction and reconciliation and local-global debates about their cultural resonance and effectiveness.
By exploring issues of gender and sexuality in a global context, students will be introduced to anthropological perspectives on the experience of men and women, as gendered subjects, in different societies and historical contexts, including colonialism, nationalism, and global capitalism. In turn, we will explore how cultural constructions of masculinity and femininity are configured by race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Course materials are drawn from an array of sources, reflecting various theoretical perspectives and ethnographic views from different parts of the world.
The Archaeology of Death
Death and burial are how most individuals enter the archaeological record and one could say that deliberate burial of the dead is the first direct evidence we have for the emergence of ethical and religious systems of thought. Human remains, their mortuary treatment, and associated material culture illuminate past patterns of social organization, economics, belief systems, health, and the negotiation of gender, status, and identity. In this course we explore the scientific and theoretical tools used to analyze and interpret past mortuary practices, how archaeologists create new knowledge about the past through the formulations and testing of hypotheses, survey mortuary practices from their first occurrence in the archaeological record, and what human remains can tell us about changes in the human experience over time and space. We will learn how human remains are identified, how determinations of age, sex, biological affiliation, health, and injury are made, how to interpret formation processes, to interpret associated material culture to understand the negotiation of gender and status; how humans have cared for the deceased members of their societies at different times and places in the human past; and the ethics of studying human mortuary remains.
An introduction to the subject of communication in health care delivery and in public health campaigns, with an emphasis on interpersonal, organizational, and mass communication approaches. Also covered is the interrelationship of health behavior and communication.
Trauma and Survival in First-Person Narrative
This course introduces students to first-person narratives about trauma and survival from Latin America, the Hispanic Caribbean, U.S. Latina/o commu-nities, and Spain. Students will learn about Hispanic literature, culture, and history while exploring the themes of memory, community, and survival in autobiography, testimonial narrative, chronicle, memoir, epistolary narrative, essay, and the historical novel. Through in-class discussion, presentations, reading, and writing exercises, this course refines students’ skills in oral ex-pression, reading, writing, and critical thinking. Students will also develop research skills as they complete a project on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor.
Bioethics and Society
This course introduces students to some of the ethical considerations and problems that arise in the context of medical practice, biological science, health care policy, and related research. Issues that may be covered include: abortion; stem cell research; human cloning; euthanasia; informed consent; human organ procurement; health care allocation and how it is approached in various countries; bioethical concerns arising from human caused climate change and other environmental issues impacting public health concerns around the globe. Students will become familiar with the concepts and principles of bioethics while engaging with case studies and related media.
Part of the philosophy immersion, the ethics immersion, the global justice immersion, the philosophy minor, the ethics minor, and the philosophy major. May also be taken to fulfill the ethical perspective, the global perspective, or as an elective.
Death and Dying
This course examines the role of loss including death in our lives and the way we give and receive support during difficult times. It also looks at how society enfranchises some grievers and disenfranchises others. Included in this course is an examination of our options as consumers of funeral and burial services, grief counseling and other products and services which can either minimize or abate our grief. Central to the course is an examination of the ethical principles which apply to abortion, euthanasia and suicide and an examination of the ways in which the choices we make may be structured to express our core values. Finally, the course explores how The American way of Death differs from that of other societies and how we might incorporate the wisdom of other cultures into our own practices.
Crime and Human Rights: Sociology of Atrocities
Global Exiles of War and Terror
Daily we watch, seemingly helplessly, as people are displaced from their communities, homelands, and countries and subsequently seek asylum around the world, sometimes within our own local communities. Causes of displacement include war, violence, persecution, and modes of terror that increasingly affect the lives of women and children. In addition to the loss of human life and potential, the ensuing consequences of violent displacement include poverty, disease, physical and psychological trauma, hopelessness, and vulnerability to human rights abuses. In this course, we explore how the rights and dignity of refugees can be protected. We also examine resettlement processes and, for those who are eventually repatriated, we address how they can successfully reintegrate into reconstructing societies that remain barely functional. Most importantly, we consider how the trauma of displacement can be minimized.
With a focus on forms of (in)justice in urban communities worldwide, we investigate the impact of race, class, and gender and related systems of unequal power relations on perpetuating patterns of social, political, economic, and environmental oppression (policing, hunger, pollution, violence, disease). How do ways of governing urban populations affect the lives of inner city residents and their demands for justice when attempting to navigate the everyday urban worlds? Specific course topics include both historical and contemporary perspectives on urban (in)justice locally, in Rochester NY, and nationally, across the U.S., and in a global comparative framework. Thereby the effects of crime, violence, and inequality on people in urban neighborhoods are also examined among and within nations. By the end of the semester, students should be able to identify and explain various theories that seek to explain (in)justice patterns in the urban context at local, national and global levels.
Urban poverty has been recognized as a persistent problem in the United States since the middle of the last century. In many cities, poverty is associated with high levels of teenage pregnancy, low levels of employment, limited educational attainment, chronic community-based health problems, and high levels of crime. This course examines causes, consequences, and proposed policy solutions to urban poverty. Special emphasis will be paid to U.S. urban poverty.