Health, Culture, and Society Immersion

Overview

This immersion in health, culture, and society focuses on the shifting configurations of health and culture in a globalizing world. Health beliefs, including notions about bodily integrity or emotional well-being, illness causation, and diagnostic practices, and the experiences, expressions, and treatments of human ailments unfold in concrete cultural contexts. Every society has some form of health care system, which is minimally administered by community members or specialized practitioners. By moving beyond the lens of western biomedicine, the immersion provides students with a set of tools for analyzing the impact of culture on how health care is delivered, how health symptoms are interpreted and communicated by patients and health providers, and how costs for treatment are calculated and managed in relation to perceived benefits. Courses examine the interrelation between health and culture from a number of perspectives and contexts, including the cultural realities within which bodies are meaningfully constituted or in some cases enhanced by technology, the culture-specific communicative or representational health practices, the socially constituted experiences of trauma, death, suffering, and healing, and the various culturally mediated approaches to health care costs and remedies.

Notes about this immersion:

  • At least one course must be taken from either anthropology (ANTH) or sociology (SOCI).

The plan code for Health, Culture, and Society Immersion is HEALTH-IM.

Curriculum for Health, Culture, and Society Immersion

Course
Electives
Choose three of the following:*
   ANTH-244
   Human Centered Design Queries: An Anthropological Approach
How do we imagine the people that we design for? How do social differences around race, gender and class impact how we design for others? How is design a cultural process? How can ethnography make for better design? This course introduces the fundamentals of the field of design anthropology. The course explores how designers—from industrial designers, game designers to biomedical engineers—can use research-based practices to design better, reflecting the RIT mission to “leverage the power of technology, the arts, and design for the greater good.” We will begin by orienting ourselves to design thinking, exploring key conceptual frameworks from feminist scholarship, science and technology studies, (dis)ability studies and approaches to the social aspects of technical thinking. We will then explore different design domains, including urban planning, furniture design, access technology, and user experience design. Throughout the term we will learn about how ethnographic methods can create human-centered design by starting with lived experiences, exploring power relations and ultimately learning about the perspectives of those whom we design for. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
   ANTH-245
   Ritual and Performance
The world’s cultural diversity is most vividly and dynamically displayed through ritual and festival. Ritual is anything but superfluous; rather, some of the most important work of culture is accomplished through the performance of ritual. Through cross-cultural comparison, by way of readings and films, we explore the following dimensions of ritual: symbols, embodiment, emotion, discipline, contestation of tradition and authenticity, and the orchestration of birth, childhood socialization, gender, maturation, marriage, community, hierarchy, world renewal, and death. Written expression is enhanced through drafting, revision, and peer review. Lecture 3 (Fa/sp/su).
   ANTH-246
   Gender and Health
This course examines connections between gender and health that are both conceptual and empirical. Students will explore the causes of gender-based differences in health outcomes through case studies of sexual and reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS epidemics and violence. Students will also examine global gender and health trends. The course concludes with an examination of gender inequity in health care and policy implications of these inequities. Lecture 3 (Annual).
   ANTH-250
   Themes in Archaeological Research‡
One of the most fascinating dimensions of archaeology is the discovery that people have done essentially the same things in different places and different times, independently of developments elsewhere. Agriculture, writing, urbanism, complex economies, and so on, all have been independently invented multiple times in different parts of the world. This fact raises some intriguing questions about what it means to be human. By comparing how these developments occurred in different places and times, archaeologists can, in a sense, perform experiments on the past. Each semester this course is offered we will focus on a separate theme in archaeological research, such as the transition to agriculture; production, trade, and exchange; the origin of writing; imperialism, colonialism, and warfare; pseudoscience/pseudoarchaeology; or human evolution. We will study competing theoretical perspectives and different world regions to gain a broad understanding of the theme and how both theory and data are used to create a comprehensive understanding of the human past. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
   ANTH-270
   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. Lecture 3 (Fa/sp/su).
   ANTH-295
   Global Public Health
Global health is a term that reflects a complex series of problems, policies, institutions and aspirations that have only recently made their way to the global stage. From its earliest days, global health was guided by principles in public health that situate the nation-state as responsible for the health of its population. While international health and tropical medicine, the precursors to global health, was driven by the distinction between wealthy and poor nations, global health today, as this course explores, is oriented to the unequal burden of disease around the world. The course will consider major global health challenges, programs, and policies through an integrated social science lens. After placing global health in historical context, we will focus on how the science of disease cannot be dissociated from the social context and policies that both drive the emergence of disease(s) and respond to the unequal burden of disease around the world. We will analyze current and emerging global health priorities, including emerging infectious diseases, poverty, conflicts and emergencies, health inequity, health systems reforms, and major global initiatives for disease prevention and health promotion. Lecture 3 (Annual).
   ANTH-325
   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. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
   ANTH-341
   Global Addictions
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. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
   ANTH-345
   Genocide and Transitional Justice
The destruction and survival of societies hinges on collective ideas of identity. In times of social stress, identities—whether racial, ethnic, religious or national—become critical “sites” of conflict over the sovereignty of nation-states, and the legitimacy of social, cultural practices. When ideas fail to incorporate people, essentialist categories of identity, historical grievances, 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. Global cultural economies threaten local systems and self-representation. In this course, we will take critical, anthropological approaches to studies of ethnocide, genocide and transitional justice. Students will assess the destruction and survival of societies, from the 19th century slaughter of Native Americans and Amazonian Indians to more recent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, the Sudan, Iraq, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China. Students will consider similarities and differences in the social experiences of mass violence, and the ethics of protecting particular identity-based groups, and not others, in international, national and local laws. Students will become familiar with multiple inter-related justice systems, for instance, the International Criminal Court, national and United Nations-backed tribunals, and local justice systems such as the Rwandan Gacaca courts. Recent developments in legal ethics and international law will enable students to see how public sentiments, legal advocacy and other social, political processes facilitate enhanced protections for the world’s most vulnerable people. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
   ANTH-361
   Digitizing People
Much of the knowledge of our social worlds has been digitized. This course explores how social technologies shape our relationships, personal lives, and sense of self. The metric manufacture of diversity has produced new forms of population management and inequality. Our biographic histories as citizens, consumers, workers/professionals, parents, lovers, and social media users are collected as data-bites and assessed in metric terms, thereby forging new sets of identities. The transformation of people into numerical entities is an act of statistical objectification. This process frames the creation of social and racial typologies, and is well demonstrated by the US census. Students will investigate the formation of racial, ethnic, and gender identities in the context of the accelerated desire to digitize humanity. Lecture 3 (Annual).
   ANTH-425
   Global Sexualities
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. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
   ANTH-435
   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. Lab 2, Lecture 2 (Fall Or Spring).
   COMM-344
   Health Communication
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. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   CRIM-245
   Prostitution and Vice
This course will examine prostitution and vice in the United States and globally. Through empirical scholarship, various issues will be examined including issues faced by sex workers including crime, victimization, health and safety, and law and policy issues. Quality of life issues for communities will also be examined. (Prerequisites: CRIM-110 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
   ECON-450
   Health Care Economics
Examines the economics of health care, the organization of its delivery and financing, and analyzes access to care issues, the role of insurance, the regulation of hospitals, physicians, and the drug industry, the role of technology, and limits on health care spending. (Prerequisites: ECON-101 or completion of one (1) 400 or 500 level ECON course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
   FNRT-383
   Traumatic Images
This course investigates visual culture and its imagistic response to life's crises. Problems of identity and identification will be explored and confronted through works of photography, painting, mixed media, new media and film of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Beginning with the late 19th Century vogue for images of hysterical women, crippled black-sheep family members and dead loved ones (as corpses and as ghosts), we then move on to consider the last century's fascination with pain and suffering, disease and violence, struggle and survival and then the 21st century's emphasis on terrorism. Specifically, we will focus on the gendering of images and imaging as disturbing pictures work to defy the formal and theoretical distinction between private and public, personal, and collective experience and manage the often conflicting responsibilities to self, family, religion, race, nation, and society. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   FNRT-384
   Art of Dying
This course explores the experience of dying a profoundly human and universal experience as it is represented by artists who are themselves facing immanent death. The unique and deeply personal process of each dying artist is crucially informed by social, cultural and historical as well as artistic contexts. The course will focus primarily on visual artists and writers living with and dying of disease - such as AIDS, cancer and cystic fibrosis as well as mortality and age. Topics such as aesthetics, artistic media, representation, grief, bereavement, illness, care-giving, aging, and the dying process will be considered within the context of issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and community values. Some of the artists covered will be Jo Spence, Hannah Wilke, Elias Canetti, Bob Flanagan, Herve Guibert, Tom Joslin, Laurie Lynd, Audre Lorde, Charlotte Salomon, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo, Bas Jan Ader, Ted Rosenthal, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Keith Haring, Eric Steel, Derek Jarman, Eric Michaels, and David Wojnarowicz. We will also explore some of the critical theory of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Elaine Scarry, Susan Sontag, and Ross Chambers. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   MLSP-353
   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 communities, 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 expression, 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. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   PHIL-316
   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. Lecture 3 (Spring).
   PSYC-231
   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. (Prerequisites: PSYC-101 or PSYC-101H or completion of one (1) 200 level PSYC course.) Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring, Summer).
   SOCI-240
   Deaf Culture in America
This course is an introductory survey of Deaf culture in the United States. Students will study the scholarly literature pertaining to various social groups in the Deaf community and have contact with their members. This course will familiarize students with the characteristics of Deaf Culture, as well as general perceptions of the Deaf community within the dominant mainstream society. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
   SOCI-246
   Gender and Health
This course examines connections between gender and health that are both conceptual and empirical. Students will explore the causes of gender-based differences in health outcomes through case studies of sexual and reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS epidemics and violence. Students will also examine global gender and health trends. The course concludes with an examination of gender inequity in health care and policy implications of these inequities. Lecture 3 (Annual).
   SOCI-295
   Global Public Health
Global health is a term that reflects a complex series of problems, policies, institutions and aspirations that have only recently made their way to the global stage. From its earliest days, global health was guided by principles in public health that situate the nation-state as responsible for the health of its population. While international health and tropical medicine, the precursors to global health, was driven by the distinction between wealthy and poor nations, global health today, as this course explores, is oriented to the unequal burden of disease around the world. The course will consider major global health challenges, programs, and policies through an integrated social science lens. After placing global health in historical context, we will focus on how the science of disease cannot be dissociated from the social context and policies that both drive the emergence of disease(s) and respond to the unequal burden of disease around the world. We will analyze current and emerging global health priorities, including emerging infectious diseases, poverty, conflicts and emergencies, health inequity, health systems reforms, and major global initiatives for disease prevention and health promotion. Lecture 3 (Annual).
   SOCI-305
   Crime and Human Rights: Sociology of Atrocities
How is the murder of one person different from that of one million? Why is one act a crime while the other simply history? While mass atrocities have occurred, and continue to occur, throughout human history, it is only until recently that international laws started to name and criminalize these atrocities as human rights violations. This course revolves around the worst mass atrocities in recent human history and the responses they receive, focusing on violent crimes perpetrated by the state and the emerging human rights regime in response to such crimes after WWII. As a class, we will seek answers to questions such as: Why do ordinary people participate in extreme violence against their neighbors? How is violence sanctioned and organized by the state different from interpersonal violence? Who is responsible for state-sanctioned violence? What is the role of those who do not participate in or stop the violence? What is the role of human rights and human rights laws in preventing state-sanctioned violence? What are the possible responses to state-sanctioned violence under human rights laws? What are the consequences of such responses? Whether/how does social context matter in the way mass atrocities unfold and the responses they receive? To answer these questions, we will examine historical documents, watch movies, read literature, and study scholarly work. This course will be useful for students who seek careers in areas such as international law, diplomacy, human rights advocacy/prosecution, and criminal justice in general. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
   SOCI-315
   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. Lecture 3 (Fa/sp/su).
   SOCI-322
   Health Society
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. Lecture 3 (Annual).
   SOCI-330
   Urban (In)Justice
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. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
   SOCI-345
   Urban Poverty
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. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
   SOCI-361
   Digitizing People
Much of the knowledge of our social worlds has been digitized. This course explores how social technologies shape our relationships, personal lives, and sense of self. The metric manufacture of diversity has produced new forms of population management and inequality. Our biographic histories as citizens, consumers, workers/professionals, parents, lovers, and social media users are collected as data-bites and assessed in metric terms, thereby forging new sets of identities. The transformation of people into numerical entities is an act of statistical objectification. This process frames the creation of social and racial typologies, and is well demonstrated by the US census. Students will investigate the formation of racial, ethnic, and gender identities in the context of the accelerated desire to digitize humanity. Lecture 3 (Annual).
   SOCI-395
   Borders: Humans, Boundaries, and Empires
Borders are more than walls; they are social constructions with real consequences. This course examines the creation and consequences of borders. It discusses how borders developed historically, how borders function as tools of population management in places and systems far from the borderlands, and the politics and experiences of border crossing. We will look for borders both between and within nation states when addressing these issues. The course will utilize a variety of materials including but not limited to scholarly sources, policy transcripts, popular cultural products (e.g. films and TV shows), and art (e.g. poetry, paintings). Students will play an active role in determining specific course topics, though they can expect to discuss a range of relevant issues including contemporary immigration politics, Indigenous rights, the war on terror, border disputes and armed conflicts, privatization of immigration management, displacement and segregation of domestic populations, and border activism. This course provides students with tools that ground and expand their understanding of borders, preparing them for participation in one of the most important public debates of our time. The purview of this course is relevant for those who aspire toward professions in public policy, law enforcement, public service, law, and community-organizing, among others. Seminar 3 (Fall, Spring).
   STSO-341
   Biomedical Issues: Science and Technology
A study of the impact of science and technology on life, our view of life and of the value issues that arise from this impact. Lecture 3 (Biannual).
   STSO-441
   Cyborg Theory: (Re)thinking the Human Experience in the 21st Century
The developing cybernetic organism or cyborg challenges traditional concepts of what it means to be human. Today medical science and science fiction appear to merge in ways unimagined a century ago. By exploring scientific and cultural theories, science fiction, and public experience, this class examines the history and potential of the cyborg in Western cultures. Lecture 3 (Spring).

* Students must complete courses from at least two different disciplines. One course should be taken at the 300-level or above.

† At least one course must be taken from the ANTH or SOCI disciplines.

‡ Course may be used when topic focuses on Hunger and Health.