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Department of Social Anthropology


This option aims to provide a critical overview of anthropological concepts and approaches to contemporary debates in the social study of science, medicine and environmental knowledge. What is scientific knowledge? Who produces it and how? How does it interface and articulate with other ways of knowing and encountering the environment? How does it feed into and shape medical practices and the lives of patients and practitioners?

The course will examine anthropology’s claim to a distinctive voice within the broad ‘science studies’ chorus, a claim which rests in part on anthropology’s own complex historical relationship to science. Is anthropology a part of the (itself multiple and disputed) Euroamerican scientific project, a radical contestant of science, or – somehow – both?

The course will explore a range of topics at the intersection of science and society. A core set of lectures will explore studies of scientists at work across a range of social and regional settings, and across diverse traditions of thought. This provides a general framing by putting into relief the way that notions such as ‘reliability’, ‘evidence’ and ‘verification’ are described as particular social forms and moral action claims. Another strand, focusing on Medical Anthropology, will suggest some of the key assumptions of scientific biomedicine and how they differ from other modes of understanding illness and effecting remedy. A focus on different ways of knowing and engaging the environment and climate will shed light on another way of thinking through intersections between science and society. Finally, a set of lectures cutting across a number of these themes, will ask how one particular theme – youth – is constructed as an object of science, medicine and technology. Taken together, through these different strands, the course tracks the points at which multiple scientific knowledges intersect, clash or interface with other modes of encountering and affecting reality.

Paper Resources


SAN9 Paper Guide

For lecture reading lists, additional teaching materials, past exam questions and exam reports please see the SAN9 Moodle Course.

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