Medical Anthropology is a field of study that studies human health and the bicultural adaptation of disease and sickness. Medical Anthropology, also known as Medical Anthropology 134 (ANTHRO 134), is a class that many students take to gain an understanding of the social and cultural representation of health and treatment. Taking this class does satisfy general education requirements, and it is a great class to take if you are looking into going into the health field after college. Be sure to keep reading to find out what you need to know for Medical Anthropology 134 at UCI!

1. Surveillance Medicine

There is a rise of surveillance medicine in the 20th century. This is the concept of how health and disease can have different types of approaches and meanings. With surveillance medicine comes the concept of “risk factor,” which opens up a space of future illness potential. Surveillance medicine is an important concept because it shows that people consider what is “healthy” or “sick” or “normal” differently than one another, specifically from culture to culture.


2. Kuru

The psychosomatic disease Kuru is when people tremble and laugh. The people would lose their balance and couldn’t move, or sometimes they would not be able to walk altogether. Kuru seems to be concentrated among women and children, and when doctors performed autopsies on bodies, the brain had holes and looked spongy. This is an important concept to know because what caused Kuru were abnormal proteins known as prions. Prions bind together to form lumps in the brain. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, scientists believe that healthy proteins mimic the abnormal shape of prions.


3. Medicalization

Medicalization refers to the process through which human conditions and/or distress are defined in medical terms or treated with medical interventions. Medicalization is not good or bad, but it does have social repercussions. It is linked to what we think of as “normal”- we think that medical involvement will remove moral condemnation for deviance, but this is not always true. It moves badness from sickness. Medicalization relieves the patient from culpability, but it also permits medical professional to make judgements about labeling and care.


4. The Quantified Self

The Quantified Self refers to the movement to be constantly self monitoring yourself. For example, a person can use a cellphone to count his or her calories. This can happen at any time the person wants to.  The quantified self has become a movement, and the way that it has become popular is through use of different gadgets and apps that the public has had access to. Another example of the quantified self is nudging technology, which reminds you to eat slowly or to drink more water.


Of course, many different concepts are covered in Medical Anthropology 134. However, these concepts are the most important to understand because they will allow for you to understand smaller subtopics. Be sure to go to office hours or to refer to the lecture powerpoints if you need help understanding the material. Good luck!


Ari Zaed

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