Major in Medical Anthropology


Medical Anthropology Advisor: Prof. Lesley Sharp (, 411C Milbank

Other faculty at Barnard and Columbia offering coursework and guidance in medical anthopology:

  • Vanessa Agard-Jones (Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia)
  • Nicholas Bartlett (Assistant Professor of Contemporary Chinese Culture and Society, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard)
  • Zoe Crossland (Associate Professor in Archaeology, Department of Anthropology, Columbia)
  • Rebecca Jordan-Young (Associate Professor, Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barnard)
  • Karen M. Seeley (Lecturer in Discipline, Department of Anthropology, Columbia)
  • Jill Shapiro (Lecturer in Discipline, Departments of Anthropology and of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology)

As of Fall, 2017, Barnard’s Anthropology Department is now offering a specialized major in Medical Anthropology. This track follows a similar format to the existing one in Archaeology, designed to enable students who wish to pursue specialized studies in their coursework and senior theses projects in fields relevant to health, illness, suffering, and affliction. The major is grounded in strong theoretical and methodological training in sociocultural anthropology, although other four fields approaches are possible, too.

Upon graduation, students may opt to have either “Medical Anthropology” OR “Anthropology” designated on their transcript as their major field of study. Note that the Department does not offer a minor in Medical Anthropology.

Eleven courses are required for the Medical Track:

(1) ANTH UN 1002 (Interpretation of Cultures)

Provides a general introduction to the intellectual history and theoretical commitments of anthropology as a discipline. 

(2) one of the following introductory courses...

  • ANTH UN 1007 The Origins of Human Society
  • ANTH UN 1008 The Rise of Civilization
  • ANTH UN 1009 Introduction to Language and Culture
  • EEEB UN 1010 The Human Species: Its Place in Nature

(3) ANTH UN 3040 (Anthropological Theory I) (PLEASE NOTE: The requirements of the General Anthropology Major have recently changed. Whereas both ANTH UN 3040 and 3041 had previously been required, they have now been combined into a single seminar (the new ANTH UN 3040), which will be taught during the Spring term in 2018-19. Majors who previously took either ANTH UN 3040 or 3041 will have fulfilled this requirement. Majors who have not yet taken this course should plan to enroll in ANTH UN 3040.)

(4, 5) both ANTH BC 3871x and BC 3872y, Senior Thesis Seminar

(6-11) Six electives, at least three of which must be Anthropology courses at the 3000 level or above that demonstrate a clear focus (topically and/or theoretically) in fields central to medical anthropology (for instance: cross-cultural healing, the suffering body, critiques of clinical medicine and science, health inequalities, embodiment theory, the life course, death and mourning). One or two electives may be selected from outside departments in consultation with Prof. Sharp.

Courses Qualifying as Electives: 

Below is a sample (not definitive) list of courses (3000 level and above) that qualify as electives for the specialized Major in Medical Anthropology. Students are advised to consult with the Medical Anthropology advisor regarding other classes offered each semester that might also satisfy this requirement.

  • ANTH UN 3064 Death and the Body—Zoe Crossland
  • ANTH UN 3160 The Body and Society—Lesley Sharp
  • ANTH UN 3811 Toxic—Vanessa Agard-Jones
  • ANTH UN 3826 Brain Science: A Social History—Nadia Abu El-Haj
  • ANTH UN 3829 Absent Bodies—Lesley Sharp
  • ANTH UN 3879 The Medical Imaginary–Lesley Sharp
  • ANTH UN 3966 Culture and Mental Health–Karen Seeley
  • ANTH UN 3976 Anthropology and Science—Nadia Abu El-Haj
  • ANTH UN 3977 Trauma –Karen Seeley
  • ANTH UN 3988 Race/Sexuality in Science and Social Practice—Nadia Abu El-Haj
  • ANTH GU 4147/8 Human Skeletal Biology—Jill Shapiro
Offerings in Other Departments:
  • AFRS BC3562 Caribbean Sexualities
  • AMEC UN 3844 Health and Society in Contemporary East Asia—Nick Bartlett
  • AMEC UN [TBA] Madness in East and West—Nick Bartlett.
  • PUBH-UN 3100 Fundamentals of Global Health
  • WMST BC3509 Gender, Knowledge and Science in Modern European History
  • WMST BC3510 Interpreting Bodies: Engendering the Black Body
  • WMST BC3512 Art/Work: Sex, Aesthetics, and Capitalism
  • WMST W4304 Gender and HIV/AIDS
  • WMST W4308 Sexuality and Science