Home/ Health
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSHS2028054

Semester and Year Offered: 3rd Semester, 2023

Course Coordinator and Team: Shubhra Nagalia

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: All students should be registered for the course

Course Objectives/Description:

What do we understand by the concept called ‘health?’ In today’s time when the discourse of health has become a truly governing logic of our daily lives and social interaction how do we understand the concept? Dominant definition of ‘health’ is the absence of disease. Modern medicine’s promise of curing all that is pathological or dysfunctional has enabled a certain way of understanding the human body and its interaction with its environs. Covid-19 pandemic, abortion debates and so on in contemporary times have raised pertinent and acute questions of life and death. It is even more significant today to set these questions in the context of mass precariousness and poverty brought on by seemingly unrelated policies of neoliberalism. The course aims to give an overview of critical issues in public health and will foreground women, especially the more vulnerable strata of women, to mark an entry point into debates around science, modern medicine, illness, and well-being.

It will look at ways in which bio-medical discourses produce race, gender, caste and class and differentially structure women and men’s experiences of health. The course will cover a broad range of health issues for which gender has been of specific importance and the ways in which this understanding is integrated into existing public health initiatives. We would study the problematisation of modern medicine, feminist critique and resistance to medical practices and knowledge, and the ways in which the health of certain populations – like women, gay men, and the poor – comes to be tied to their subjection and the continuation of structures of power/knowledge.

Introductory Class: 9th October 2023 (CR 2; 9 am)

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Identify key conceptual terms in the study of ‘Health’
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of key texts and topics related to Health
  3. Demonstrate an awareness of critical skills required to read a range of texts
  4. Apply research skills to source materials for class presentations and assessment tasks

List of Modules:

1: Life and Death

  • Nicholas Rose, The Politics of Life Itself in Theory, Culture & Society 2001 (SAGE, London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi), Vol. 18(6): 1–30
  • Lauren Berlant, Slow Death
  • Michel Foucault, Right of Death and Power over Life from History of Sexuality, Vol. 1
  • Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics from Ethics

2: Women and Health

  • Qadeer, Imrana (2002), “Gender and Health: Beyond Numbers” in Shaila Desouza (ed.) Women’s Health in Goa A Holistic Approach, Concept Publishing House, New Delhi, pp 3-33.
  • Banerji, Nirmala and Jain, Devaki (2001), “Indian Sex Ratio through time and space: Development from Women's Perspective”, in Mazumdar, Veena and Krishnaji, N. (ed.). Enduring Conundrum: India's Sex Ratio: Essays in Honour of Asok Mitra, Delhi, Rainbow, pp 73-119. (CWDS/AUD library)
  • Mary Barker, Ginny Chorghade, Sarah Crozier, Sam Leary, and Caroline Fall (2006) "Gender Differences in Body Mass Index in Rural India Are Determined by Socio-Economic Factors and Lifestyle," The Journal of Nutrition, Nutritional Epidemiology,
  • Ghai, Anita 2008; A Disabled Feminism? In WS Reader; ed. Mary John. (1999) Living in the Shadow of my Disability. In The Journal, Vol. 1(1) June, 32-36
  • Trollope-Kumar, Karen, "Speaking Through the Body: Leukorrhea as a bodily idiom of communication in Garhwal, India" (2001). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2423.
  • Sathyamala, C. (2005) 'Women’s Health Movement in Independent India,' In Amiya Kumar Bagchi and Krishna Soman (Eds.) Maladies, Preventives and Curatives: Debates in Public Health in India, New Delhi: Tulika Books
  • Ehrenreich, Barbara and Deirdre English (1973) Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers, New York: The Feminist Press.

3: Social Determinants of Health: Social Epidemiology Perspectives

  • Fassin Didier (2003) “The Embodiment of Inequality,” EMBO reports VOL 4, special issue.
  • Baru Rama et’al (2010), Inequities in Access to Health Services in India: Caste, Class and Region, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol 14, no 38, pp. 49-58.
  • Swaminathan, Padmini (2002), “Women, Work and Health: Issues for Consideration", in Khanna R., Shiva, M., and Gopalan, S., [eds], Towards Comprehensive Women's Health: Programmes and Policy, SAHAJ, Baroda, pp. 442-459
  • Walters, Vivienne and Nickie Charles (1997), “I just cope from day to day”: Unpredictability and anxiety in the lives of women, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 45, Issue 11, December, pp. 1729-1739
  • Kalathil, J (2011). 'After Ervadi: Healing and Human Rights in the Context of Mental Health,' in Zachariah,Anand , R,Srivatsan and Susie Tharu, Towards a Critical Medical Practice: Reflections on the Dilemmas of Medical Culture Today, New Delhi: Orient Blackswan .
  • Swatija, M & Shah, C. (1996) ' Towards a New Perspective on Women's Bodies. Learning and Unlearning Together,' EPW, Vol XXXI, Nos. 16 and 17, April 20-27, pp WS 35-38.
  • Joao Biehl, Technologies of Invisibility in Jonathan Xavier Inda ed. Anthropologies of Modernity

4: Reproduction, Technology and Health

  • Hodges Sarah (2004) Governmentality, Population and Reproductive Family in Modern India; Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 39, No. 11 (Mar. 13-19), pp. 1157-1163
  • Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack (1995) From Population Control to Reproductive Rights: Feminist Fault Lines. In Reproductive Health Matters, 3(6) Women's Health Policies: Organising for Change :152-161
  • Jeffrey, Roger and Patricia Jeffrey(1997) Population, gender and politics: Demographic change in rural north India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, UK. In particular Chapter 4, “Women’s Agency and Fertility”, and Chapter 6, “Fighting with Numbers”.
  • Rao, M and Sexton, S (2010) “Introduction: Population, Gender, And Health In Neo-Liberal Times” in Mohan Rao, Sarah Sexton (eds) Markets And Malthus : Population, Gender, And Health In Neo-Liberal Times, Sage Publication, New Delhi, pp. 1-30
  • Sangari Kumkum (2015) Solid: Liquid. A (Trans) National Reproductive Formation, Tulika Books, New Delhi. Selections

5: Health and Health Care Systems: Critiques

  • Zachariah,Anand , R,Srivatsan and Susie Tharu (2010), Towards a Critical Medical Practice: Reflections on the Dilemmas of Medical Culture Today, (introduction) New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.
  • Foucault, Michel () "Crisis of Medicine or the Crisis of Anti-Medicine" Foucault Studies, No 1, pp. 5-19, December 2004
  • Sontag, Susan, and Heywood Hale Broun. Illness as metaphor. Center for Cassette Studies, 1977.
  • Fassin, Didier (2001). “The Biopolitics of Otherness,” Anthropology Today, Vol 17 No 1, February.
  • Steve Brouwer (2011) Revolutionary Doctors. How Venezuela and Cuba are Changing the World's Conception of Health Care, Monthly Review Press, New York.

6: Risk, Culture, Governmentality

  • Crimp Doughlas (eds.) (1987) AIDS Cultural Analysis. Cultural Activism, MIT Press. Selections
  • João Biehl (2008) Drugs for All: The Future of Global AIDS Treatment, Medical Anthropology, 27:2, 99-105.
  • To link to this article:
  • Veena Das And Ranendra K, Das (eds.) (2006) Pharmaceuticals in Urban Ecologies: The Register of the Local, in Petryna Adriana, Lakoff Andrew, Kleinman Arthur (eds.) Global Pharmaceuticals. Ethics, Market, Practices, Duke University Press pg 171-205
  • Additional Suggested Readings
  • Adriana Petryna And Arthur Kleinman (eds.) (2006) The Pharmaceutical Nexus, pg 1-32
  • Joao Biehl (2006) Pharmaceutical Governance in Petryna Adriana, Lakoff Andrew, Kleinman Arthur (eds.) Global Pharmaceuticals. Ethics, Market, Practices, Duke University Press pg 206-239
  • Jonathan Xavier Inda (eds.) (2005) Anthropologies of Modernity. Foucault, Governmentality, and Life Politics, Blackwell Publishing in Petryna Adriana, Lakoff Andrew, Kleinman Arthur (eds.) Global Pharmaceuticals. Ethics, Market, Practices, Duke University Press Section IV and V
  • João Biehl & Adriana Petryna (eds.) (2013) When People Come First: Critical Studies In Global Health, Princeton University Press
  • Conrad Peter (2007) The Medicalization of Society. On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders, The John Hopkins University Press.

7: The Ethics of Care

  • Arlie Hochschild, The Managed Heart, Selections
  • Arlie Hochschild, Global Care Crisis
  • Didier Fassin, The Elementary Forms of Care


  • Presentation and Written component : 50% (25% each)
  • End Semester Exam: 50%