Students will discuss the concept of “health” from a variety of theoretical perspectives
including biomedicine, critical medical anthropology (CMA), and lay/popular beliefs about
Students will conduct an analysis of a current health issue using CMA
Students will consult primary sources, critically assess findings and compare results.
Students will develop competence in scholarly writing including the following: development
of a well-structured argumentative paper that contains a thesis statement; use of
introductory and concluding paragraphs; use of appropriate grammar; constructing wellstructured
sentences and paragraphs; and citation and references for primary source
In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot (2011) tells the story of
how the descendants of Henrietta Lacks come to terms with the story of her death from
cancer and the use of her cells for biomedical research. Essential to that story is the conflict
between the powerful biomedical system and the beliefs held by Henrietta’s family about
cancer and the body. Critical Medical Anthropology (CMA) uses a theoretical framework that
is expressly political to analyze conflicts between biomedical practitioners and others (Baer et
Baer H, Singer M, Susser I. 2003. Medical Anthropology and the World System, 2nd Ed.
London UK: Greenwood.
Skloot R. 2011. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway/Random House.
Locate three examples from the book where the beliefs of a family member come into
conflict with those of a biomedical practitioner (doctor, nurse, researcher or other). For
Describe the belief system of the family member and speculate on how this belief
system may have been formed
Describe the belief system of the biomedical practitioner and speculate on how this
belief system may have been formed
Describe how these belief systems come into conflict
Describe the outcome of that conflict for both individuals
Use a Critical Medical Anthropology (CMA) approach (such as that proposed by Baer et al
2003) to analyze the social relations described in the book. Consult CMA theorists and
researchers to support your arguments and use examples from Skloot (2011) to illustrate
your responses to the following questions:
Who has power over the agencies of biomedicine?
How and in what form is this power expressed?
How is power evident in the social relations described in the book?
What are the consequences for Henrietta’s family of the power relations that
Describe an incident in the book where a biomedical practitioner acts differently,
overcoming the power relations typical of biomedicine in an effort to meet the family’s
Describe the incident
In your opinion, does this action make any difference for the family?
Why or why not?
Provide a point-form outline indicating the responses and examples you will use to answer
questions 1 and 2 above. Provide 3 preliminary references from CMA theorists or
researchers that will support your arguments. The format for the outline is 1-2 pages
including references. The Term Paper Outline is due in class Oct 28.
The format for the Term Paper is 8-10 pages (including title page and references) doublespaced,
12-pt font with minimum 2 cm margins. Provide a title page listing the name of the
assignment, your name, your student number, the course number, the instructor’s name
and the date. Use page numbers. In the body of the paper, use as many paragraphs as
necessary, but be sure to include introductory and concluding paragraphs. You may write
in the first person voice. You are required to consult a minimum of three (3) published
primary sources for your interpretations. Provide citations in text for these sources.
Provide a reference list. A Citation and Referencing Style Guide is provided on the next