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Master of Science by Coursework in Medical Anthropology

  • 1. The Social Sciences Divisional Board shall elect for the supervision of the course a Standing Committee, namely the Teaching Committee of the School of Anthropology, which shall have power to arrange lectures and other instruction. The course director will be responsible to this committee.

  • 2. Candidates must follow a course of instruction in Medical Anthropology for at least three terms, and will, when entering for the examination, be required to produce a certificate from their supervisor to this effect.

  • 3. Candidates will be required to present themselves for written and, where invited, oral examinations, and to submit a dissertation in prescribed form on an approved topic as defined below.

  • 4. The examination will consist of four papers on the syllabus described in the Schedule. Papers 1, 2 and 3 will each be assessed by a three-hour paper. Paper 4 (option) may be assessed either by one three-hour paper or by coursework essay. For those taking Paper 4 assessed by coursework essay, the essay must be uploaded to the University approved online assessment platform not later than noon of the Thursday of the second week of Trinity Term; each essay must be anonymous, accompanied by confirmation that it is the candidate’s own work, and submitted in electronic file format.

  • 5. Each candidate will be required to submit a dissertation of no more than 10,000 words, on a subject selected in consultation with the supervisor and approved by the Chair of Examiners. The proposed title of the dissertation together with a paragraph describing its scope and the supervisor's written endorsement, must be submitted to the Chair of Examiners by Thursday of the fifth week of Trinity Term.

  • 6. The dissertation must be uploaded to the University approved online assessment platform not later than noon on the last Wednesday in August in the year in which the examination is taken. The dissertation must be anonymous, accompanied by confirmation that it is the candidate's own work, and submitted in electronic file format. The dissertation shall be provided with an abstract of up to 250 words, to be placed immediately after the title page. The word count shall be stated on the title page of the dissertation.

  • 7. An oral examination, if held, may be on the candidate's written papers, or dissertation, or both.

  • The four papers will be taken to constitute Part I of the degree and the dissertation to constitute Part II. At the close of the written examinations, the examiners will publish a list of those who have satisfied them in Part I.

  • 8. In order to pass the degree, a student must pass all its assessed components. Where one or more components are failed, the student will be given the opportunity to re-sit or re-submit them once, as the case may be. Any subsequent award of the degree on successful completion of all the assessed components may be delayed by up to three terms, i.e. until the Examination Board next meets.


Every candidate will be required to satisfy the examiners in four papers as follows:

  • 1. Critical Medical Anthropology

    The scope of this paper includes discussion of cross-cultural concepts of health, disease, sickness, pain, illness causation, diagnosis and treatment, from conjoined sociocultural perspectives and human ecology. It explores metaphor and narrative at the interface of biological and cultural processes, the distribution of disease patterns in the light of environmental change, social inequality, global mobility and marginality, and the coexistence of conventional, alternative and traditional health systems.

  • 2. Biocultural Approaches to Medicine

    The scope of this paper includes issues of public health and policy on a comparative and global basis. It draws on ethnographies of particular societies to illustrate and test theoretical claims in medical anthropology. It discusses infectious diseases, specific health campaigns, evolutionary trends and life histories, alongside culturally defined concepts of risk, vulnerability, fate, evil, pollution, divination, religion, and shamanism.

  • 3. Anthropologies of the Body

    The scope of this paper comprises ecological and socio-cultural perspectives, and explores links to other fields and disciplines, including the place of material culture in medicine. It includes a critique of basic assumptions and methods in medical anthropology and consideration of the concept of well-being as being broader than conventional concepts of health. Themes for discussion include the phenomenology of the body, growth and personhood, gender, ageing and dying, notions of resistance and resilience, relationships between biodiversity and adaptability, reproduction and fertility, and nutrition.

  • 4. Option paper

    Candidates must select one option paper from those taught each year for the M.Sc. in Social Anthropology. Titles of options will be made available by the end of the third week of Michaelmas Term and candidates may select any option from the published list.