Anthropological Perspectives on Complementary and Alternative Medicine


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to health and healing practices that fall outside the realm of conventional Western medicine. CAM encompasses a wide range of modalities including homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, energy healing, and more. Many of these practices are not clearly compatible with biomedical explanatory models for health and sickness; they are often viewed with skepticism by mainstream medical practitioners. Though the popular media often depicts many CAM practices components of a "wellness culture" that is associated with the wealthy and privileged, many CAM practitioners do not fit this stereotype and primarily work with the poor, people of color, and other minoritized groups. In this class, we will focus on CAM in the Global North with a primary focus on the United States. We will critically assess characterizations of CAM as pseudoscience and explore the epistemological, ethical, and legal tensions between mainstream and non-mainstream medical practices. We will pay particular attention to how these tensions intersect with race, class, and gender. The aim of this class is not to make a value judgement about the validity of CAM, but rather to understand the perspective of those who use CAM in a context that emphasizes Western biomedicine.
Course Attributes: UC CD

Section 01

Anthropological Perspectives on Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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