81951 - Global Health and Suffering (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Ivo Quaranta

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-DEA/01

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in History and Oriental Studies (cod. 8845)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

No poverty Good health and well-being Gender equality Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Students will develop a critical understanding of global health policy as a historical, political and moral assemblage to deal with the consequences of global inequalities. They will also gain an appreciation of illness and suffering as the personal embodiment of broader social processes within local moral worlds embedded in historically deep and geographically broad social dynamics.

Course contents

LECTURES WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE IV PERIOD (ONLINE ONLY), starting on the 22nd of March 2022 with the following schedule:

Tuesday (11:00-12:45); Wednesday and Thursday (11:15-13:00).


Some of the key questions considered in this course are:

  • What do we mean by suffering and how concepts of ill/health vary in different societies?
  • How can we look at the body as a bio-historical product?
  • In what sense personal experience of distress can be viewed as the embodiment of broader social processes?
  • How such a distress is interpreted and dealt with in institutional (medical) settings?
  • What are the cultural dimensions inscribed in our medical categories?
  • What can anthropological analysis teach us about the determinants and personal significance of health and illness?
  • What are the the scientific and political consequences of such analyses?
  • How can we use such analyses in rethinking suffering, health and their care?

First week lectures will deal with the cultural construction of illness experience.

Second week will be centred on the social production of medical categories and illness experience.

Third week will focus on the concept of embodiment and its theoretical outcomes.

Forth week will discuss the concept of social suffering

Final week will address the anthropological contribution to global health.


Students not attending lectures have to read three volumes:


First Volume:

Singer Merrill, Pamela I. Erickson, 2013, Global Health: An Anthropological Perspective. Waveland Pr Inc).


Second Volume (choose one from the following list):

Adams Vincanne (ed.), 2016, Metrics: What Counts in Global Health, Duke University Press Books

Biehl João and Adriana Petryna (eds), 2013, When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lock Margaret and Vinh-Kim Nguyen, 2010, An Anthropology of Biomedicine, Wiley-Blackwell

Nichter Mark, 2008, Global Health: Why Cultural Perceptions, Social Representations, and Biopolitics Matter. Tucson, University of Arizona Press.

Packard Randall M., 2016, A History of Global Health, Interventions into the Lives of Other Peoples, Johns Hopkins University Press.


Third Volume (choose one from the following list):

Antze P., Lambek M. (1996), Tense Past: Cultural Essays in Trauma and Memory, Routledge

Arnold, D. 1993. Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Baer, Singer, Susser (1997), Medical Anthropology and the World System: a critical perspective. Bergin & Garvey.

Biehl J. (2005), Vita: Life In A Zone Of Social Abandonment, University of California Press

Biehl João, 2009, Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival. Princeton University Press.

Bourgois, Fassin, Heggenhougen, Nordstrom(2009), Global Health in Times of Violence, School for Advanced Research Press.

Briggs C & C Mantini-Briggs 2003. Stories in the Time of Cholera: Racial Profiling during a Medical Nightmare. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London. University of California Press.

Comaroff, Jean ,1985, Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of a South African People. University of Chicago Press

Csordas, T.J., (2002), Body/Meaning/Healing. New York: Palgrave.

Del Vecchio Good M.J., Hyde S.T., Pinto S., Good B.J., (2008) Postcolonial Disorders (Ethnographic Studies in Subjectivity), University of California Press.

Desjarlais, R., Eisenberg, L., Good, B.J. & Kleinman, A. (Eds.). 1995. World Mental Health: Priorities, Problems, and Responses in Low-Income Countries. New York: Oxford University Press.

Didier Fassin, 2011, Humanitarian Reason. A Moral History of the Present, University of California Press.

Farmer, P. 2003. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Farmer, P., 1992, AIDS and accusation: Haiti and the geography of blame, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Farmer, P., 1999, Infections and inequalities. The modern plagues, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Farmer, P., 2003, Pathologies of power. Health, human rights, and the new war on the poor, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Farmer, Paul, Margaret Connors, and Janie Simmons, 1996, Women, Poverty, and AIDS: Sex, Drugs, and Structural Violence. Monroe: Common Courage Press.

Fassin D. e Pandolfi M. ( a cura) (2010), Contemporary States of Emergency: The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions, Zone Books.

Fassin Didier, 2007, When Bodies Remember. Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa. University of California Press.

Fassin Didier, Richrd Rechtman (2009), The empire of trauma. An inquiry in the condition of victimhood. Princeton University Press.

Fassin, D.; Fourcade, M., (eds.), (2022), Pandemic Exposures: Economy and Society in the Time of Coronavirus, Hau, The University of Chicago Press.

Feldman I., M. Ticktin (eds.) 2010, In the name of humanity. The government of threat and care, Duke University Press.

Hahn Robert and Marcia Inhorn (editors), 2008, “Anthropology and Public Health: Bridging Differences in Culture and Society”. 2ND EDITION. Oxford University Press

Inhorn Marcia, 2003, “Local Babies, Global Science: Gender, Religion, and In Vitro Fertilization in Egypt”, Routledge.

James Erica, 2010, Democratic Insecurities. Violence, Trauma, and Intervention in Haiti. University of California Press.

Keshavjee, Salmaan, 2014, Blind Spot. How Neoliberalism Infiltrated Global Health, University of California Press.

Kleinamn, A. (1980) Patients and healers in the context of culture. University of Califronia Press, Berkeley.

Kleinman, A. (1995) Writing at the Margin: Discourse Between Anthropology and Medicine. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kleinman, A. (2007), What Really Matters. Living a moral life amidst uncertainty and danger. Oxford University Press

Kleinman, A., Das, V. e Lock, M., (a cura), (1997), Social suffering, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Lock M., (1995), Encounters with Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America. University of California Press.

Lock, M. (2001) Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death. University of California Press.

Lupton, D.; Willis, K., (eds.) (2021), The Covid-19 Crisis. Social Perspectives, London and New York: Routledge.

Manderson, L.; Burke, N.J.; Wahlberg, A., (eds.), (2021), Viral Loads: Anthropologies of Urgency in the Time of Covid-19, London, UCL Press

Nguyen, Vinh-Kim, 2010, The Republic of Therapy: Triage and Sovereignty in West Africa’s Time of AIDS, Duke University Press.

Ong A & S Collier (eds) 2005. Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems. Malden MA, Oxford, Carlton: Blackwell Publishing

Petryna A. (2002), Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl, Princeton University Press.

Petryna A., (2009), When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects, Princeton University Press.

Petryna, Lakoff, Kleinman, (2006), Global Pharmaceuticals: Ethics, Markets, Practices, Duke University Press.

Scheper-Hughes N. (1993) Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil, University of California Press.

Ticktin, Miriam, 2011, Casualties of Care. Immigration and the politics of humanitarianism in France. University of California Press.

Wilkinson Iain, Arthur Kleinman, 2016, A Passion for Society. How We Think about Human Suffering. University of California Press.

Young, A. (1995) The Harmony of Illusions. Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Students regularly attending lectures can either choose one book from the "Second Volume List" and another one from the "Third Volume List" or refer to the material distributed during classes and available on "Virtuale".

Attending students willing to engage in writing a paper will have to discuss it with the lecturer in order to identify a topic and a proper bibliography.

Teaching methods

Students attendance to lectures is strongly recommended. Teaching will be mainly based on frontal lectures. Group discussions among students will be organized around central topics of the module.

Assessment methods

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

This 6 CFU course can be chosen as a part of the 12 CFU Integrated Course: “GLOBALIZATION AND ITS MALCOLTENTS (I.C.) (LM)(C.I.) (LM)". If the student has the Integrated Course (12 CFU) in his/her study plan, the final grade will result from the arithmetic average of the marks obtained in the two parts: “CONFLICTS AND INEQUALITIES IN THE NEOLIBERAL ERA” (1) (LM) and “GLOBAL HEALTH AND SUFFERING” (1) (LM).

Students will be evaluated through an oral exam focussed on the bibliography of the course. The evaluation will focus on students' knowledge of the themes treated in the program texts. The questions will be aimed at testing the student's ability in exposing with an appropriate language some of the topics tackled by the books, as well as the ability to make connections between different texts in order to build an argument.

Proper language and the ability to critically speak about the books' content will lead to a good/excellent final grade.

Acceptable language and the ability to resume the books' content will lead to a sufficient/fair grade.

Insufficient linguistic proficiency and fragmentary knowledge of the books' content will lead to a failure in passing the exam.


Students who regularly attended lectures and chose to write a paper on a topic agreed upon with the lecturer will discuss it during an oral evaluation. The grade assigned to the paper will be based on the definition of the topic, its critical analysis, selection of relevant bibliography, clarity in structuring the paper, language proficiency, and on the student's ability to present and defend it during oral presentation.

Teaching tools

Students attending lectures are strongly recommended to subscribe to the following mailing list: ivo.quaranta.Global_Health_and_Suffering.

(Path: “unibo.it” - “online services” - “Teaching Staff-Student Distribution lists”).

Office hours

See the website of Ivo Quaranta