Medical Anthropology


The Medical Anthropology Program in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University builds upon a long tradition of research and teaching that engages the epistemological and categorical bases of disease and disorder. The Program continues this tradition and supports novel research that tests and expands methodological approaches to scholarship, uses varied forms of writing and other media, and enters new and challenging theoretical domains. The Medical Anthropology Program is jointly administered between the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and the Department of Social Studies of Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.


Research and teaching in the program engages a number of topics, including but not limited to childhood and adolescence, gender and sexuality, psychiatric disorder and distress, neuro-diversity, institutional and individual responses to trauma in various forms, intersecting colonial infrastructures of care, diagnosis, and incarceration, infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, and substance use and abuse including behavioural addictions and therapeutic efficacy. While much of the work by faculty and students in the program moves in and out of domains of biomedicine and public health, the kinds of research concerns and questions that undergird inquiry are not restricted by diagnostic or technical categories, and do not always share or reproduce medical or public health priorities or approaches. The emphasis of research in the program often finds a different center to respond to human need, to shed light on the experience of illness and disorder, or to consider the terms of living, as such. Faculty in the program nevertheless work in diverse ways that draw from training and practice not only in anthropology but also from biomedicine, critical public health, political science, philosophy, the history and philosophy of medicine, and visual arts and media.


One element that links the activities of faculty in the medical anthropology program is a commitment to long-standing engagements with individuals and communities, which often move in and out of clinical environments, as well as different professional milieux and expert communities. The production of knowledge within and about medicine, about healing, about psychic and social life, about the body and its forms, covers distances from the lab to the living room in much of the work of the faculty.


Alongside the commitment to rich, empirical and experimental forms of knowing are serious theoretical commitments. There is no single theoretical orientation that binds the work of the faculty and students. There are, instead, exciting and generative links between engagements with phenomenology, materialisms, psychoanalysis, affect theory, narrative and performance theory, meditations on imperialism and the conditions of colonial encounter, writing on the senses, on visuality, on culture and the imagination, all in service of gaining some purchase on human experience. These commitments translate into teaching and research supervision in multiple ways, and the program invites and supports fresh perspectives and new ways of thinking and doing.


The Core Faculty in medical anthropology are Professors Samuele Collu, Sandra Hyde, Todd Meyers, Les Sabiston, Sahar Sadjadi, and Lisa Stevenson. The program’s strengths come from longstanding and productive connections with other departments and divisions, ​​including the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminism, East Asian Studies, and the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry. As the university grows, the program also benefits from newer connections in the Department of Family Medicine, the Biomedical Ethics Unit, and the School of the Population and Global Health.


Graduate Study

Students in the graduate program in medical anthropology develop methodological skills fundamental to the practice of anthropology, as well as cross-disciplinary approaches from gender studies, indigenous studies, critical public health, neurosciences, film and visual studies, and history. At its core the program supports independent approaches to working and encourages solid theoretical grounding. The Department of Anthropology at McGill University offers both a thesis and non-thesis M.A. in Anthropology with specialization in Medical Anthropology, which can be appropriate for students with clinical backgrounds. Those with no prior graduate experience will come with strong academic records as undergraduates in anthropology or in a variety of fields adjacent to anthropology. Students entering the Ph.D. program are expected to enter with an existing appreciation for work in medical anthropology. Faculty and students in the program work across the globe, including Iran, Southwest China, Ecuador, Argentina, Europe, and the Americas.


Undergraduate Study

The program has a strong commitment to undergraduate teaching and a unique undergraduate experience through its core courses as well as specialized courses such as Psychological Anthropology and Anthropology of the Body. Medical anthropology courses often attract new majors who learn of medical anthropology for the first time, but the courses are also geared toward undergraduate students studying in fields as diverse as psychology, art history, political science, neuroscience, social work, biology, and nursing, all of whom have found medical anthropology an exciting area to try out new ideas or to rethink old problems.

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