Medical Anthropology Major, B.A.

Department of Anthropology

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301 Alumni Building, CB#3115

(919) 962-1243

Michele Rivkin-Fish, Program Director

Patricia McAnany, Chair

Anna Agbe-Davies, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Medical anthropology addresses the biological, cultural, and political-economic dimensions of health, illness, and healing historically and at present. Reflecting the multi-disciplinary character of its parent field of anthropology, medical anthropology deploys quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the body as a site of evolutionary processes and cultural symbols, and healing as interpretive processes at macro, meso, and micro levels. 

This program provides students with the fundamental knowledge and exposure needed to pursue careers and post-graduate studies in fields related to global health, public health, allied health care and health and human services, medicine, dentistry, and other emerging disciplines. 

For students seeking a career in the health professions, the program in medical anthropology complements training in the natural sciences. Courses in medical anthropology explore population variations in health outcomes due to the influence of culture. The curriculum also equips students with ways to understand the meanings people find in illness and healing and the moral stakes of medical decisions. Additionally, courses in medical anthropology give students awareness of the formal institutions and social relations that become the channels and limitations of technical knowledge about illness and healing. 

Department Programs



Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the medical anthropology program, students should be able to: 

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the relationships between humans' health and historical, biocultural, and societal dynamics
  • Demonstrate understanding of the ways comparative cultural and historical experiences impact health-related values and practices, definitions of illness, and methods of healing
  • Demonstrate competence in reading, analyzing, and communicating social science research on health 
  • Gain experience conducting and/or applying research using medical anthropology's methods 
  • Gain an understanding of medical anthropology's relationships to the holistic, parent discipline of anthropology and its contributions to applied professional fields such as medicine and global health. 


In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
Select two foundational courses: 6
First-Year Seminar: Darwin's Dangerous Idea H
First-Year Seminar: Saving the World? Humanitarianism in Action
ANTH 1--
Introduction to Biocultural Medical Anthropology
Comparative Healing Systems
Living Medicine
Global Health
Select two research methods and experience courses (see list below)6
Select five elective courses, apportioned in the following ways: 115
At least one from the biological/ecological elective list (see below)
At least one from the sociocultural elective list (see below)
No more than two of the five courses can be at the 100-level or below
Total Hours27

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Research Methods and Experiences 

ANTH 240Action Research3
ANTH 248Anthropology and Public Interest3
ANTH 294Anthropological Perspectives on Society and Culture3
ANTH 297Directions in Anthropology H3
ANTH 298Biological Anthropology Theory and Practice3
ANTH 326Practicing Medical Anthropology3
ANTH 390Special Topics in Medical Anthropology3
ANTH 393Internship in Anthropology 11-12
ANTH 396Independent Reading or Study in Anthropology 1, H1-6
ANTH 414Laboratory Methods: Human Osteology3
ANTH 419Anthropological Application of GIS3
ANTH 625Ethnography and Life Stories3
ANTH 650Reconstructing Life: Nutrition and Disease in Past Populations3
ANTH 675Ethnographic Method3
ANTH 676Research Methods in Human Biology3
ANTH 691HSeniors Honors Project in Anthropology3

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

 Biological and Ecological Electives

ANTH 143Human Evolution and Adaptation3
ANTH 148Human Origins3
ANTH 151Anthropological Perspectives on Food and Culture3
ANTH/AMST/NUTR 175Introduction to Food Studies: From Science to Society3
ANTH 217Human Biology in Comparative Perspective3
ANTH/ENEC 237Food, Environment, and Sustainability3
ANTH 252Archaeology of Food3
ANTH 315Human Genetics and Evolution3
ANTH 318Human Growth and Development3
ANTH 437Evolutionary Medicine3
ANTH 446Poverty, Inequality, and Health3
ANTH 471Biocultural Perspectives on Maternal and Child Health3
ANTH 538Disease and Discrimination in Colonial Atlantic America3
ANTH 623Human Disease Ecology3

Sociocultural Electives 

ANTH 272/ENGL 264Healing in Ethnography and Literature3
ANTH 278Women in Science3
ANTH/PWAD 280Anthropology of War and Peace3
ANTH 320Anthropology of Development3
ANTH 325Emotions and Society3
ANTH 422Anthropology and Human Rights3
ANTH 426Making Magic3
ANTH 442Health and Gender after Socialism3
ANTH/WGST 443Cultures and Politics of Reproduction3
ANTH 445Migration and Health3
ANTH 470Medicine and Anthropology3
ANTH 473Anthropology of the Body and the Subject3
ANTH 474The Anthropology of Disability3
ANTH 585Anthropology of Science3
ANTH 624Anthropology and Public Health3
ANTH 649Politics of Life and Death3
AAAD 300Cultures of Health and Healing in Africa3
AAAD 387HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Diaspora3

Special Opportunities

See the program page here for special opportunities.