Summer 2021 - SA 318 D100

Technologies of Health and Expectation (A) (4)

Class Number: 3603

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 12 – Aug 9, 2021: Thu, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Stacy Pigg
    Office Hours: After class and by appointment via Zoom
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



Investigates how medical technologies are altering ways we perceive our bodies, frame moral questions about health, and imagine human possibilities. Case studies from around the world are used to examine the social, ethical, and political dilemmas that surface when people interact with biomedical objects under different conditions.


Pathogens are part of society; epidemics are social events.

When the current coronavirus pandemic began to impact our daily lives last year, much of the public was taken aback by its ramifications. However, medical anthropologists, sociologists, geographers and historians have long uncovered how “germs” participate in making social worlds. In this course you will venture into the realities of previous epidemics, such as Ebola, SARS, HIV/AIDS, avian flu, the 1918 Spanish Flu, 19th century cholera/yellow fever, and the Black Death of the middle ages. How have these previous epidemics impacted our present moment? What can prior research about those events show us about our current expectations, fears, and hopes?

This course presents and then applies the biocultural understanding of human health from medical anthropology. Working through examples past and present, and from around the world, we will unpack the idea that epidemics do not “begin” with a pathogen, but rather come to exist in the conditions of overlapping social, environmental, and economic realms.



  • Describe historical contexts surrounding epidemic disease events and their relations to political ideology, health and social policies, and socioeconomic vulnerability
  • Illustrate the social, political, and cultural dimensions of disease
  • Explain how epidemic disease outbreaks bring about underlying anxieties about race, ethnicity, and national belonging
  • Describe the intended and unintended consequences of disease management in relation to discrimination, blame, and surveillance


  • Weekly required reading responses 50%
  • Participation (required attendance at a minimum of 6 live sessions) 10%
  • Short assignments 20%
  • Final essay 20%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.


The class will meet via Zoom for a portion of the scheduled class time. You will be required to attend with your camera on for a minimum number of sessions, with flexibility to attend without camera for the others. Reach out to the instructor if you anticipate scheduling or technology barriers. Plan for about 8 hours of weekly work (readings, viewing films, listening to podcasts plus completion of weekly notes and small assignments).



  • Course readings will be a selection or articles available online through library reserves and Canvas
  • Internet access to attend class via Zoom and to carry out digital research for assignments
  • Scanner app for smart phone (e.g. Scanner Pro, Camscanner, Adobe Scan)
  • Notebook (paper), for handwritten drawing and notes


  • If you do not have reliable internet access, let the instructor know. Also contact IT Services to see if a loaner computer or access to a computer lab can be arranged


All required readings will be available in digital form through SFU Library reserves.

It is recommended that you plan to print out readings so that you can annotate them/take notes by hand.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods, but we will continue to have in-person experiential activities for a selection of courses.  Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112).