Spring 2024 - SA 418 D100

Global Health: Humanitarian Encounters (A) (4)

Class Number: 4878

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Fri, 12:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Stacy Pigg
    Office Hours: TBA. Email for appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    72 units, which must include SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



An investigation of the social, cultural, and political issues that contribute to problems of ill-health in resource-poor countries and the major efforts in international public health to address these problems. It explores the application of knowledge about social, and especially gender relations in international health, with particular attention to local perspectives and grassroots initiatives. Institutional frameworks intended to promote health development are examined in historical and contemporary perspective through case studies on topics such as: malaria, population control, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. Breadth-Social Sciences.


Health is an object of humanitarian intervention in many parts of the world. Every year, millions of people around the world die – and many more suffer pain and grief – due to health conditions that are, from a technical point of view, preventable, manageable, or curable, yet remain intractable sources of suffering. This course takes an anthropological approach to global health solution-making. We will examine how culture and social relations are pictured  in international health programs, as part of an analysis of notions of “health development” and the institutional logics that promote them That is, we pay special attention to encounters: the situations and social interfaces where the “culture” of public health enters into ordinary lives in the global south. In doing so, we also ask in what sense the domain of practice now known as “global health” is “global.” What kinds of knowledge do global health programs obscure, discount, or ignore? How does humanitarian solution-making in the name of health also structure relations of power? What forms of action and interaction are reproduced or altered in these contexts?

The first section of the course introduces historical perspective on colonial health, so-called “tropical medicine,” and the mid-twentieth field of “international health” and the movement, led from the global south, for primary health care. In the second part of the course, we read two book-length case studies to think about health interventions as a field of social interactions the effects of which go beyond the measurable impacts on physical health. In the last part of the course, students will consolidate what they’ve learned and carry out further research by working in small groups to produce a final project:  a zine that communicates insights from this course to a wider audience.




Students will have opportunities to develop multi-layered, dynamic understandings of health interventions carried out in the global south. You will practice using anthropology’s signature tools – attention to context, to point of view, to everyday life, and to world-building actions – as a means of assessing the effects of humanitarian intervention into health. The course is designed to foster sustained consideration of context-specific case-studies by giving you opportunities to read closely, link ideas and information across sources, summarize arguments, and communicate clearly about complex ideas verbally and in writing. As a 400-level course, it gives you an opportunity to combine coursework with guided independent research in a format to be shared outside the classroom.


  • Zine project 50%
  • Weekly learning tasks 35%
  • Article summary and in-class presentation 15%


Participation in the form of attendance and contribution to small group and classroom discussions are required as well.

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 Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T20.01), and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10‐S10.05). 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 Sociology and Anthropology Student Union, SASU, is a governing body of students who are engaged with the department and want to build the SA community. Get involved!  Follow Facebook and Instagram pages or visit our website.



  • A scanner app for your smartphone, or access to a scanner


-Justice, Judith (1986). Policies, Plans, and People: Foreign aid and Health Development. University of California Press

-Kenworthy, Nora (2017). Mistreated: The Political consequences of the Fight Against AIDS in Lesotho. Vanderbilt University Press

*Although both these books are available as e-books in the SFU library, access may be limited to 3 users at any one time. Because we will be working extensively with them over several weeks, you might find it more efficient to have a paper copy.

Additional Required reading (articles) are available through Course Reserves and the SFU Library.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html 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. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html