Summer 2024 - SA 318 D100

Technologies of Health and Expectation (A) (4)

Class Number: 3139

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2024: Thu, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Stacy Pigg
    Office Hours: after class and by appointment
  • 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, 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, the 1918 “Spanish” Flu, 19th century cholera/yellow fever, and the Black Death of the middle ages. What happened socially, at the time? How do these previous epidemics continue to sculpt the present? 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, and with special attention to disease control under colonial rule, 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
  • Develop skills and confidence in learning from and talking about complex, open-ended case studies


  • weekly worksheet submissions = participation and preparation for class meetings 40%
  • group project – presentation and “briefing” on pandemic history 15%
  • article summary 15%
  • final essay 30%


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.



  • Scanner app for smart phone (e.g. Scanner Pro, Camscanner, Adobe Scan)
  • Notebook (paper), for handwritten drawing and notes


All required reading will be available in digital form through SFU library reserves. I recommend that you plan to print out readings so that you can annotate them/take notes by hand.


Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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.