Medicine Science Religion


Course Title

Medicine Science Religion

Course Description

When and how (if ever) should religious values shape scientific inquiry and the political economy or provision of healthcare? This question is as vexing as it is urgent, not only in the United States but also in many other places where forms of the religious and secular look very different. How then can we learn to think and write about that question and those differences? In this course, we will engage medicine, science, and religion across a variety of texts and learn how to frame issues, evaluate evidence, and make supported arguments that do not hastily resolve the very real ambiguities and challenges we face as globalized biomedicine interacts with different forms of governance and systems of knowledge. Together, we will read selections from the history of science and technology as well as ethnographies that will require us to suspend intuitive notions of “medicine,” “science,” and “religion” as distinct categories and instead attempt to think otherwise about what constitutes the body, how facts and truths are made or shared, and what constitutes care and cure in different parts of the world. In recent years, medical anthropologists have argued that medical science is a crucial site of contention between the secular and the religious. Terms like "philosophy," "spirituality," "science," "religion," "superstition," "culture," and "magic" have often been used to differentiate “good” knowledge from “bad” belief. Recognizing moral and ethical possibilities of intervention, care, and witnessing—in and through research and writing—requires careful and critical attention to contested histories and multiple perspectives. The stakes of such investigations are high, as we have all witnessed in different ways during the pandemic. This course is an invitation to think with scholars and discuss their contributions while developing skills to be able to conduct research that engages with the richness of the texts we will consider.

Course Level

Instructor Name

Course Topics

Disciplinary Perspectives

Geographic Location

Berkeley, CA

Instructional Modality

Institutional Location


Medicine Science Religion