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First-Year Seminar (101-6-21)


Pathologies of Power


Adia Benton
1812 Hinman #101
Adia Benton is a cultural anthropologist with interests in global health, biomedicine, development and humanitarianism and professional sports. Broadly, She is interested in patterns of inequality in the distribution of and the politics of care in settings “socialized” for scarcity. This means understanding the political, economic and historical factors shaping how care is provided in complex humanitarian emergencies and in longer-term development projects – like those for health. These concerns arise from her previous career in the fields of public health and post-conflict development in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

Meeting Info

ANTHRO Sem Rm 104 - 1810 Hinmn: Mon, Wed 9:30AM - 10:50AM

Overview of class

At the height of the 2013-2016 West African Ebola pandemic, it was often said that the fears of the disease globalized more quickly than the disease itself. Similar claims were made about Covid-19 in the months leading to global spread of this still evolving viral disease. These kinds of statements - and the proliferation of official efforts to both define and control epidemics - show the significance of cultural, social, political and economic dimensions of mass disease events. This seminar privileges a critical medical anthropology perspective on the dynamics of epidemics and pandemics: from defining and naming an event a pandemic, to the ongoing dynamics of disease transmission to prevention and control. Together, we will investigate these pathologies of power: how complex interactions among social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental factors influence the natural history of infectious disease and public health efforts to understand and address them. The seminar focuses on contemporary issues with the explicit purpose of addressing questions of equity and justice.

Teaching Method


Evaluation Method

Writing exercises, in-class engagement, portfolio project.

Class Materials (Required)

All required reading will be accessed through Canvas: this includes ebook and article links through the library to help students gain familiarity with the library system and research.

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only