WiSe 15/16: Sociology of Health, Illness and Medicalization
This course serves as a conceptual and topical overview of the Sociology of Health, Illness and Medicalization (elsewhere referred to as "Medical Sociology") with special focus on social processes of ... read more
This course serves as a conceptual and topical overview of the Sociology of Health, Illness and Medicalization (elsewhere referred to as "Medical Sociology") with special focus on social processes of change and continuity in the Western word. As the field is too large to cover it in its entirety within one semester, we will particularly ask how to conceptually approach issues of health and illness as a sociologist in contrast to the mundane as well as the medical perspective. Whereas we usually consider our health status as a personal matter, this view will be challenged by applying central sociological questions (structure vs. agency, maintenance of social order, institutional change, social construction of reality) to the analysis of the social and cultural patterns, causes of and responses to health and illness. -------
The course is divided into four parts. In Part I, we will review a number of theories that a considered fundamental and formative in the field. Part II - IV then serve as assessment of how these theories hold up when applied to different levels of analysis, topical subfields and empirical phenomena. Whereas Part II takes a rather epidemiological perspective on the historical development and structural distribution of health and disease, Part III deals explicitly with the cultural, technological and political forces that lead to a constant redefinition of what is considered as pathological, and therefore to be medically treated (Medicalization). In Part IV we will then turn to the micro (& meso) level of individual experience of illness, biographical disruptions as well as health movements and their political advocacy. We will use a variety of (sometimes interdisciplinary) material, ranging from handbook articles, ethnographic and historical studies and recent empirical findings. In order to cover at least part of the canonical literature and studies in the field, students will be assigned to write a book review during Christmas break and share their insights with fellow students in class. Methodological questions on how to develop a valid research question and design will be taken into account during the second half of the semester.