Special Topics & Advanced Seminars

Winter 2019
ANTD41H3 S, Topics in Emerging Scholarship in Socio-Cultural Anthropology
The Anthropology of Medical Humanitarianism: Exploring Moral Dilemmas
Instructor: Sarah O’Sullivan          s.osullivan@mail.utoronto.ca

What does it mean to help others and what drives this impulse? When is it a moral imperative and when is it not? Why are some lives saved and others ignored? This course explores the politics, ethics, and moral positioning of contemporary medical humanitarianism through an anthropological lens. Questions explored throughout this course include:  How did humanitarian aid become internationally recognizable and accepted? What is the significance of “witnessing” that moves strangers to act to save the lives of others? What are the unintended consequences of humanitarian aid and what is the relationship between these unintended consequences and forms of structural violence? What defines a “crisis” and what is humanitarianism’s role when these crises become permanent?

With the benefits of a small classroom setting, students in this course will analyze award winning documentaries and contemporary ethnographies to understand anthropological arguments regarding medical humanitarianism, the production and representation of “suffering” subjects, and how lives are legitimized and valued by international actors.

This course is sure to be of value to students across disciplines interested in global health and development, issues of social justice, questions of morality and ethics, and health policy and human rights.