Fall 2014


Instructor: Dr. Melanie Medeiros


Class Meeting Times: Mondays 4:00-6:30pm, Bailey 201.

Office hours (Bailey 106): Mondays 2:30-3:45pm

                                           Wednesdays 2:30-4:15pm

            - You may also email me to make an appointment (at least 3 days in advance).



This course takes an anthropological approach to the study of "folk" and "traditional" health beliefs and practices in Latin America and the Caribbean. It will focus on cross-cultural notions of the body,
health and illness, and healing practices. This course will also examine the effects of globalization
on local conceptions of health, illness, and approaches to healing.


Learning Outcomes


  • Students will demonstrate in-depth knowledge of theories of illness causation and the ethnomedical healing systems of different cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean, through weekly written discussion question responses, exams, and a research project and presentation.
  • Students will demonstrate global engagement and the ability the ability to synthesize, connect, and draw conclusions from multiple perspectives to analyze the effects of globalization and modernization on ethnomedical traditions and healthcare seeking behavior, through weekly written discussion question responses, exams, and a research project.
  • Students will demonstrate critical thinking and communication skills, informational and digital literacy, through in-class presentations and discussions, as well as a book review and a research project examining a specific aspect of ethnomedicine in Latin America. 


Required Textbooks:

- Pamela Erickson. 2008. Ethnomedicine. Waveland Press, Inc.

- Rosita Arvigo. 1995. Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer. HarperOne.



Detailed descriptions of all these assignments are available on the course website.


Required Reading  [Complete before coming to class]

The reading and video/film assignments are mandatory. You should be prepared to discuss these assignments in class and in their written assignments. The completion of all the reading assignments is essential to receiving a good grade in this class.


Online Discussion Question Responses (DQRs), 50 points


You must answer all 10 weekly discussion questions and post your responses (DQRs) to the myCourses discussion board by 6pm on the Wednesday before class. You will be assigned to a discussion group and will post your responses under your group’s discussion forum on myCourses.  For example, if you are in Group One and answering the discussion question assigned for Thursday, 1/22, you would post your response to 'Course Materials/Discussion Forums/Discussion Group 1/Discussion Question #1.' 


Responses should be approximately 400 words, must demonstrate comprehension of the material, cite examples and/or ideas from all the material covered in the reading assignments, and be well-written (with no grammatical errors). You must use proper AAA citation formatting in your discussion posts and include a Works Cited section at the bottom of your post. See the “Citation and References Guide” for guidance. There is also an example of an excellent Discussion Question Response posted to myCourses under “Discussion Question Response Assignment Description.” Late Discussion Posts (anytime after 6pm Wednesday) will be given zero points.

Grading Rubric for Discussion Question Responses (10 Responses, 0-50 points total)

  • 5 Points = Excellent response: Meets all the requirements listed above and demonstrates exceptional comprehension and application of the material.
  • 4.5 Points = Very Good response: Meets all the requirements listed above.
  • 4 Points= Good Response: Meets most of the requirements listed.
  • 3.5 Points = Satisfactory response: Meets few of the requirements listed.
  • 0-3 Points = Unsatisfactory response: Does not meet the requirements listed. Or no response: Late posts will be given 0 points.


Online Group Discussion, 10 points


Every week you will read ALL the Discussion Question Responses (DQRs) of your discussion group members. Then you will write a discussion comment to contribute to their response (approximately 100 word discussion comments for each group member's response).  If a classmate's DQR makes you consider the material in a new way or makes you think of new examples then make sure to include that in your comments.  Participation in online discussion is required, and comments should be thoughtful and relevant responses to other students' discussion question responses.


Class Lecture Presentation, 10 points


Once in the semester you will be asked to "guest lecture" for a class. You will speak for 5 minutes on a topic that I assign to you. The topic will come from the assigned reading, but you are expected to do some additional research to give the class more information. Power points            or handouts are not required but they are suggested.  You will be graded on how well you      understand the material and the quality of your presentation. You will submit a copy of your presentation notes, including citations for the information you gathered from outside of the text book, to me at the beginning of class.


Exam I (9/29), 20 points (Exam will be held in the Milne Library Lower Level Room 104)

            This exam will consist of short answer questions and multiple-choice questions. It will cover        material from classes 1-5.


Book Review of Sastun (10/20) 20 points

            This is a 4-page (1 inch margins, 12 point Times New Roman font, double spaced) book   review of the assigned text "Sastun," by Rosita Arvigo. See the assignment description on           myCourses for details.


Dia de Los Muertos Procession Participation [10/30], 10 points

Participate in the Day of the Dead procession from the College Union to Newton Hall on October 30th at 5:30pm. Participation includes dressing in a Day of the Dead costume. We will discuss this further in class.


Research Paper/Project (12/15), 50 points

For your Research Paper/Project, you will submit a 200-word proposal (Due 11/17) stating 1) the type of  paper/project you will complete, 2) topic and potential thesis statement, 3) some of the literature you will be using and citing in your paper. The description and details of this assignment are available in the file "Paper/Project Assignment Description" at myCourses/Course Materials/Research Paper or Project/].

            Option 1: 2500-word Paper. Must be typed, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins. [See "Paper/Project Outline Guide" at myCourses/Course Materials/Self-Ethnography Paper or Project/Writing Tools/].


Option 2: Poster Presentation. Posters should contain at least 2,000 words of text and images, and be presented in a visually appealing way [See an example of a Research Poster at myCourses/Course Materials/Self-Ethnography Paper or Project/Sample Poster and Film].


            Option 3: Short Film.  Students have the option of creating a short film (10 minutes). A             film transcript of at least 1000 words must be submitted with the film. [See an example of a Short Film at myCourses/Course Materials/Self-Ethnography Paper or Project/Sample Poster and Film].


Research Presentation (12/15), 20 points

Each student will give a 10-minute presentation on their research project. The presentation should describe the main findings of their individual research projects. If you use multimedia (power point, film, etc.) then your presentation should be sent to me by 8am on 5/11 to minimize the transition time between presentations. [If using Power Point, create slides that are 16:9 (widescreen) by going to Themes/Slide Size].


In-Class Participation, 10 points

In order to succeed in this course you must participate in class discussion and class activities.



Attendance is MANDATORY. This class only meets once a week. Therefore, if you miss more than one class without an excused absence your class grade will decrease by one letter grade.


Extra Credit

(1)  Attend a library plagiarism workshop by October 1st and receive 1 point of extra credit. Visit the library website for the schedule of workshops.

(2)  Attend an approved (by the professor) film viewing, play, or speaker presentation and write a 1-page (single-spaced, 1 inch margins, 12 point Times New Roman font) essay describing the content of the film/play/talk and how it relates to themes from the course.  The response essay is due 1 week after the event via EMAIL. You may receive up to 2 points of extra credit for each essay.



Online Discussion Question Responses (DQRs): 70 points

Online Group Discussion: 10 points

Class Lecture Presentation: 10 points

Exam I: 20 points

Book Review of “Sastun”: 20 points

Participation in Day of the Dead Procession: 10 points

Research Paper/Project: 50 points

Research Presentation: 20 points

In-Class Participation: 10 points                  

TOTAL: 200 points


Standard Grade Curve:

A: 94 - 100%

A- 90 - 93.99%

B+: 87- 89.99%

B: 83 - 86.99%

B-: 80 - 82.99%

C+: 77 - 79.99%

C: 73 - 76.99%

C-: 70 - 72.99%

D: 65 - 69.99%

E: 0- 64.99%)





Plagiarism constitutes a violation of academic honesty and will be dealt with very strictly. Plagiarism is the representation of someone else’s words or ideas as one’s own, or the arrangement of someone else’s material(s) as one’s own. Such misrepresentation may be sufficient grounds for a student’s receiving a grade of E for the paper or presentation involved or may result in an E being assigned as the final grade for the course.
Any one of the following constitutes evidence of plagiarism:
1. direct quotation without identifying punctuation and citation of source;
2. paraphrase of expression or thought without proper attribution;
3. unacknowledged dependence upon a source in plan, organization, or argument.


You can read the college's academic dishonesty and plagiarism policy on-line at:




SUNY Geneseo will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities.  Accommodations will be made for medical conditions related to pregnancy or parenting. Students should contact Dean Buggie-Hunt in the Office of Disability Services ( or 585-245-5112) and their faculty to discuss needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester.




In this class, the use of computers, tablets, cell phones and other electronics is prohibited. This is to ensure that the students around you are not distracted by what is on your screen. Phones should not be out on students’ desks or laps. If a student is witnessed using their cell phone or it visible, they will be considered absent for that class. Due to this policy I highly recommend you purchase the physical copy of the course text-book rather than the electronic version, so that you have the text book available for class discussions.










Class 1) Monday, 8/25                            Introduction to the Course & What is Ethnomedicine?


Class 2) Monday, 9/1                        NO CLASS: LABOR DAY                         


Class 3) Monday, 9/8                        Medical Systems and Their Historical Origins


- Read: (1) Erickson, P. Ethnomedicine. Ch. 1 & 2. pp. 5-33.

              (2) Kleinman et al. 2006. Culture, Illness, and Care: Clinical Lessons From                                               Anthropologic and Cross-Cultural Research. Focus 4(1): 140-149.


                        Nichter, M. Introduction. In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of                                          Ethnomedicine. pp. ix-xvi.

-Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #1 by 6pm on Sunday 9/7. Post comments to your                            group members' discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 9/8.



Class 4) Monday, 9/15                      Ethnophysiology & Local Biologies

- Read: (1) Erickson, P. Ethnomedicine. pg. 46 (starting at "Body Beliefs") to pg. 49 (ending at "The Natural World).

                         (2) Bastien, Joseph W. 1985. Qollahuaya-Andean Body Concepts: A Topographical-                                          hydraulic Model of Physiology. American Anthropologist 87(3): 595-611.

                         (3) Sobo, Elisa Janine 1993. Ch. 2: The Jamaican Body. In One Blood: The Jamaican                                           Body. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 29-50.

- Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #2 by 6pm on Sunday 9/14. Post comments to your                         group members' discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 9/15.

- In-Class Film: Breaking Leaves.



Class 5) Monday, 9/22                      Theories of Disease Causation & Introduction to Illness Categories in Latin America

- Read: Erickson, P. Ethnomedicine.  pg. 39 (starting at "Personalistic And Naturalistic") to pg. 46 (ending at Body Beliefs); pg. 49 (starting at "The Natural World") to pg. 78; pg. 92 (starting at "The Culture-Bound Syndromes") to pg. 98.

-Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #3 by 6pm on Sunday 9/21. Post comments to your                 group members' discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 9/22.





Class 6) Monday, 9/29                      Spiritism, Santería and Voodooism

-   Read: (1) Paulino, A. 1995. Spiritism, Santería, Brujería, and Voodooism: A Comparative View of Indigenous Healing Systems. Journal of Teaching in Social Work 12(1/2): 105-122. 

(2) Dayan, J. 1997. Vodun, or the Voice of the Gods. In Sacred Possessions: Vodou, Santeria, Obeah, and the Caribbean, Olmos and Paravisini-Gebert, eds. pp. 13-30.

- In-Class Film: Voodoo Secrets. 2005. The History Channel.

            - Exam 1 (first half of class): Classes 1-5



Class 7) Monday, 10/6                    Brazilian Spiritism: Candomblé and Umbanda


- Read: (1) Landes, Ruth. 1947. Excerpt from “City of Women.”

(2)  Sansi, Roger. 2011. Shrines, Substances, and Miracles in Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. Anthropology and Medicine 18(2): 271-283.

(3)  Seligman, Rebecca. 2010. The Unmaking and Making of Self: Embodied Suffering         and Mind-Body Healing in Brazilian Candomblé. Ethos 38(3): 297-320


Krippner, S. 2008. Candomblé, Umbanda, and Karecismo in Recife, Brazil.                                    Anthropology of Consciousness 19(1): 1-32.

Seligman, Rebecca. 2005. Narrative Transformation and Therapeutics in                                        Candomblé. Transcultural Psychiatry 42(2): 272-294.

- In-Class Film: Ily Aiye (The House of Life). 1989. David Byrne.

-Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #4 by 6pm on Sunday 10/5. Post comments to your                                                group members' discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 10/6.



Class 8) Monday, 10/13                    NO CLASS  



Class 9) Monday, 10/20                    Curanderos/as


            - Read: Arvigo, Rosita. 1994. Sastun. pgs. 1-181.    


Trotter, Robert T., and Juan Antonio Chavira. 1980. Curanderismo: An Emic                     Theoretical Perspective of Mexican-American Folk Medicine. Medical                                 Anthropology 4(4): 423-487.             

            - Assignment:  Book Review Due

- In-Class Film: Sastun. 2001. Guido Verweyen. Cosmic Pictures.



Class 10) Monday, 10/27                  Shamanism


- Read: (1) Brown, M.F. 1988. Shamanism and Its Discontents. Medical Anthropology                                                       Quarterly  b2(2): 102-120.

(2) Greene, Shane. 1998. The Shaman's Needle: Development, Shamanic Agency, and Intermedicality in Aguaruna Lands, Peru. American Ethnologist 25(4): 634-658.


Winkelman, Michael. 2004. Shamanism. In Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology: Health and Illness in the World's Cultures. C.R. Ember and M. Ember, Springer US. pp. 1-9.

               Jokic, Zeljko. 2008. Yanomami Shamanic Initiation: The Meaning of Death and                     Postmortem Consciousness in Transformation. Anthropology of Consciousness                    19(1): 33-59.

Conklin, Beth. 2002. Shamans Versus Pirates in the Amazonian Treasure Chest.                 American Anthropologist 104(4): 1050-1061.

- Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #5 by 6pm on Sunday 10/26. Post comments to your                           group members' discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 10/27.

- In-Class Film: Shaman of the Andes. 2003. Steve Ford. Big Mountain Films.



Class 11) Monday, 11/3                    Cultural Syndromes           


            - Read: (1) Crandon, Libbet. 1983. Why SustoEthnology 22(2): 153–167.

                         (2) Rebhun, L. 1993. Nerves and Emotional Play in Northeast Brazil.  Medical                                                      Anthropology Quarterly 7(2): 131–151.


Rebhun, L.A. 2004. Culture-Bound Syndromes. In Encyclopedia of Medical             Anthropology: Health and Illness in the World's Cultures. C.R. Ember and M.                    Ember, eds. Springer US. pp. 1-8.

Guarnaccia, et al. 2003. Toward a Puerto Rican Popular Nosology: Nervios and                Ataque de Nervios. Culture Medicine And Psychiatry 27(3): 339-366.

Weller et al. 1992. An Epidemiological Description of a Folk Illness: A Study of                   Empacho in Guatemala. pp. 19-30.

-Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #6 by 6pm on Sunday 11/2. Post comments to           your group members discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 11/3.

- Assignment:  Research Project/Paper Proposal Due






Class 12) Monday, 11/10                              Biomedicine & Access to Healthcare in Latin America

- Read: (1) Gideon, J, 2007. Excluded from Health? Informal Workers' Access to Health Care in Chile. Bulletin of Latin America Research 26(2): 238-255.

 (2) Wayland, Coral. 2004. The Failure of Pharmaceuticals and the Power of Plants:                                Medicinal Discourse as a Critique of Modernity in the Amazon. Social Science &              Medicine 58: 2409-2419.


                        Gaines, A. Davis-Floyd, R. 2004. Biomedicine. In Encyclopedia of Medical                          Anthropology: Health and Illness in the World's Cultures. C.R. Ember and M.                                Ember, eds. Springer US. pp. 1-11.

-Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #7 by 6pm on Sunday 11/9. Post comments to           your group members discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 11/10.

            -In-Class Film: Doctors of Two Worlds. 1989. Solomons et al. London, UK: Royal                                                                      Anthropological Institute.



Class 13) Monday, 11/17                              Globalization and Ethnomedicine


            - Read: (1) Wallis, R. 1999. Altered States, Conflicting Cultures: Shamans, Neo-shamans and                                           Academics. Anthropology of Consciousness 10(2): 41-49.

 (2) Davidov, V. 2010. Shamans and Shams: The Discursive Effects of Ethnotourism in                             Ecuador. The   Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 15(2):                                387-410. 


Townsend, J. 2005. Individualist Religious Movements: Core and Neo-shamanism. Anthropology of Consciousness 15(1): 1-9.

- In-Class Film: Shaman of the Amazon. 2002. Dean Jeffreys.

[Stream here:]

- Research Presentations



Class 14) Monday, 11/24                              Ethnomedicine & the Ills of Modernity


- Read: (1) Rozemberg, Brani and Lenore Maderson. 1998. “Nerves” and Tranquilizer Use in                               Rural Brazil.  International Journal of Health Services 28(1): 165–181.

(2) Benoit, C. 2007. The Politics of Vodou: AIDS, Access to Health Care and the Use of  Culture in Haiti. Anthropology in Action 14(3): 59-69.

                          (3) Da Silva, et al. 2000. Odo-Ya Project: HIV/AIDS Prevention in the Context of                                                Afro-Brazilian Religion. Journal of Health Communication: International                                        Perspectives, 5: sup1: 119-122.


                                    Collier et al. 2000. Emotional Illness Among the Highland Maya of Chiapas,                                              Mexico. Ethos 28(1): 20-53.

-Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #8 by 6pm on Sunday 11/23. Post comments to your group members discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 11/24.

- Research Presentations

            - In-Class Film: Odo Ya!: Life With AIDS. 1997. Tania Cypriano.



Class 15) Monday, 12/1                                Ethnomedicine in Latino Communities in the U.S.       


- Read: (1) Poss, Jane and Mary Ann Jezewski. 2002. The Role and Meaning of Susto in                                      Mexican Americans’ Explanatory Model of Type 2 Diabetes.  Medical                                                       Anthropology Quarterly 16(3): 360–377.

 (2) Baer & Penzell. 1993. Susto and Pesticide Poisoning Among Florida Farm-                                  workers. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 17(3): 321-327.

- Assignment: Answer Discussion Question #9 by 6pm on Sunday 11/30. Post comments to                                            your group members discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 12/1.

- Research Presentations

- In-Class Film: Unnatural Causes: Becoming American. 2008. California Newsreel.


Class 16) Monday, 12/8                                Medical Pluralism


Read: (1) Brodum, Paul E. 1992. Guardian Angels and Dirty Spirits: The Moral Basis of                              Healing Power in Rural Haiti. In Anthropological Approaches to the Study of                                                   Ethnomedicine, M. Nichter, ed. pp. 57-70.

(2) Erickson, P. Ethnomedicine. Chapter 5, pp. 99-108.


Baer, Hans A. 2004. Medical Pluralism. In Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology: Health and Illness in the World's Cultures. C.R. Ember and M. Ember, eds. Springer US.  Pp. 109-116.

- Assignment:  Answer Discussion Question #10 by 6pm on Sunday 12/7. Post comments to                                           your group members discussion question responses by 1pm on Monday, 12/8.

- Research Presentations


Monday, December 15th 6:45pm-9:45pm: Research Paper Due



NOTE: This syllabus is subject to change. Reading, film and written assignments may be removed or added when the instructor believes it necessary for the course.