University of Heidelberg

Program Structure and Courses

Core Courses and Study Trajectories

MAHASSA is comprised of 7 different teaching modules. Each of these modules contains several courses, some of which are compulsory core courses and some of which can be selected from a variety of options. A detailed description of the different modules and courses that also includes an outline of the recommended study trajectories can be found in the download section below. The following compulsory core courses are taken by all students as part of MAHASSA:

    Module 1
  • Introduction to Medical Anthropology
  • Healing in South Asia
  • Theory in Science and Technology Studies
  • Medical Anthropology Forum
  • Module 2
  • Practical Seminar / Applied Anthropology
  • Module 5
  • Methods in Medical Anthropology
  • Scientific Working Skills
  • Module 6
  • Master’s Thesis Preparation
  • Field research, Internship, or Literature Research
  • Module 7
  • Master’s Thesis Colloquium
  • Master’s Thesis
The Master's thesis should be based on a short field research in South Asia or a work placement. However, it can also rest upon secondary literary research if circumstances do not permit the above.

Selective Courses in Anthropology and South Asian Studies

Students can further choose between a variety of selective courses which focus on Medical Anthropology in South Asia and related anthropological fields. Different selective courses are offered in cooperation with the other departments at the South Asia Institute (SAI), the Institute of Anthropology (IfE), and the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS) in each semester. These courses cover “Contemporary Themes in Anthropology and Medical Anthropology” (Module 2) as well as “Selected Themes in South Asian Studies” (Module 3). They allow students to engage with various topics in more depth, to expand their knowledge of anthropology beyond the core courses of MAHASSA, and to learn about South Asia from the perspective of disciplines other than anthropology, such as history, political science, geography, development economics, or language studies. Selective courses in Medical Anthropology may engage with:
  • Mental Health and Ritual Healing
  • Gender and Reproductive Health
  • Traditional Medical Systems of South Asia (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Yoga, Tibetan Medicine) and their transformation
  • Non-codified therapeutic traditions of South Asia (Bone Setting)
  • Medical Anthropology and Modernity
  • Health and Ethics
  • Public Health
  • Medical Tourism

Furthermore, courses in Anthropology and South Asian studies cover a wide range of topics. Examples of courses offered in the past are:
  • From Culture to Transculture - An Anthropological Approach
  • Feasting and Fasting – Food Cultures of South Asia
  • Women as decision makers in developing countries
  • Visual cultures and gender in (post)migration studies
  • Religion and Politics in South Asia
  • Global collapse in the Anthropocene
  • Dramatic Anthropology: On the Relationship between Ethnography and Theory

For courses offered this term please visit LSF MAHASSA

Study Trajectories (120, 100, and 20 Credit Point Options)

MAHASSA is offered as a stand-alone, 2-year degree1 programme comprising a total of 120 credit points (CPs)2 and includes two different trajectories. Students who do not yet speak a South Asian language follow trajectory “a,” while students who are already fluent in one or more South Asian languages follow trajectory “b.” Alternatively, MAHASSA can be studied as a major subject for 100 CPs together with a second minor subject (trajectory “c”) or as a minor subject for 20 CPs together with another major subject (trajectories “d” and “e”). The MAHASSA programme for 120 or 100 CPs (trajectories a ,b , and c ) is structured as follows (detailed descriptions and recommended study schedules for the different study trajectories can be found in the document “Overview of new Programme Structure, Study Trajectories, and Teaching Modules 2022 MAHASSA” in the download section):

The first semester provides students with a broad introduction to the field of Medical Anthropology with a focus on South Asia. All students are taking two core introductory courses: in the “Introduction to Medical Anthropology” course, students are provided an overview of the field of medical anthropology and introduced to both its foundational and its contemporary directions, theories, and approaches. The “Healing in South Asia” course introduces students to traditional approaches to understanding health, suffering, healing in South Asia, to concepts such as medical pluralism and medical integration, to a critical examination of ‘biomedicine,’ and to the impact of modern developments and changes on South Asian medical systems. Practices, and health-seeking behaviour. Students who do not speak a South Asian language also begin to study a South Asian language (trajectory a). In addition to these courses, students choose selective thematic and regional courses in medical anthropology, anthropology, and South Asian studies that reflect their interests. Thematic and regional modules vary from semester to semester (see examples above).

The second semester focuses on anthropological research methods and research ethics in medical anthropology in the core course “Research Methods in Medical Anthropology.” It further continues the investigation of dynamic relations between traditional concepts of health, healing, and modern developments and changes with an emphasis on the impact of science and technology in and beyond medicine and healing through the core course “Theory in Science and Technology Studies.” This course also introduces students to contemporary theories and approaches from Science and Technology Studies, such as ‘Actor-Network-Theory’ and ‘Enactment’. In the “Practical Seminar”, students are introduced to a range of thematic foci, approaches, and fields of employment in applied anthropology. Besides proceeding with their selected South Asian language, students choose additional regional or thematic courses.

The third semester focuses on designing an original research project. All students take the core course “Master's Thesis Preparation,” during which they choose a relevant topic for their anthropological inquiry, carry out an intensive literature research on their proposed topic, and design a proposal and schedule for its realization. Additionally, they attend further regional and thematic courses.

The summer vacations and the fourth semester are used for anthropological fieldwork or internship/work placement and for subsequently writing the Master's thesis. Former MAHASSA students have worked on interesting and diverse research topics such as infertility in Pakistan, the sexual health risks experiences by sex workers during the COVID pandemic in Greece, the role of Islam in mental health nosology in Bangladesh, or undocumented migrants' access to healthcare in Germany. While writing their Master’s Thesis, students attend the “Master’s Thesis Colloquium,” in which they present and discuss their work and hypotheses.

Last modified 25th August, 2022

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