University of Heidelberg

Medical Anthropology in Heidelberg

The current health problems of South Asia are diverse. On the one hand, "old" diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, and reproductive problems continue to plague much of the population, just as they have done for generations. On the other hand the new "lifestyle diseases" like diabetes, adipositas, and heart and coronary diseases present novel challenges for the health of South Asians. Public Health professionals and development agencies are concerned to make effective interventions to address these problems, and we are convinced that the safest and most effective solutions will be those which take the historical and cultural context of South Asia into account. That is one of the reasons we have developed this course.

However, Health and Society in South Asia is not only about diseases. We are also interested in traditions of health-promotion such as yoga and meditation; in South Asian theories and practices regarding the body, food and diet, and psychological well-being; in the way that South Asians incorporate new health technologies into their culture; and in many other topics as well.

The Department of Anthropology at the South Asia Institute specializes in Medical Anthropology, with various staff members conducting research on ritual healing, folk medicine, mental health, gender and health, health and environment, Ayurveda, gender and reproduction, and other topics. One of our greatest strengths is the cooperation between the Dept. of Anthropology and the other departments within the South Asia Institute, especially the departments of Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures (Prof. Harder), Cultural and Religious History of South Asia (Prof. Hüsken), Geography (Prof. Nüsser), and South Asian History (Prof. Maclean). Medical Anthropology also benefits greatly from partnerships with Public Health (Prof. Sauerborn in Heidelberg, Prof. Fischer in Mannheim) the History of Medicine (Prof. Eckart), the Cluster of Excellence: Asia and Europe in a Global Context (Prof. Brosius) and the Institute of Ethnology (Prof. Hornbacher and Prof. Sprenger).

We offer a variety of lectures and seminars. The Medical Anthropology Forum meets every fortnight for lectures and presentations of colleagues, guests, and students. Well-known experts who have spoken here include Thomas Csordas, Elisabeth Hsu, Mark Nichter, and Allan Young. But we also encourage younger scholars to present their work in progress in this seminar series, with the intention of creating a lively and stimulating learning environment.

You can access a great deal information about Medical Anthropology and other health-related themes in South Asia via Crossasia, the new, virtual South Asia library managed and directed from the South Asia Institute. The thematic portal Health and Healing in South Asia exists since June 2008: here you will be able to read online dissertations and theses in the field of Medical Anthropology and find information about researchers, organisations and institutions. For further information, please see:

Last modified 18th May, 2021

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