Anthropology of Health

[Thematic Line]

Coordination: Maria Manuel Quintela and Cristina Santinho


The thematic line Anthropology of Health is dedicated to developing anthropological studies on health, illness and suffering that contribute to the understanding of processes surrounding illness, treatment, cure and care, in terms of experiences, practices and policies. The current European and Portuguese social context is undergoing profound transformations, both in terms of public policy in the health field, and in relation to the economic crisis and the consequent increase in poverty. New epidemiological profiles have emerged with the reappearance of old diseases and the emergence of new vulnerabilities. New relationships have also been forged between systems of health care (formal and informal), therapeutic practices and those seeking relief from physical and social suffering. The objectives of this thematic line are to build upon CRIA’s earlier experiences in this field, in order to: a) develop anthropological studies on health in Portugal, and establish national and international networks of exchange and scientific production; b) explore the links between health and culture in the experiences of different social groups by examining the interactions between risk, suffering and discomfort with social factors such as poverty, racism, gender, migration, colonial history, health policy and social exclusion; c) reflect on health care.

This thematic line is particularly oriented towards the development of research activities and the promotion of scientific results for practical purposes in health and health care in contemporary contexts. In terms of anthropological debate, the main objectives are: a) to engage in theoretical reflection on therapeutic processes which link therapeutic and analytical power to an analysis of the interactions between the body, pain and suffering, tracing the ways in which moral and biological domains of experience are mediated; b) to reflect upon the main theoretical and methodological issues faced by conducting ethnographic research in the health field.

Local and international issues in the field of health will be analyzed from a critical perspective in order to contribute to broader anthropological debates and to support research activities and action research in areas such as aging, motherhood, therapies, access and management of medicines and health care.

This thematic line will continue to foment all kinds of initiatives, supporting researchers, students and research projects, promoting dialogue with health professionals and scientists in the social sciences and health sciences so that research may be relevant to health policies. It will also foment discussions with researchers from other CRIA research units on crosscutting themes.