Thematic Lines

Anthropology of Health

Coordination: Maria Manuel Quintela and Mónica Saavedra


The thematic line Anthropology of Health is dedicated to developing anthropological studies on health and illness as processes, on body and suffering, contributing to the understanding of experiences, practices and policies related to illness, treatment, cure and care. The current Portuguese and international social contexts are going through profound sanitary, environmental and economic transformations with an impact on health policies. These issues aggravated the economic crises and increased poverty and vulnerability of individuals and communities. New epidemiological profiles have surfaced with the emergence of new diseases and the reappearance of old ones, resulting in the emergence of new vulnerabilities. On the other hand, the medicalisation and naturalisation of disease related to old age, as well as the Portuguese demographic profile also corroborate the importance of researching the role of family relations in Portuguese society. 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.

This thematic line is particularly oriented towards the development of research activities and the dissemination of scientific results, with potential applicability in the complexity and diversity of the health field. In terms of the anthropological debate, the main objectives are: a) to develop anthropological studies on health in Portugal and other contexts, establishing national and international networks of exchange and scientific production; b) reflect on the theoretical and methodological issues faced by ethnographic research in the field of health; c) explore the relationships between health, biology and culture in the experiences of different social groups, examining the interactions between risk, suffering and malaise on the one hand, and, on the other hand, social factors such as poverty, racism, gender, migration, health policies and social exclusion; d) analyze the political and historical factors that produce, reproduce and explain health inequalities; e) reflect on health care.

We intend to explore the boundaries of the anthropology of health, extending the debate to the relationship between biology, health, culture and medical systems, and adopting a critical approach to local and global themes. This thematic line aims, on the one hand, to contribute to broader anthropological debates and, on the other, to support research and action research activities on health-related issues. Examples of this are topics such as aging, chronicity, infectious diseases, motherhood, therapeutic practices, vaccination, access and ‘management’ of medicines and health care. In addition, the line also intends to promote dialogue between social scientists, health professionals and health sciences researchers with a view to training and developing joint research projects.

All CRIA members of the four research groups, thematic lines and laboratories, as well as researchers from other institutions and professionals in the health field can integrate this line. In this way, it is intended: a) to promote the debate and explore synergies with the research groups and other thematic lines around common anthropological; b) foster initiatives and support researchers, students and research projects, in order to promote dialogue between health professionals, social sciences and health sciences researchers, aiming at producing relevant research outcomes to health policies and at fostering the knowledge of Portuguese society.

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