What is the state’s final frontier? How and why have governments around the world been vested with the authority to manage the most intimate aspects of our existence: from the food we eat to our sexual behaviour? What has the impact of this encroachment been on our sense of self? Engaging with these questions from an historical perspective provides a critical lens for re-evaluating our own relationship to society and the state, as well as furnishing a context for considering the extent to which we are ever fundamentally “free” to possess our own bodies. Exploring the birth of “surveillance society” enables us to reflect upon – and challenge – the inherited assumptions which underpin our reliance on government and our aspirations for personal autonomy. This course ranges from the formation of the modern state in Europe and the techonologies it developed for managing populations, to global health surveillance and recent biomedical advances which have resulted in progressively interventionist governmental measures, with profound social, political and ethical implications. Topics include: surveillance; “medical police” and state-sponsored interventions in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe; the invention of the “population” as a collective body; colonialism and the global exportation of ideas about what is “normal”; “healthy citizens”: the coercive state and the democratization of society; and, finally, the limits of public health in the twenty-first century.
Course Learning Outcomes
On completing the course, students will be able to:
- Analyze the historical role of the state in regulating health.
- Reflect upon and critically consider the relationship between health and societal organization.
- Apply comparative historical approaches to examine the political, social and ethical issues which underlie current public health debates.
- Reflect upon and critically consider how Western and non-Western health systems have impacted upon each other.
Offer Semester and Day of Teaching
First semester (Wed)
|Activities||Number of hours|
|Reading / Self-study||38|
|Assessment: Essay / Report writing||30|
|Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation)||20|
Assessment: 100% coursework
|Continual assessment and task focused activities||25|
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- Casper, M., & Moore, L. J. (2009). Missing bodies: The politics of visibility. New York: New York University Press. [Electronic resource].
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