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ATS1055: Introduction To Health Humanities

Faculty of Arts

Introduction To Health Humanities

Check the Handbook for the latest unit information.


How can the humanities and social sciences enhance our understanding of medicine and health? This unit will introduce you to an interdisciplinary analysis of the social context thatshapes the experience of illness and wellness. In this unit, we interrogate the sociocultural assumptions about the nature of the human condition and the types of practices that constitute healthcare, including the historical and cultural specificity of biomedicine as a discipline. We will explore a series of case studies in order to understand how social factors (such as race, class, and gender) shape health outcomes and clinical experiences. We will ask questions like: How have shifting notions of the mind-body relationship informed our understanding of health and illness? What bodies/experiences are validated as worth medicating? What are the social meanings of health and illness, and what is the ethical significance of these? How are widely shared models embedded in historical and social forces? We will also critically interrogate biomedical practice, through questions such as: What and who is a patient, and what is the role of agency? How are decisions about clinical intervention informed by patient background and the relationships between practitioners and patients? How have colonialism, racism, patriarchy and capitalism informed biomedical understandings of "normal" health? How do these understandings impact patients (particularly those who are structurally marginalised)? How are non-biomedical interventions valued and how might these engage with notions of agency? We will employ the tools of the social sciences and humanities to construct a panoramic view of the role of race, class, and gender in our social understandings of health and illness. Specific sub-topics may include reproductive health, Indigenous health and healing, disability, care, chronic illness, pandemics, eugenics, and palliative care. At the end of this unit, you will have a solid foundation in the core conceptual frameworks and interdisciplinary tools needed to interrogate the relationship between health, knowledge and power.


1 - Analytical Exercise - 25% 2 - Essay - 40% 3 - Reflection - 20% 4 - Quizzes - 15%


Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

Global challenges

Our Strategic Plan, Impact 2030, charts the path for how Monash will actively respond to climate change, preserving geopolitical security and fostering thriving communities over the next decade. Read more

This unit covers content related to the following Global Challenges:

Thriving Communities

Sustainable development goals

Adopted by the UN Member States in 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. Read more

This unit covers content related to the following SDGs:

3. Good Health and Well-Being 5. Gender Equality 10. Reduced Inequalities