Rebranding our field? Toward an articulation of health anthropology

Hans Albert Baer, Merrill Singer, Debbi Long, Pamela Erickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we consider whether the term “medical anthropology” is serving us as well as it could be and whether the term “health anthropology” could be more appropriate. We argue that medical anthropology is used metonymically; that is, it is a part of the field that is used, inaccurately, to describe the whole. Anthropologists research, teach, and consult in health work in far broader contexts than the term “medical” implies. Continuing to describe ourselves as medical anthropologists privileges biomedicine over other conceptualizations of health and saddles us with the risk of making ethnocentric assumptions about health, wellness, and unwellness into the field. It reproduces a focus on the individual, which is not reflective of many health and healing systems. Given the maturity, diversity, and complexity of our subdiscipline, we ask whether “health anthropology” may be a more accurate description of our collective endeavor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-510
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016

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