Eating and Healing: Biocultural Perspectives - ANTS5850

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Students will learn about the significance of eating and healing in relation to biocultural evolution, globalisation, identity and health. The module will cover the evolution of primate diets and self-medication, different modes of food procurement, production and processing, and the relationship of 'drug-foods' to trade, colonial expansion and the process of globalisation. Moving from production and distribution to eating and healing specifically, the module will cover notions of identity at collective and individual levels in relation to food and medicinal plant consumption, as well as political and spiritual aspects of eating and healing with plants (e.g. food/health sovereignty).We will also look at various forms of disordered eating and drug misuse from a biocultural perspective.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150


BSc Anthropology, BSc Biological Anthropology, BA Social Anthropology (and related programmes)

Method of assessment

Essay (2000 words) (40%)
Examination, 2 hour (60%)

Reassessment method: Like for like

Indicative reading

Bordo, S. 1993. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body.
Diamond, Jared 1999 Germs, Guns and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. London:
Vintage Books.

Drewnowski, A., and N. Darmon 2005 Food Choices and Diet Costs: An Economic
Analysis. Journal of Nutrition 135(4):900-904.

Etkin, Nina L., ed. Eating on the Wild Side: The Pharmacologic, Ecologic, and Social
Implications of Using Noncultigens. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Guendelman, Sylvia, and Barbara Abrams 1995 Dietary Intake among Mexican-American
Women: Generational Differences and a Comparison with White Non-Hispanic Women.
American Journal of Public health 85:20-25.

Weigel, M. M., et al. 2007 The Household Food Insecurity and Health Outcomes of
U.S.-Mexico Border Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers. Journal of Immigrant and
Minority Health 9:157-169.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Demonstrate an ability to critically assess human nutritional requirements/recommendations from an evolutionary perspective and how these have changed over time

8.2 Construct a persuasive argument to explain how and why medicinal plants affect human physiology

8.3 Critically evaluate the overlap of eating and healing behaviour, especially related to consumption of plants, in order to understand the food-medicine continuum.

8.4 Understand the complexity of the relationships between food production, cultural evolution and globalisation in order to relate anthropological debates to current affairs

8.5 Demonstrate a critical understanding of the role of food and medicine consumption in the development of social/cultural identity and diversity over time

8.6 Apply a biocultural perspective to anthropological problems/questions when considering eating and healing


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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