Sophomore Seminars

Body Politics: Health Activism in Modern America

AMSTUD 43Q

“Medicare for All” has become a rallying cry for those calling for reform of the American health care system. But this slogan is only the most recent political expression of the conviction that health care ought to be a right and not a privilege, part of an ongoing project to expand access to health care to all Americans. Drawing together several disciplinary perspectives, this course will examine key moments in the history of health care reform movements in the modern United States, considering the successes and failures of advocates, activists, and reformers who have sought to transform the medical system and secure equal access to care. Among the topics we will consider are proposals for a national health insurance program; the fight against racial discrimination in public health and medicine; the women’s health movement; the disability rights movement; and efforts of AIDS activists to reshape the production of biomedical knowledge. You will work throughout the quarter on a research-based project on a topic of interest to you, culminating in a final paper and presentation.

There are no prerequisites for this course. By the end of the course, you can expect to be well acquainted with the disciplinary perspectives of the social and political history of the United States; the history of science, technology, and medicine; and science and technology studies.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Marie Burks

"Hello! I am thrilled to be offering a course in American health care activism. The topic could not be timelier, and it allows me to combine my interests in the social and political history of the United States; the history of science, technology, and medicine; and science and technology studies. The inspiration for this course came from a Thinking Matters course I've had the pleasure of teaching twice now, THINK 56: Health Care, Ethics, and Justice. That course examines injustices in the U.S. health care system. In this course, we will consider the efforts of ordinary Americans to bring to light and address those injustices. We will put contemporary debates about health care reform in historical context. I look forward to delving into these issues with you."