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Department of Anthropology

Biological Anthropology

Spring 2021

ANTH 263.001 / Medical Experimentation & the Black Body

100% Web - Asynchronous

Professor: Carlina de la Cova

(3 credits) 

Fulfills the Biological Requirement for Anthropology Major 

Medical Minor Elective

Course Readings:

Please go to the USC Bookstore to find what books you will need for this course: 

Course Description:

This is a cross-disciplinary study of how the bodies of Africans and African Americans were used in medical experimentation, starting in the late 18th century and continuing to the present. We will examine how peoples of African descent were researched, studied, and experimented upon under the guise of advancing medicine knowledge. We will also evaluate how this process has shifted from physical bodies to genetic material. Integral to the course will be understanding scientific cultural beliefs of the 18th through the early 20th century as well as the cultural beliefs of the Black community in regard to health, medicine, white physicians, and present day mistrust of the medical community. Through readings, discussions, primary sources, and lectures, emphasis will be placed on: medical experimentation on African Americans in the Antebellum era, the use of Black bodies as materia medica (teaching/learning subjects in medicine) through time, the Eugenics movement, Black mistrust of the medical community, and the overarching theme that African Americans were separate and not equal, yet the medical knowledge gained from them was still applicable to Euro-American elites.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.