COOL CLASSES: “Bodies of Injustice: Health, Illness, and Healing in Contexts of Inequality”

For students returning from internship experiences who wish to deepen their understanding of social justice and healthcare, this course integrates experiential learning with readings on cultural conceptions of health, structural determinants of health, and addressing health inequalities in the United States and other countries.

Class name: “Bodies of Injustice: Health, Illness, and Healing in Contexts of Inequality”

Taught by: Visiting Professor of Independent College Programs Carol Schilling


Here’s what Schilling had to say about her class:

How can we best respond to inequities in health both in the U.S. and across the globe? What kinds of inquiry and experiences prepare global citizens to collaborate with communities to deliver ethically sound, compassionate, and effective healthcare? This Center for Peace and Global Citizenship-sponsored fall course offers Tri-Co students returning from summer internships both a broad and a deep exploration of these questions. Broad because students examine multidisciplinary scholarship and methodologies drawn primarily from the social sciences and the humanities. Deep because students reflect critically on their internship experiences through the lens of theory.

Many express gratitude for the opportunity to integrate the scholarly with the personal as thoroughly and self-consciously as they do in this course. Students especially value gaining clearer senses of who they are or can be in the world while they engage academically.

The course challenges students to understand different cultural perspectives on the etiology of disease, the labeling of illnesses, and strategies for making healthcare accessible. The readings prompt questions about political and economic inequalities that can become embodied as disease or injury and then treated with medical remedies. Students consider the possibilities and limitations of defining health as a human right and of improving health outcomes through international development approaches. Disability is also considered from cultural, human rights, and social justice perspectives. Students further compare solidarity, charity, harm reduction and other strategies with each other and in the context of their internship communities. Which approaches would be most beneficial where they interned?

Because students constantly discuss and write about their internships in relation to each week’s topic, there’s an exceptionally intense and joyful level of learning from each other. The range of majors and internship experiences represented in these discussions supports the capacious definition of health that the course encourages. Students’ academic and social justice work has focused on medical practice, education, economics, human rights, nutrition, AIDS, housing, maternal care, immigration, mental health, elder care, urban and rural challenges, substance abuse interventions, environmental advocacy, medical research, public health, storytelling, and other domains that intersect with health. As one student concluded, “Everything turns out to be related to health.”

The students have a generous vision of the world. They engage a combination of curiosity and humility that takes them into unfamiliar settings and enables them to ask new questions and confront hidden assumptions. It’s gratifying to work closely with such students as they make intellectual and personal discoveries that a liberal arts education is especially positioned to nurture.

Students end “Bodies of Injustice” with a “next steps” project where they begin to articulate an answer to that question. Their answers make tangible their aspirations to become more informed and engaged global citizens and advocates for human health.



See what other courses the Bi-Co Program in Health Studies is offering this semester.

Photo of the class’ CPGC poster session by Claire Blood-Cheney ’20

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.