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Anthropology and Health Care

Table of Contents



Concept of social suffering and structural violence.

Critical Medical Anthropology (CMA) theory.

Critical analysis of social suffering and structural violence in the anthropology of health care or medical anthropology.

Relevant case and examples.



Introduction to Social Suffering and Structural Violence

Social suffering alongside structural violence is both harmful for human health and the aspects have significant consequences on human health and life, making it miserable. The concept of the mentioned aspects tends to relate to the anthropology of healthcare or even considered as medical anthropology. Besides, Critical Medical Anthropology (CMA) theory paves a broad scope analysis of both the terms in the medical or healthcare aspects. The aim of the study lies in the analysis of the relevancy of social suffering alongside structural violence with the help of CMA theory. In this respect, the study is going to be dealing with a particular concept of both- social sufferings and structural violence. In addition, to this, the idea of CMA will also be discussed further linking it to the above-mentioned concepts in the anthropology of healthcare. Finally, the study will be supported through relevant examples related to the case. 

Discussion on Social Suffering and Structural Violence

Concept of Social Suffering and Structural Violence

Social suffering reflects the consequences that are being by an individual socially. As per the analysis of Hammad and Tribe (2020:25), social sufferings reveals the implications of the human being within the society in terms of feminine, depression, torture, war and others. Influenced by the name, it can be assumed that social sufferings relate to the issues that are being faced by the human being due to the political upsurge, institutional power, economic and others. In the mentions of McLean and Panter‐Brick (2018:7), social sufferings cannot be classified as personal sufferings. Other than that, the response of the human or the methods or process of human beings in terms of dealing with social issues also leads to social suffering.

For instance, not involved in the social issues or not responding to the issue more than required can gradually settle the problem and it can be solved with due course of time. However, as argued by Muderedzi, Eide, Braathen, & Stray-Pedersen (2017:8), too much interference in the social matter can provoke the issue more leading to worse consequences. This gradually hurts every one present within the society and brings the shape of social suffering. Similarly, as pointed out by Coupland, Page, Stein, Carrico, Evans, Dixon, Sokunny, Phou & Maher (2019:75), the notion in terms of social sufferings tends to break down certain boundaries that exist between the scholarly discipline and cross-discipline. However, the notion seems to possess serious threats to mankind, accounting for the nominative issues within the social consequences.

Conversely, structural violence tends to address injustice and poverty while attempting to understand the real dynamics in terms of poverty and sufferings. Additionally, as opined by Eli (2018:480), structural violence also aims at understanding the political economy and the working of power. It also describes the social arrangement that tends to put the populations or the individual within a society in a harmful condition. In this case, also as the name suggests, structural violence is capable of harming the people adversely. This also refers to the harm of the social structure or some of the social institutions that further aims at harming the coming people. It also prevents the populations from accessing the basic needs. For instance, institutionalised adults, classism, ageism, nationalism, racism, sexism, ethnocentrism and many others can be categorised in this section. According to the explanation of Gamlin and Hawkes (2018:60), structural violence can also be considered to be the unavoidable impairments in terms of fundamental needs of human. In this respect, it can be classified that the unnecessary disability and relating to the high cause of premature death.

However, as argued by Pontrandolfo (2016:205), this phenomenon is closely related to the aspects of social injustice. Just because of structural violence, people seem to be facing different consequences in different social structures. People often seem to be confusing structural violence with direct violence. However, both aspects seem to be high interdependent. Direct violence further includes racial violence, hate crimes, gender violence, police violence, terrorism, state violence, war and others. Henceforth, it can be concluded that structural violence is also related to human life in such a way that also affects the other things that are related to life. Moreover, the consequences that are being faced by the violence also affect the state of mind within a human being.

Critical Medical Anthropology (CMA) Theory

CMA theory tends to present anthropology in healthcare, further enhancing the blend of ground level and critical theory of ethnographic approaches. As per the opinion of Rothbart and Poder (2017:38), the theory mainly considers the aspects of health in terms of the political economy alongside the effect of health that is being faced by the people due to social inequality. The main purpose of the theory emphasises on the theoretical perspective in terms of medical anthropology. As per the examination of Shannon, Motta, Cáceres, Skordis-Worrall, Bowie & Prost (2017:13), the theory also focuses on the significance of the economic and political structure relating to global capitalism. The theory works with proper analysis of the relationship between the medical instances and the social and cultural aspects. The theory also facilitates the process of health, along with illness in terms of health alongside social science.

Additionally, as opined by Grace, Bais & Roth (2018:905), the theory mainly concerns the social determinants in terms of health. It also adds up to the dimensions of anthropology based on the critical and traditional approaches of health. As per this theory, it has been recognised that the social structure or social aspects tend to have a direct or indirect effect on the health of humans. At the initial stage, the explanations of the behaviours and beliefs related to the health were narrowed to the local level. The wider cause of the determinants of health was ignored by the aspects. However, critical understanding enabled the theory to vertical links among the different concepts. Hence, as per this theory, there is a direct interaction with the individual health within the domain.

Critical Analysis of Social Suffering and Structural Violence in The Anthropology of Health Care or Medical Anthropology

Social sufferings, along with structural violence, relate directly or indirectly to the health consequences faced by the individuals within a society. It is because, as per CMA theory, the focused attention of anthropology is based on the understanding of the origin of the dominants of the cultural construction in terms of health. As per the illustration of Newnham, Pincombe &McKellar (2016:25), cultural construction reveals the gender, ethnic group, social class and many others. Additionally, the theory also emphasised on the power in terms of health structure alongside the inequalities that are being faced in terms o health care. This concept of the theory relates to the aspects of social; sufferings and structural violence. It is because due to the inequalities that are being faced also can be considered as the structural violence; the individuals face the consequences of not receiving proper treatment, further adding up to the health complications. Hence, this concept determines the aspects of social divisions impacting the treatment of common peoples. Conversely, as per the statement of Padilla, Matiz-Reyes, Colón-Burgos, Varas-Díaz & Vertovec (2019:148), CMA also addresses social origin in terms of illness. This reflects upon the aspects of discrimination, industrial pollution, poverty, social violence and others.

From the above-mentioned concept, it can be depicted that social sufferings can result from the social injustice within the domain. The improper social structure that discriminates the poor and provides numerous facilities to the rich also creates a social difference further affecting the life of the millions of people within the society. In addition to this, fear of violence also contributes to the aspects of poor health within the domain. Nonetheless, as argued by Moe, Boonmongkon, Wang, Phukao, Ojanen & Guadamuz (2017:240), agency and experience that further denotes action and group decision making are also influenced by the aspects of social violence or structure. Henceforth, social sufferings and structural violence are directly or indirectly related to several health issues. It is because, from the structural violence, discrimination and in inequalities takes birth. This further leads to improper treatment that fails to provide the relevant healthcare facilities to all the population within the domain. Therefore, the above-mentioned facts relate to the ineffective healthcare facilities within a society further affecting the lives of the individuals. Henceforth, relating the aspects based on the concept of anthropology, it can be analysed that both aspects are likely to harm the healthcare of the individuals within the domain.

Relevant Case and Examples

Social suffering and structural violence seem to be interrelated to each other, in most of the cases; it can be observed that structural violence within a society leads to social suffering. Conversely, social sufferings can also lead to the case of structural violence. However, as per the opinion of Dickerson, Baldwin, Belcourt, Belone, Gittelsohn, Kaholokula, Lowe, Patten & Wallerstein (2020:35), both aspects seem to be affecting the health of humans within the society adversely. Both the criteria are effective in reducing the healthcare facilities, further promoting ill-health within the domain. For instance, the community fights that are going on between two different religions are common among the different parts of the world. The fights between two different communities can be classified as structural violence. It is because due to the political upsurge, common people are affected.

This leading to the destruction of the houses and foods and others further leading to a complication situation. Affect that the common people are having or the society is having due to the fight can be considered as social suffering (Singer and Baer, 2018:28). As a result of this, common people are facing inequality in terms of health and the consequences of no food or no facilities are also faced by common people. Therefore, this situation relates to social sufferings in terms of structural violence. Additionally, the structural violence also implants a fear among the individual, leading to social sufferings.

On the other hand, the current situation that is being faced in different parts of the world that is the spread of COVID-19 is also considered to be an aspect of social suffering. The rapid spread of COVID-19 is disturbing the people within different communities abruptly. It is because the spread of the pandemic is affecting the lives of the people further leading to death in some of the cases. It is considered to be social suffering because, if it affects one people within a society, then the whole society is going to be suffering from its post effects. Additionally, it is also impacting on the health condition of the millions of people within society. Due to a large number of patients suffering from the pandemic, the healthcare facility within the society seems to be deteriorating. It is because it is affecting the healthcare faculty within a society. Hence, the spread of the current pandemic all over several nations is affecting the healthcare facilities further affecting the social structure and leading people through social sufferings. Hence, the mentioned scenarios effectively justify social sufferings and structural violence in terms of healthcare anthropology.

Conclusion on Social Suffering and Structural Violence

From the above study, it can be analysed that social suffering alongside structural violence is the two different concepts that are interrelated to each other. Both the concepts seem to be having an adverse effect on the lives of the humans within the society. Social suffering leads to the suffering that is being faced by human beings due or consequences of social instances. Based on the CMA theory, the effects that the social happenings cause on the life of the individuals are categorised as the social sufferings. For instance, the spread of the current pandemic that is COVID-19 is likely to be social suffering for all the population within a domain as it is affecting the lives of millions of people. Above all, it is being spread socially. Hence, it can be characterised as social sufferings. On the other hand, structural violence refers to the consequences faced in terms of structural indifference. For instance, the political upsurge between different communities can be classified as structural violence. It is because due to the political upsurge, the health of the individuals within the society is affected.

References for Social Suffering and Structural Violence

Coupland, H., Page, K., Stein, E., Carrico, A., Evans, J., Dixon, T., Sokunny, M., Phou, M. and Maher, L., 2019. ‘Structural interventions and social suffering: Responding to amphetamine-type stimulant use among female entertainment and sex workers in Cambodia’, International Journal of Drug Policy, 64, pp.70-78.

Dickerson, D., Baldwin, J.A., Belcourt, A., Belone, L., Gittelsohn, J., Kaholokula, J.K.A., Lowe, J., Patten, C.A. and Wallerstein, N., 2020. ‘Encompassing cultural contexts within scientific research methodologies in the development of health promotion interventions’, Prevention Science, 21(1), pp.33-42.

Eli, K., 2018. ‘Striving for liminality: Eating disorders and social suffering’, Transcultural psychiatry, 55(4), pp.475-494.

Gamlin, J.B. and Hawkes, S.J., 2018. ‘Masculinities on the continuum of structural violence: the case of Mexico’s homicide epidemic’, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 25(1), pp.50-71.

Grace, B.L., Bais, R. and Roth, B.J., 2018. ‘The violence of uncertainty—undermining immigrant and refugee health’, N Engl J Med, 379(10), pp.904-905.

Hammad, J. and Tribe, R., 2020. ‘Social suffering and the psychological impact of structural violence and economic oppression in an ongoing conflict setting: The Gaza Strip’, Journal of community psychology.

McLean, K.E. and Panter‐Brick, C., 2018. ‘Violence, structural and interpersonal’, The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, pp.1-7.

Moe, T., Boonmongkon, P., Wang, X., Phukao, D., Ojanen, T.T. and Guadamuz, T.E., 2017. ‘A critical ethnographic study on betel quid dependence among young men in Mandalay, Myanmar’, Asia-Pacific Social Science Review, 17(2), pp.239-248.

Muderedzi, J.T., Eide, A.H., Braathen, S.H. and Stray-Pedersen, B., 2017. ‘Exploring structural violence in the context of disability and poverty in Zimbabwe’, African Journal of Disability (Online), 6, pp.1-9.

Newnham, E.C., Pincombe, J.I. and McKellar, L.V., 2016. ‘Critical medical anthropology in midwifery research: a framework for ethnographic analysis’, Global qualitative nursing research, 3, p.2333393616675029.

Padilla, M., Matiz-Reyes, A., Colón-Burgos, J.F., Varas-Díaz, N. and Vertovec, J., 2019. ‘Adaptation of PhotoVoice methodology to promote policy dialog among street-based drug users in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic’, Arts & health, 11(2), pp.147-162.

Pontrandolfo, S., 2016. ‘Disappearance of a community and social suffering: The Case of a Southern Italy Roma Community’, Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 25(2), pp.203-216.

Rothbart, D. and Poder, P., 2017. ‘Systemic Humiliation as Daily Social Suffering’, In Alleviating World Suffering (pp. 35-48). Springer, Cham.

Shannon, G.D., Motta, A., Cáceres, C.F., Skordis-Worrall, J., Bowie, D. and Prost, A., 2017. ¿ Somosiguales? ‘Using a structural violence framework to understand gender and health inequities from an intersectional perspective in the Peruvian Amazon’, Global health action, 10(sup2), p.1330458.

Singer, M. and Baer, H., 2018. Critical medical anthropology. Routledge.Abingdon.

Remember, at the center of any academic work, lies clarity and evidence. Should you need further assistance, do look up to our Healthcare Assignment Help

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