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Health and Society in South Asia

Degree Master of Arts
Application access restricted
Course commences winter semester only
Course duration 4 semesters
Format option full-time only
Language requirements English (on application)
Language of instruction English
Other features postgraduate/ consecutive

Faculty for Behavioral and Cultural Studies

Course Outline

What is the attitude of people in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) to health and illness? What theories underlie the indigenous medical systems of South Asia (Ayurveda, Siddha, Yoga, Unani, etc.) and how are they practised? What are the most prominent and urgent health problems in South Asia today, and how do the different health systems (conventional and indigenous) respond to them? What impact are environmental changes having on the medical situation in South Asia? These and similar issues are the subject of interdisciplinary study in the M.A. course Health and Society in South Asia.

The two-year M.A. programme, conducted in English, combines medical anthropology with South Asian studies. It addresses two distinct groups: (1) students planning to work in medical development or who have already gained professional experience in that field, and (2) students aspiring to an academic career in anthropology/ethnology or a neighbouring discipline. We also hope to interest South(east) Asian and other international students in the course.

With its various departments (Anthropology, Cultural and Religious History of South Asia (Classical Indology), Development Economics, Geography, History, Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures (Modern Indology), Political Science) and branch offices in Colombo, Delhi, Islamabad and Kathmandu, the South Asia Institute (SAI) is the ideal location for the course.

Teaching and research at the South Asia Institute benefit equally from a wealth of source material and scholarly literature on the relevant subjects that is unrivalled anywhere else in Europe. The library boasts more than 260,000 volumes and a comprehensive collection of essential periodicals, plus a multi-media section.

International teaching staff, conferences and lecture series enable students to gain immediate and practical access to contemporary issues and research fields. Cooperation with the Institute of Public Health, the cluster of excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” and the Institute of Anthropology swells the ranks of scholars teaching classes and supervising written work in the framework of the M.A. course.

The M.A. programme consists of the following modules:

  • Introduction to Medical Anthropology
  • Healing in South Asia
  • Health and Environment in South Asia
  • Methods in Medical Anthropology

Students can choose from a variety of optional classes in South Asian Studies and Medical Anthropology. They are required to study one South Asian language for a period of two semesters. Classes on presentation technique and academic English support the students in their endeavours and prepare them for their later careers. Ideally, the M.A. thesis should build on a small-scale research project or internship in South Asia, but it can also be based exclusively on an engagement with the specialist literature on a particular topic.

Course structure

The first semester introduces medical anthropology.  In addition, students must chose courses from the range of compulsory elective modules in anthropology, South Asian studies and, if applicable, a South Asian language. The compulsory elective modules vary each year. Thematic foci include:

  • Mental Health
  • Ritual Healing
  • Reproductive Health
  • Anthropology of the Body
  • Development and Public Health
  • Globalization and Medicine
  • Medical History of South Asia
  • South Asian Knowledge Systems

In the second semester, the focus is on research methods in medical anthropology and healing systems in South Asia.  At the same time, students can, where applicable, continue to study a South Asian language and select further courses from the range of compulsory elective modules.

In the third semester, students will start to prepare their research; in addition to extensive literature reviews, they will develop a research plan and a research proposal in cooperation with their supervisor. Furthermore, students select additional courses from the range of compulsory elective modules.

Students start their own research work or internship in the lecture-free period prior to the fourth semester. During the lecture period, the students write their Master's theses and attend a weekly colloquium.

For more detailed information on requirements and the structure of this Master’s degree programme, please consult the examination rules and regulations, the module handbook, the admission regulations and the programme’s website (

Research fields

  • Ritual Healing
  • Traditional Medical Systems of South Asia (Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine, popular medicine)
  • Health and the Environment
  • Health and Ethics
  • Reproductive Health
  • Culture and Medicine



Access to the course is restricted. You will find the current Admission regulations here.

Prospective Students from Germany
Prospective students from Germany can enrol without prior application at the Central University Administration building by the beginning of the lecture period. To matriculate, they are required to show a written statement of admission issued by the representative of the Master’s programme they wish to attend, confirming that the requirements set out in the Admission Regulations have been met. Please apply to the academic advisor (see below) for further information on how to proceed.

International prospective students
Prospective students from other countries must apply in writing, so that their previous academic record can be verified. The deadline for international applicants is 15 June for the winter semester. Applications must be addressed directly to the International Relations Office. Please use the M.A. application form here and enclose the necessary documents.

Current information on procedure

Examination regulations

Examination regulations Master (14 June 2007, last amended 3 December 2015, english translation)
Examination regulations Master (14 June 2007, last amended 7 February 2013)

Module Handbook

Please click here to find the latest Module Handbook.

Examinations board

Issues arising in connection with examinations, credit transfer and academic credential recognition are dealt with by the relevant examinations board/office. For more information, consult the academic advisor(s) indicated below.


Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester.

Academic advisor

Kira Schmidt Stiedenroth
South Asia Institute
Department of Anthropology
Im Neuenheimer Feld 330, Room 510
Office hours: Tue. 14-16 pm (prior e-mail notification requested)
Phone: +49 (0)6221-54-8798


M.A. Health and Society in South Asia
South Asia Institute
Im Neuenheimer Feld 330
D-69120 Heidelberg

Department of Anthropology
phone: +49 (0)6221 548931, 548798
fax: +49 (0)6221 548998


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Latest Revision: 2017-09-19
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