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Field notes in the clinic: on medicine, anthropology and pedagogy in South Africa
  1. Michelle Pentecost1,2
  1. 1 Global Health and Social Medicine, Kings College London, London, UK
  2. 2 School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michelle Pentecost, Global Health and Social Medicine, Kings College London, London WC2R 2LS, UK; michelle.pentecost{at}


This commentary is about medicine, anthropology and pedagogy: about the ways of knowing that different disciplinary orientations permit. I draw on a field note taken in the clinic to illustrate how cultures of healthcare and health sciences training in South Africa bracket the historical, social and political contexts of health and illness in this setting, at the expense of patient care and physician wellbeing. I consider what anthropological inquiry can offer to clinical practice, and advocate for critical orientations to clinical work and teaching that extend humanity to patients and providers.

  • medical anthropology
  • medical education
  • medical humanities

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  • Contributors MP is the sole author of this publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.