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Deborah Engelen-Eigles
Department of Sociology / Women and Gender Studies
Century College
Family, Culture, Medicine: A Problem-Based Learning Case

This four-part problem-based learning case examines cultural conflicts between Western medicine and non-Western traditional healing practices. Students consider notions of cultural relativism and ethnocentrism through the lens of social institutions, including the family and the medical system. After an introductory scenario, students are asked to assume the roles of ethics committee members of a national nursing professional organization to provide advice to a member chapter confronting a difficult clinical situation. Student work involves individual and group assignments, written products, and oral presentations. While developed for a course on the sociology of the family, the case could easily be adapted to other sociology courses such as social problems, sociology of culture, and sociology of medicine, as well as disciplines such as public health and social work.

To Be Who I Am: An Issues Case on Identity and the Body

This case examines a rare condition known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which an individual has a persistent and consuming desire to become an amputee. Students apply Charles Horton Cooley’s theory of the "looking-glass self" to explore factors that play a role in the creation of identity and self-concept. They further compare and critique cultural attributions of deviance to different forms of body modification and explore the apparent contradictions inherent in a desire condemned as deviant by society, yet expressed in terms of values widely promoted by that society. The case is appropriate for introductory sociology courses as well as upper division and/or topics courses in social psychology, deviance, medical ethics, research methods, and disability studies.