An examination of theory and method in sociocultural anthropology as applied in the analysis of specific societies. The course will focus on case studies of societies from different ethnographic areas.
Limited to 45 students. Spring semester. Professor Gewertz.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
How can anthropological perspectives help us understand the intended and unintended consequences of our efforts to build a better world? This course will address this question by looking at anthropological studies of the implementation and consequences of large-scale, deeply transformative policies and practices intended to improve people’s lives, solve current problems, and prevent future catastrophes. We will focus especially on comparisons between China and the United States, which have two of the world’s largest and most influential economies and face many similar problems, but have developed very different approaches to trying to build a better world. We will evaluate current proposals for transformative new policies and practices, and consider how efforts to build a better world might benefit from anthropologists’ ability to look holistically at relationships between personal experiences, psychology, cultural norms, social structures, philosophy, laws, history, politics, economics, biology, technology, environmental issues, global systems, and international relations. Students will learn to draw on anthropological perspectives as they develop and write about their own ideas for building a better world and about consequences those ideas might have.
Limited to 19 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Fong.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
How can anthropology help us understand the cultural assumptions, empirical knowledge, and causal and interpretive theories underlying science fiction and related genres such as fantasy, magical realism, and social science fiction? How can anthropology help writers of such genres draw on more valid and plausible assumptions, knowledge, and theories as they build fictional worlds and characters? How can fictional writers’ hypotheses about what events, people, and processes might look like under different conditions, and their efforts to write about such hypotheses in innovative, engaging, and thought-provoking ways, help us think about how anthropologists might write about real-life experiences that differ from those we already understand? This course will help students think about such questions by engaging with anthropological studies and science fiction stories that relate to each other in enlightening ways. We will read and discuss stories that describe how people in a variety of societies might react to experiences that have not yet been documented in our world, as well as anthropological ethnographies of how real people in those same societies deal with analogous experiences in our world. As part of this process, we will discuss the nature and meaning of life, the universe, science, and human behavior, and consider how understandings of anthropology, science fiction, and related genres might help us predict the outcomes of current news events.
Limited to 19 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Fong.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as ANTH 209, SOCI 207, and SWAG 209) This seminar uses feminist theory and methods to consider scientific practice and the production of scientific knowledge. We will explore how science reflects and reinforces social relations, positions, and hierarchies as well as whether and how scientific practice and knowledge might be made more accurate and socially beneficial. Central to this course is how assumptions about sex, gender and race have shaped what we have come to know as “true,” “natural,” and “fact.” We will explore interdisciplinary works on three main themes: feminist critiques of objectivity; the structure and meanings of natural variations, especially human differences; and challenges to familiar binaries (nature/culture, human/animal, female/male, etc).
Students who completed SWAG 108/ANTH 211 Feminist Science Studies in Fall 2019/20 will need to consult with Professor Karkazis prior to enrolling.
Limited to 20 students with 5 seats reserved for first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Karkazis.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Considering a natural world radically remade by industrialization, this course explores the shifting relationship between humans and their environment. How do different social groups imagine, identify, and experience environmental change? Why does this matter for our collective environmental futures? Integrating diverse perspectives into the historical narrative of human-environment interactions, we investigate various geological and cultural contexts, structures of inequality, and the changing relationship between “nature” and “culture.” Drawing together recent work in anthropology as well as science studies, political ecology, and critical geography, the course emphasizes how processes of power and expertise work in tandem to shape people’s claims to the environment. Ultimately, with an eye toward the slow violence of ecological catastrophe, we consider the theoretical and political implications of living within nonconsensual chemical, colonial, and capital entanglements.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Nguyen.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as MUSI 232 and ANTH 233) If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? A provisional answer from the field of sound studies is: no, the falling tree produces vibration, but does not make a sound absent a listening, hearing human subject. Take another step, and we arrive at ethnomusicologist John Blacking’s time-honored (but not unproblematic) definition of music as “humanly organized sound” and “soundly organized humanity.” In this course, we linger at the intersections of sound and music, listening and hearing to learn about the human. What happens as we encounter music, sound, and voice as forms of vibration available to our senses rather than as texts and sonic objects? How are listening and hearing culturally specific practices shaped by particular histories, identities, technologies, hierarchies of the senses, capitalist desires, human ecologies, concepts of ability and disability, and the work of performers, scholars, and sound artists? In addressing these questions through listening exercises and readings in music, sound, media studies, and anthropology, and listening exercises, we will employ what Pauline Oliveros calls “Deep Listening” (an ethical practice of listening to other humans and non-humans and to music) as a research methodology. Ultimately, this course will attune us to the urgency of listening to the sounds of protest, hearing voices speaking and singing across differences of power and privilege, and attending to what the sounds of the Anthropocene signal.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Engelhardt.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as MUSI 238, ANTH 239 and FAMS 312) This course is about exploring, participating in, and documenting the musical communities and acoustic terrain of the Connecticut River Valley. The first part of the course will focus on local histories and music scenes, ethnographic methods and technologies, and different techniques of documentary representation. The second part of the course will involve intensive, sustained engagement with musicians and sounds in the Amherst vicinity (and beyond). Course participants will give weekly updates about their fieldwork projects and are expected to become well-versed in the musics they are studying. There will be a significant amount of work and travel outside of class meetings. The course will culminate in contributions to a web-based documentary archive of soundscapes projects. We will also benefit from visits and interaction with local musicians. Two class meetings per week. Visit http://www.valleysoundscapes.org/ for more information.
Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Engelhardt.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ANTH 241 and FAMS 378) This course will explore and evaluate various visual genres, including photography, ethnographic film, and museum presentation as modes of anthropological analysis—as media of communication facilitating cross-cultural understanding. Among the topics to be examined are the ethics of observation, the politics of artifact collection and display, the dilemma of representing non-Western “others” through Western media, and the challenge of interpreting indigenously produced visual depictions of “self” and “other.”
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Gewertz.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
The aim of this course is to introduce the ways that medical anthropologists understand illness, suffering, and healing as taking shape amidst a complex interplay of biological, psychological, social, political-economic, and environmental processes. The course is designed to engage a broad range of medical anthropology topics, theoretical approaches, and research techniques by examining case studies concerned with such issues as chronic illness and social suffering, ritual and religious forms of healing, illness and inequality, medicalization, the global AIDS crisis, the social life of new medical technologies, and the politics of global health and humanitarian intervention. A basic premise of the course is that an understanding of illness, health, and the body requires an understanding of the contexts in which they are experienced, contexts contingently shaped by interwoven processes of local, national, and global significance. Particular emphasis will thus be placed on ethnographic approaches to the lived context in which illness and other forms of suffering are experienced, narrated, and addressed. Our focus will be comparative, treating illness, suffering, and healing in a range of societies and settings—from Haiti to China, from urban Brazil to rural Nepal, from the townships of South Africa to genetic labs in the United States.
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor C. Dole.2022-23: Not offered
From diamonds and bananas to coca and coal, natural wealth as commodities have shaped the way we think of global connections from early colonial encounters to the present. They are signs of the legacies of colonial exploitation as well as the seemingly infinite reach of global capital. Yet, anthropology of the politics around these commodities—that is, a critical understanding of the places of their production, extraction and exchange, along with the people whose lives are intimately tied to these processes—has also brought to the fore the provocative and often unpredictable ways in which the politics of natural resources has generated new forms of resistances, cultural practices and social worlds. They are pivots around which nations are being imagined, states are being legitimated, and nature itself is being re-defined. This course will examine anthropological literature on the politics and practices around natural wealth. Drawing on examples from varied cultural contexts, such as the petroleum boom in Nigeria, the occult practices of tin miners in Colombia, coffee-drinking in American households, or the coal mining communities in South Africa, among others, this course aims to understand the social and political lives of natural resources and how they help us to conceptually approach colonialism, capitalism and globalization.
Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Chowdhury.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ANTH 265 and ASLC 266) This course draws on ethnographic writings, documentary film, and literary accounts to examine the everyday realities of people living in the region commonly referred to as the Middle East. Rather than attempting a survey of the entire region, the course explores a number of important themes in the anthropology of the Middle East. These themes include, among others: gender and sexuality, religious piety, urban space, migration, and political protest. By the end of the course, students will have gained an understanding of some of the most pressing issues being faced in the region, and the ways that anthropologists have explored these issues. No previous knowledge of the Middle East or anthropology is assumed.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Dole.2022-23: Not offered
How do appeals to nature—so called “natural” traits or “essences”—undergird the way race adheres to specific bodies? How does race, in turn, go beyond bodies to mark particular “natural” landscapes and non-human entities as other? In short, how can we understand the historically powerful relationship between race and nature? Drawing on anthropology and critical race studies, this course examines how race and nature work to convey “timeless truths,” inform notions of identity, and justify inequalities. Throughout the semester, we consider how race and nature act through bodies, environments, discourses, and metaphors to create new forms of belonging and exclusion. To these ends, we analyze concepts such as wilderness/wildness, scientific racism, contamination and purity, human-animal relations, sovereignty and nationalism, environmentalism, and environmental disasters to explore how race gets naturalized, and nature racialized.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Nguyen2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
From Black Lives Matter and the farmers' uprising in India, to the Mahsa Amini protests in Iran and international climate strikes, protests across the globe are questioning the social, political, and economic status quo. This course explores the concept and practice of protest from sociological and anthropological perspectives. Why do people protest? What are their cultural and social forms? How does one understand the emotions involved? What is the role of technology? What relationships exist between the act of protest and social movements? Are protests always progressive? How does the study of protest help one understand power, democracy, and societal change? To explore these questions we will look at ethnography and history of collective mobilizations, from anti-colonial movements to nationalist struggles, as well as contemplate the future of protest for the U.S. and the rest of the world. While the readings will include case study research and key theoretical texts, we will also speak with organizers and participants of current uprisings to understand concerns on the ground.
Limited to 30 students. Omit 2023-24. Professors Holleman and Chowdhury.
2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
What does it mean to be Asian American today? At once marginalized and woefully unspecific, Asian American identity seems to occupy a purgatorial status in the American racial imagination. How have Asian Americans been understood within, and how do they understand themselves within, white institutions, anti-black hierarchies, and capitalist orders? And what are the cumulative psychic effects of their quotidian, uneventful, and often unspoken racializations? The course begins by engaging a variety of historical events, social movements, racialized imaginaries to consider how Asian American history is vitally shaped by not only repression and assimilation, but also radicalism and innovation. From this foundation, we then examine how Asian American writers, artists, and thinkers reckon with in/visibility, ambiguity, and the “minor intensities” of Asian American life through stories, poetry, film, and visual art. We will engage in close reading and analysis of these materials, with an eye toward their specific social, historical, and political contexts as we read them alongside a range of critical theory on the politics of identity and subjectivity.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Nguyen.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as ANTH 317 and ASLC 317) This course teaches students how to design research projects and analyze data about people in China. Students will read about and discuss previous findings from the instructor’s longitudinal project about Chinese only-children and their families, and findings from comparable projects in China and elsewhere. Course assignments will be tailored to the interests, skills, and academic background of each student, so first-year students, sophomores, and students with no Chinese language skills are welcome and just as likely to succeed as juniors, seniors, and students with Chinese language skills. Each student will work not only on assignments suitable for his/her current skills and interests, but also read the work of other students with different skills, interests, and disciplinary knowledge and participate in discussions of their work, so all students will learn about the many different kinds of skills and research methods that can help them gain a better understanding of China.
Requisite: Chinese language skills or ANTH 112, 115, 288, 318, 323, or 332, or a similar course. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Fong.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as ANTH 318 and ASLC 318) This course examines Chinese childrearing, focusing primarily on childrearing in mainland China. We will look at differences as well as similarities between childrearing in Chinese families of different socioeconomic status within China, as well as between childrearing in mainland China and in childrearing in Chinese and non-Chinese families worldwide. We will also look at dominant discourses within and outside of China about the nature of Chinese childrearing and ask about relationships between those discourses and the experiences of Chinese families. Students will work together to conduct original research about childrearing in China, drawing on data from the instructor’s research projects. Course assignments will be tailored to the interests, skills, and academic background of each student, so first-years, sophomores, and students with no Chinese language skills are welcome and just as likely to succeed as juniors, seniors, and students with Chinese language skills.
Chinese language skills or ANTH 112, 115, 288, 318, 323, or 332, or a similar course. Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Fong.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
A general survey of writings that have played a leading role in shaping the modern fields of cultural and social anthropology. Beginning with a discussion of the impact of Darwin and the discoveries at Brixham Cave on mid-nineteenth century anthropology, the course surveys the theories of the late-nineteenth-century cultural evolutionists. It then turns to the role played by Franz Boas and his students and others in the advent and later development of cultural anthropology in the U.S. Readings of Durkheim and Mauss will provide the foundation for a discussion of the development of British social anthropology, French structuralism, and Bourdieu’s theory of social practice. The course will conclude with a discussion of recent controversies concerning the work of a key theorist in the anthropological tradition.
Spring semester. Professor Gewertz.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
This course is about feeling politics as much as about the political power of feelings. How often do you feel outraged at the state of politics? Do you ever experience an inexplicable love for political symbols? Do they ever make you cringe? Or perhaps you glean much pleasure from the nature of modern political life? Do you cry, laugh, get scared, or feel overwhelmed by political spectacles that make up our 24/7 existence? If so, like all of us, you experience politics at a corporeal level. Instead of discounting these feelings as irrational and secondary to reasoned deliberations and solemn institutions, this seminar takes them seriously. The texts in this upper-level, discussion-based course consider public political life as an affect-laden world where emotional and bodily attachments – some articulate, others unconscious – are as indispensable and ubiquitous as discourse and procedure. Even when our feelings seem deeply personal, the forms of their expression reveal larger histories of modernity, imperialism, race, labor, and the economy, among others. The seminar is ultimately aimed at understanding how our senses, much like our institutions, are shaped by cultural differences.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Chowdhury.2022-23: Not offered
The aim of this advanced seminar is to introduce students to a selection of major concepts, theories, and debates inspiring, informing, and disrupting anthropology today. The central themes of this year’s seminar will include, among others: affect, materiality, borders, sovereignty and citizenship, multispecies ethnography, and decolonization. Alongside these themes, the course will also explore “ethnography” as simultaneously a method of inquiry, mode of theory-making, and genre of writing. With this in mind, one of the goals of this course is to introduce students to the possibilities and challenges of ethnographic research and writing.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Chowdhury.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ANTH 225 and SWAG 335) This seminar provides an analysis of male-female relationships from a cross-cultural perspective, focusing upon the ways in which cultural factors modify and exaggerate the biological differences between men and women. Consideration will be given to the positions of men and women in the evolution of society, and in different contemporary social, political, and economic systems, including those of the industrialized nations.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2023.24. Professor Gewertz.2022-23: Not offered
Because food is necessary to sustain biological life, its production and provision occupy humans everywhere. Due to this essential importance, food also operates to create and symbolize collective life. This seminar will examine the social and cultural significance of food. Topics to be discussed include: the evolution of human food systems, the social and cultural relationships between food production and human reproduction, the development of women’s association with the domestic sphere, the meaning and experience of eating disorders, and the connection among ethnic cuisines, nationalist movements and social classes.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Gewertz.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Toxins today pervade our lives and bodies. Yet they remain difficult to pin down, simultaneously ubiquitous and elusive, proliferating harm as well as uncertainty. With an eye toward these contradictions, this course begins by asking: What is toxicity? How does it enter our awareness? Who bears the burden of its designation? From here, we consider how the uncertainty of toxic exposure shapes the politics of evidence, social difference, and assumptions about the integrity of bodies and nations. Throughout our readings, we interrogate the relationship between toxicity, politics, memory, and remedy to explore how living in a toxic world requires technical, ethical and aesthetic modes of understanding. Connecting ethnographies of environmental exposure and contamination with larger contexts, histories, and settler colonial logics, we investigate relations of segregation, contingency, and kinship in uneven terrains of vulnerability and risk.
Limited to 21 students. Spring semester. Assistant Professor Nguyen.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as MUSI 449 and ANTH 449) This seminar explores the sound and significance of the human voice in broad perspective. What do we communicate with our voice? Why are certain voices powerful or unforgettable? How are voices culturally shaped and constrained? How do people use their voice along the continuum between speech and song? What happens when the voice turns text into sound? What does it mean in terms of politics and personhood to have a voice? How does vocal sound relate to knowledge of the body and ideas about race, gender, and identity? To engage these questions, we will begin by examining the classic premise that the voice is a sonic medium for music, language, and other forms of communicative expression whose production (singing, speaking, vocalizing) and uptake (listening, recognizing, empathizing) are basic to social life and inhabiting one's environment. Throughout the term, we will push this premise in critical new directions by remembering that song and language affect us because the voice is not merely a medium. What Roland Barthes famously describes as "the grain of the voice" is its profound, compelling sonic presence beyond its role as a medium. Thinking about the significance of vocal sound and timbre in this light, we will explore a host of voices and vocal styles from throughout the world, including how we use our own creativel, in performance, and relative to the constraints of a voice-impacting global pandemic. We will listen and read widely, benefiting from each others' experience and insights as well as those of singers and scholars who will join us. Fulfills either the departmental seminar requirement or the comprehensive exam requirement for the major.
Omitted 2023-24. Professor Engelhardt.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as SWAG 453, ANTH 453, and SOCI-453) How have feminist and queer approaches shaped the questions, methods, and ethics of ethnographic research? This course highlights key questions and dominant paradigms of the field as well as emphasizing qualitative ethnographic research including interviewing and fieldwork. As such, we will engage the practical question of how to research, observe, describe, record, and present material about feminist and queer politics and activism.
Required: At least two courses dealing substantively with gender/sexuality. Open to junior and seniors; sophomores require permission from the professor; not open to first-year students. Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Karkazis.2022-23: Not offered
Independent reading course. A full course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Fall semester. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
The course introduces students to what C. Wright Mills referred to as the “sociological imagination.” Through accounts both classic and contemporary, students will learn to interrogate in a systematic way both their own lives and the lives of those around them, understanding how they are shaped in significant ways by groups, communities, institutions, and social structures, even as they remain authors of their own actions and determiners of their own fate. In this sense, the dynamics of what sociologists call “power” and “agency” are woven into every aspect of the course. Inequalities—most notably, race, class, and gender—will figure importantly as we explore important topics such as higher education, gendered expectations of parenting, mass incarceration and structural racism, cultural transformations accompanying neoliberal capitalism, and present-day opportunities for social mobility.
Limited to 18 students. Fall and Spring semesters. In Fall, 10 spaces are reserved for first-year students. Professor Lembo.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
(Offered as AMST 115 and SOCI 215) The course is an interdisciplinary, historically organized study of American perceptions of and attitudes towards the human body in a variety of media, ranging from medical and legal documents to poetry and novels, the visual arts, film, and dance. Among the topics to be discussed are the physical performance of gender; the social construction of the ideal male and female body; health reform movements; athletic achievement as an instrumentalization of the body; commercialization of physical beauty in the fitness and fashion industries; eating disorders as cultural phenomena; the interminable abortion controversy; the equally interminable conflict over pornography and the limits of free speech; and adaptations to the possibility of serious illness and to the certainty of death.
Limited to 18 students per section. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Couvares and Senior Lecturer Bergoffen.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as AMST 200, EDST 200, and SOCI 200) Disproportionate numbers of students of color drop out or disengage from schools in America each year. Responding to the framework of “drop out,” critical educational scholars have argued that many school practices, policies, and cultures “push out” already marginalized students, or at the very least, do not take sufficient steps to create an inclusive culture that supports all students’ participation and sense of belonging. This course examines the ways in which race and racism influence political, social, cultural, and institutional belonging. This interdisciplinary course will draw on theory and research from the fields of education, sociology, and ethnic studies to examine the conditions of schooling that prompt students’ formal and less formal forms of school disengagement. We will explore how educational institutions, educators, and their community partners support students’ access to and engagement with education. We will examine educational reform practices that strive to cultivate a culture of belonging and community in schools. As part of this course, students will collaboratively work toward a community-engaged project centered on college access.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Luschen.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as AMST 203, EDST 203, and SOCI 203) What do we understand about schools, teachers, and students through our engagement with popular culture? How do we interrogate youth clothing as a site of cultural expression and school-based control? How do race, class, and gender shape how youth make sense of and navigate cultural events such as the prom? Contemporary educational debates often position schools and popular culture as oppositional and as vying for youth's allegiance. Yet schools and popular culture overlap as educational sites in the lives of youth. In this course, we will employ feminist, critical race, and cultural studies perspectives to analyze representations of schooling and youth in popular culture. By doing so, we will consider the historically shifting meaning of youth, interrogate an oppositional stance to school and popular culture, and examine relationships of power and representation in educational sites. Readings, class discussions, and frequent film screenings will support our examination.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2023-24. Visiting Professor Luschen.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
What is “development”? What makes some places more or less “developed”? Does the process of development unfold simply as a steady “march of progress” and modernization, or also as a contested historical process of social change? This course is an introduction to development sociology and the interdisciplinary field of development studies. We will study the history and major theories of development and globalization and examine some of the most pressing contemporary issues of health, sustainability, and social justice. By tracing the historical transformations between colonialism, the development era, the neoliberal globalization project, and sustainable development, this course will show how development stems from unequal power relationships between and among peoples and countries of the Global North and Global South. Students will learn to think critically about past ideas and proposals for development and modernization and search for better solutions for the twenty-first century. Readings include foundational texts and cutting-edge research in development sociology and interdisciplinary development studies. In addition to the lectures, students will cultivate critical thinking and improve skills in reading, writing, discussion, and creativity through dialogue, creative group projects, and independent research.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Zhang.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as SOCI 226 and ENST 226) Creating a more sustainable relationship between human society and the rest of nature requires changing the way we relate to one another as humans. This course will explain why, while answering a number of associated questions and introducing the exciting and engaged field of environmental sociology. We study the anthropogenic drivers of environmental change from an interdisciplinary and historical perspective to make sense of pressing socio-ecological issues, including climate change, sustainability and justice in global food production, the disproportionate location of toxic waste disposal in communities of color, biodiversity loss, desertification, freshwater pollution and unequal access, the accumulation and trade in electronic waste, the ecological footprint of the Internet, and more. We examine how these issues are linked to broad inequalities within society, which are reflected in, and exacerbated by, persistent problems with environmental racism, the unaddressed legacies of colonialism, and other contributors to environmental injustice worldwide. Industrialization and the expansionary tendencies of the modern economic system receive particular attention, as these continue to be central factors promoting ecological change. Throughout the course a hopeful perspective in the face of such interrelated challenges is encouraged as we study promising efforts and movements that emphasize both ecological restoration and achievement of a more just, democratic world.
Course readings include foundational texts in environmental sociology, as well as the most current research on course topics. Writing and research assignments allow for the development of in-depth analyses of social and environmental issues relevant to students' community, everyday life, personal experience, and concerns.
Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Holleman.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
This course is not about Donald Trump, though he obviously looms large in American society. It’s about the social and political conditions that made Donald Trump possible. We will examine how Americans have become increasingly polarized politically and how race, class, place and other variables shape this. We will also study the transformation of the Republican Party since the 1990s, and the development of an increasingly powerful network of right-wing organizations. Finally, we will use ethnographic studies to understand how conservative white people think and act in the world.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Himmelstein.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as AMST 264, LLAS 266, and SOCI 264) This course introduces students to sociological analyses of undocumented migrations between Central America, Mexico, and the United States. An exploration of undocumented immigration demands that we engage with oft-unexamined social and economic contradictions. Namely, whereas capital and culture move freely across most international borders, many people cannot. Walls - physical, legal, and social - aim to keep certain people in and “others” out. Yet, people do cross international borders and many do so without the legal authorization to make their moves formal and secure. In this course we explore the sociological forces behind these insecure migrations between Central America, Mexico, and the US, and the reality of undocumented immigrant life in the United States. While this course has a deep theoretical rooting, we use daily life as the lens through which to explore immigration and enforcement policies, and our individual and collective relationships to them.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Schmalzbauer2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as SOCI 265 and AMST 265) This course explores the ways in which race, class, gender and immigration status shape children’s lives. We begin by conceptualizing childhood as a social construct whose meaning has changed over time and that varies across context; for class privileged individuals, for example, childhood or adolescence may extend into the third decade of life, whereas for “others,” poverty and/or family responsibilities and community struggles may mean it scarcely exists at all. The bulk of the course draws from ethnographic scholarship focused on the relationship between childhood and inequality in key institutional contexts including school, family and the legal system. Through ethnography, we will critically examine the ways in which inequalities among and between groups of children shape their daily life experiences, aspirations and opportunities, and what this means for overall trends of inequality in the United States.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Schmalzbauer.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as AMST 268 and SOCI 268) This course will bring a sociological lens to contemporary race and class relations in rural America. Drawing from social-historical analyses, ethnography, interview-based research, and memoir, we will look at the social forces at the base of shifting rural demographics, as well as how these shifts are being experienced in rural daily life. Central to the course will be an analysis of how place shapes the relationship between race and class, and how these place-based relationships in turn shape individual and collective identity. Throughout the course we will reflect on what anti-racist, equitable community building might look like in rural America and beyond.
Fall semester. Professor Schmalzbauer.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as ENST-270 and SOCI-270) Food and farming make fundamental connections between humans and the earth. This course examines how agriculture, food systems, and rural development are entangled with environmental and social transformations around the world, and how we can cultivate solutions for global health, sustainability and social justice. Topics examined range from technological modernization and biotechnology to agroecology and food culture, malnutrition and obesity, food safety and environmental intoxication, land and labor struggles, race and gender issues in food systems, and from climate change to sustainable development. Readings draw from development studies and sociology, critical food and agrarian studies, political ecology and other interdisciplinary environmental studies. In addition to the lectures, students will cultivate critical thinking and improve skills in reading, writing, discussion, and creativity through dialogue, hands-on activities at the Book & Plow farm, creative exercises, and independent research.
One of ENST-120, ENST-226, ANTH-339, or permission of instructor. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Assistant Professor Zhang.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ENST-272and SOCI-272) This community-engaged and experiential learning course takes students off campus to study the work organizations and people are doing to advance climate justice where they live, work, pray, play, learn, and do time in Massachusetts and beyond. Global surveys of public opinion show that majorities across countries want a more equitable and sustainable world and support wide-ranging action to address climate change. Fortunately, empirical research demonstrates that these goals are not only compatible, they are necessarily linked and even synergistic. But, what does effective action toward these goals look like? How can each of us contribute to the larger-scale changes needed to address global warming and work toward climate justice now? This course answers these questions by combining study of the social science of climate change mitigation with community engagement and real-world examples to facilitate a deeper understanding of the many evidence-based ways that people are making the planet a more sustainable, equitable, healthier, and happier place for more of earth’s inhabitants. Limited to 22 students. Spring semester. Associate Professor Holleman and Assistant Professor Ravikumar
(Offered as SOCI-306 and ENST-306) How and why do pandemics emerge? How have pandemics been shaped by social and ecological conditions around the world? And how do pandemics in turn transform society and our environment? This is a research-oriented interdisciplinary seminar examining how epidemic infectious diseases are not naturally given but socially and environmentally constructed. We will study the plague (including the Black Death), smallpox, dengue, malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, HIV, SARS, MERS, and COVID-19, and draw upon examples from all around the world throughout history. Special attention is given to environmental change and modernization, science and technology, state-making and globalization, migration and geopolitics, as well as class, race/ethnicity and gender inequalities. The seminar will draw on readings in sociology, anthropology, history, geography, public health, biology, epidemiology, political ecology, and other interdisciplinary fields. Lectures will be accompanied by discussion, and students will be required to undertake independent research, write a final essay, and present their work to the class. We will explore the possibility of publishing final essays as a collection.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Zhang.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as AMST-308, EDST-308 and SOCI-308) The relationship between girls’ empowerment and education has been and continues to be a key feminist issue. For instance, second wave liberal feminist approaches sought to make schools more equitable through equal access to educational resources for girls and the elimination of gender discrimination. Yet the relationship between gender and schooling remains a complex site of research and policy.
In this course we will examine how various feminist perspectives have defined and addressed the existence of gender inequality in American schools. We will begin by examining theories that address the production of gendered experiences within the context of U.S. schools and classrooms. Utilizing an intersectional approach, we will explore how the production of gender identities in educational contexts is shaped by the realities of our race, class, ethnic, and sexual identities. We will draw on empirical research and theory to analyze pedagogies, policies, and programs that have been developed to address gender inequality and schooling, including those that address fluid notions of gender. Students will complete the course with a complex view of feminism and an understanding of how feminist approaches have shaped the debates within gender and educational reform.
Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2023-24. Visiting Professor Luschen.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Secularization of the society poses challenges for organized religions, which in return adopt new communication strategies to address the risk of a shrinking believer base. In this course, we survey some recent strategies with an emphasis on the discursive tactics by clerics of Semitic religions. Students will review theories of political communication and read case studies on how clerics (or “preachers”) use mass and social media. Then, we will relate these strategies to the way political celebrities (or “demagogues”) and anonymous figures (or “trolls”) convey messages about how society works (or fails to work) to the public. Students will learn how to assess written and oral material using content analysis and conduct a pilot study about the material produced by clerics.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2023-24. Visiting Associate Professor Balaban.2022-23: Not offered
Sociology emerged as part of the intellectual response to the French and Industrial Revolutions. In various ways, the classic sociological thinkers sought to make sense of these changes and the kind of society that resulted from them. We shall begin by examining the social and intellectual context in which sociology developed and then turn to a close reading of the works of five important social thinkers: Marx, Tocqueville, Weber, Durkheim, and DuBois. We shall attempt to identify the theoretical perspective of each thinker by posing several basic questions: According to each social thinker, what is the general nature of society, the individual, and the relationship between the two? What holds societies together? What pulls them apart? How does social change occur? What are the distinguishing features of modern Western society in particular? What distinctive dilemmas do individuals face in modern society? What are the prospects for human freedom and happiness? Although the five thinkers differ strikingly from each other, we shall also determine the extent to which they share a common “sociological consciousness.” Required of sociology majors.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Himmelstein.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
This course introduces students to the range of methods that sociologists use to understand humans as social beings. It explores the strengths and weaknesses of these methods. Students will design and execute an original research project. The course emphasizes the general logic of social inquiry and research design rather than narrowly defined techniques and statistical proofs. Required of sociology majors.
Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Schmalzbauer..2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as SOCI 328 and ENST 328) This course examines the root social and ecological conditions that gave rise to the COVID-19 pandemic and that help explain the significant inequalities we observe in terms of its impact. We study the structure and historical development of the global economy and the state, class and racial formation, the gendered division of society, and global ecological challenges, all of which provide necessary background to understand the pandemic’s emergence, effects, and the range of social response, including state policy. These studies include attention to the persistent consequences of colonialism, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism. We also study the contested nature of these developments, such as how movements and struggles over political power, economic development, racial justice, ecological protection, and public health, shape outcomes.
This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with more of the course online and in-person meetings included as possible. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.
Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2023-24. Professors Holleman and Lembo.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as SOCI 334 and BLST 336 [US]) Being “white” is typically treated as a default identity in the United States, yet whiteness remains relatively unexamined as a source of accumulated institutional advantages and cultural entitlements. This course will interrogate prevailing constructions of whiteness, examining its origins as a racial category, its function as group identity and source of individual meaning-making, and its role in reproducing racial hierarchy. Drawing on historical, theoretical, literary, and sociological accounts, our aim will be to contextualize whiteness as a discourse of power. The course will focus primarily, but not exclusively, on the United States, from the pre-Civil Rights era through the contemporary passage from colorblind to nationalist constructions of whiteness.
Requisite: SOCI 112 or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Lembo.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as SOCI 337 and EDST 337) In this course, we will focus on the diversification of higher education. We will pay particular attention to efforts made by selective liberal arts colleges and universities to open their doors to students disadvantaged by barriers of racial discrimination and excluded by the means of class privilege. We will critically interrogate the concept of diversity and its implementation, paying attention to both successes and problems. Among these problems is the gap between a diversity promised and a diversity delivered.
We will employ sociological theories and concepts to explore this gap, the dilemmas it presents, and the cultural strategies that have emerged in response to them. Situating contemporary efforts of selective colleges and universities to diversify in historical context, we will pay particular attention to broader transformation of racial and class discourse in the United States in the post civil rights era, including federal efforts to address discrimination, Supreme Court decisions regarding race-based admissions policy, changes in corporate personnel policies, the rise of “colorblind” rhetoric, growing economic inequality, and the expansion of neoliberal policies and practices in higher education today. Drawing on this context, we will assess the strengths and weaknesses of diversity initiatives that have been put into place, the patterns of cultural change occurring on campuses, and the role social difference can play in constructing alternatives to inclusive communities as we presently envision them.
Students will be encouraged to work collaboratively and will employ a variety of methods to document systematically the current state of diversity on their respective campuses.
Requisite: SOCI 112 or equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2023-24. Professor Lembo.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as SOCI 341 and ENST 341) Social movements—from the early conservation and anti-colonial movements that began over a century ago, to the modern climate justice movement—have worked to make environmental issues and inequalities part of the global political and policy agenda. The course draws upon sociological research that fosters an understanding of contemporary environmental debates, as well as the possibilities and obstacles we face in attempting to address socio-ecological problems. We study diverse global environmental movements and proposed environmental solutions, which reflect a wide range of perspectives and interests, as well as social inequalities. Inequality within and between countries means that different issues are at stake in negotiations addressing ecological problems for communities and people of different social locations. Race, ethnicity, class, gender, and position in the global economy affect both the way we experience socio-ecological change, and the ways we imagine and attempt to solve contemporary problems. Therefore, issues of environmental justice are highlighted as we study the history and achievements of environmental movements internationally, as well as enduring challenges and controversies. The syllabus is designed to benefit both the most seasoned environmentalists and students of the history of environmentalism, as well as participants for whom the course topics are new.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Holleman.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as SOCI 342 and ENST 342) If you learn about the major trends shaping human societies and the rest of the planet in our era, you might ask these questions: How do we reduce the vast inequalities threatening democracy and undermining the self-determination of peoples around the world? How do we address global-scale crises like climate change, the pollution of the earth’s lands and waters, and anthropogenic extinction of species? How do we heal social divisions to build movements based on solidarity and reparation that transcend a “single-issue” focus while emphasizing the distinct needs of diverse communities? Can we imagine a society geared toward meeting culturally-determined human needs and deepening human happiness, while at the same time restoring the earth systems on which we depend? How do we engage such daunting issues with strength and, at times, joy?
These are massive questions now asked by scholars, scientists, activists, and communities around the world. This course explores answers to these questions through in-depth sociological analyses of critical victories and visions toward ecological and social change emerging internationally in the past decade. Such case studies represent hopeful challenges to the xenophobic, racist, anti-ecological, homophobic, misogynistic, winner-takes-all politics threatening much of life on earth.
Students must have at least one course in either SOCI or ANTH, or ENST 120, or other courses addressing the trends that are central to this course.
Limited to 18 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Holleman.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 345, EDUST 345 and SOCI 345) The United States has long struggled with challenges created by the need to absorb ethnic and racial minorities. In the face of seemingly intractable problems, one solution has been to designate a “model minority,” which then appears to divert attention from the society at large. Earlier in the twentieth century, Jewish Americans played this role; today, Asian Americans are the focus. This course examines specific instances in which Jewish Americans and Asian Americans both embraced and rejected the model minority stereotype. Course units will also examine the underside of the model minority stereotype, quotas imposed to limit access to education and employment as well as social and legal actions taken in response to such restrictions. The course will feature a range of materials, including plays, fiction, journalism, and visual works. Students will read scholarship in the fields of American Studies, Sociology, History, and Critical Race Studies. The course will include a number of guest speakers.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2023-24. Senior Lecturer Bergoffen.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as EDST 352, HIST 352 [US/TC/TR/TS], AMST 352 and SOCI 352) Focusing on the United States, this course introduces students to foundational questions and texts central to Education Studies. We will explore the competing goals and priorities Americans have held for primary, secondary and post-secondary education and ask how and why these visions have influenced—or failed to influence—classrooms, schools, and educational policy. We will pay particular attention to sources of educational stratification; the tensions between the public and private purposes of schooling; and the relationship between schooling and equality.
In the first part of the course, students will reflect on how Americans have imagined the purpose of self-education, literacy, public schooling, and the liberal arts. Among the questions we will consider: What do Americans want from public schools? Does education promote liberation? Has a liberal arts education outlived its usefulness? How has the organization of schools and school systems promoted some educational objectives in lieu of others? In the second section of the course, we will concentrate on the politics of schooling. Here, we will pay particular attention to several issues central to understanding educational inequality and its relationship to American politics, culture, and society: localism; state and federal authority; desegregation; and the complicated relationship between schooling and racial, linguistic, class-based, gender, and ethnic hierarchies. Finally, we will explore how competing ideas about the purpose and politics of education manifest themselves in current policy debates about privatization, charters, testing, and school discipline. Throughout the course, students will reflect on both the limits and possibilities of American schools to challenge and reconfigure the social order.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Luschen.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as SOCI-380 and BLST-380) This course examines the rise of colorblind discourse in the United States and the ways it has shaped views of race and racism from the civil rights era to the present day. Distinguishing between liberal and conservative versions of colorblindness, we will explore key ideas--of individualism, the market economy, merit, race and ethnicity, and affirmative action, among others—and situate them amidst more broad-based economic, political, and cultural transformations. We will assess the empirical evidence for the major assertions of colorblindness across key dimensions of racial inequality in American social life: the market economy, employment, housing, education, criminal justice, and health care, including effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Colorblind accounts and their critics place particular emphasis on the fate of Black communities and lives, and this will figure importantly in our assessment of their work. The course concludes with a discussion of contemporary social movements regarding race, both colorblind and race-conscious varieties, considering the aims and outcomes of their activism, including the impact on mainstream policymaking and communities of color.
Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of instructor. Fall semester. Professor Lembo.
Pending Faculty Approval2022-23: Not offered
Independent reading course. A full course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Fall semester. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022