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.
Fall semester. Professor Gewertz.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2024
How do various kinds of people in various societies worldwide define and pursue happiness? How do they deal with aspects of everyday life that affect their physical and psychological health? How does one’s gender, age, country, sociocultural background, and socioeconomic status shape the ways in which one might pursue health and happiness? Students will read and discuss books and articles that try to answer such questions, and learn how to conduct collaborative research to answer questions about the ways in which people in a variety of different societies worldwide experience, define, and strive for health and happiness, with a particular emphasis on comparisons between China and the United States. All required course readings will be in English and have English translations, and no knowledge of Chinese language is needed for success in the class, though students with Chinese language skills will have the option of working with Chinese language materials as they do their research.
Limited to 15 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Fong.2023-24: Not offered
How can anthropology help us understand life stories? How can life stories illustrate, challenge, or extend theoretical claims? How can the life stories of anthropologists help us understand their perspectives and research methods? This class will teach students how to answer such questions. We will look at how and why anthropologists have chosen to write about particular experiences, life histories, and narratives of their research participants; how and why they wrote about their own life histories and experiences; and how such choices affected their research methods, approaches, and findings.
Limited to 19 students. Fall semester. Professor Fong.2023-24: Not offered
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 class 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. Spring semester. Professor Fong.Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023
This seminar course explores the cultural, social, and political relationships between humans and animals. Drawing from cross-cultural anthropological work, starting from histories of domestication, we will consider the participation of animals in different contemporary societies: as spirits, workers, food, commodities, symbols, domestic pets, unwanted pests, wildlife, friendly companions, and scientific objects.
In general, we will interrogate the varied ways in which animals have been, and continue to be, central to human societies and cultures, as well as the role of humans in non-human animals’ lives. This will allow us to address pressing questions about animal agency, rights, and representation.
We will bring these cross-cultural explorations home to explore, as observers, participants, researchers and writers, the social and cultural lives of animals around us — from art museums to pet shelters and organic farms. Through in-class activities and collaborative work in the college, students will acquire critical ethnographic observation skills. They will then use them to explore a site of human-animal livelihood outside the campus, through a local day-long fieldtrip.
In doing so, we will expand our broader understandings of what it means to be human, by including our non-human companions in our social, political, and cultural analysis.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Visiting Professor Scaramelli.2023-24: Not offered
This course focuses on the history and anthropology of Latin American countries, examining them as postcolonial entities. We will study the rich history and complex politics of Latin America, with an emphasis on the last century, to understand what constitutes "nation" and how that notion has shifted with the increase in mobility and global connectivity. Throughout the course we will challenge dominant ideas of "Latin America" to understand the diversity of lived experiences, asking: What is a nation? How did Latin American nations emerge? How do race, gender, indigeneity, and other concepts and practices intersect with the concept of nation? How have social movements, neoliberalism and militarization affected nations? What role has the U.S. played in shaping Latin America? Is nation still a useful or viable concept when thinking about Latin America? What does it mean to be "Latin American" or "Peruvian" or "Mexican" or "Brazilian" today?
Limited to 40 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Hall.2023-24: Not offered
This course begins with a brief overview of the African societies from which people were taken and enslaved. It then focuses on the dispersal of slaves throughout the world, asking “What is the African Diaspora?" Using ethnographies, documentaries, and novels, as well as critical theory emanating from Anthropology and beyond, the course explores the racial, political, and social similarities and differences within and between the communities constituting the African Diaspora, opening the category up to a non-essentializing, sociohistorical nuance.
Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor H. Cole.2023-24: Not offered
Early European explorers, modern travelers, collectors, curators, and archaeologists have contributed to the development of ancient Latin American collections in museums across the globe. This course traces the history of these collecting practices and uses recent case studies to demonstrate how museums negotiate—successfully and unsuccessfully—the competing interests of scholars, donors, local communities, and international law. Students will learn how archaeologists study a variety of artifact types within museum collections and will have the opportunity to conduct independent research projects using pre-Columbian pottery and textile collections from the Mead Museum at Amherst College.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Five College Professor Klarich.2023-24: Not offered
This course focuses on the theoretical foundations of archaeological research, the variety of methods available to analyze material culture, the interpretation of results, and ethical considerations of practicing archaeology in the United States and abroad. The course provides students with a solid foundation for evaluating and contextualizing current methodological and theoretical trends within archaeology. Case studies illustrate the diversity of archaeological thought, interdisciplinary approaches to studying material culture, and innovative directions in the field of anthropological archaeology. Discussions of practice will address the roles and responsibilities of archaeologists in heritage management, museum development, and community outreach.
Omitted 2018-19. Five College Professor Klarich.2023-24: Not offered
This course begins with an examination of the relationships between social justice, activism, and academic anthropology. As a discipline, Anthropology once deprecated what was called “applied anthropology” as lesser than “pure” practice. However, over the past 50 years, anthropologists have challenged this hierarchy, and the course will consider why and how those at the forefront of effecting this change made it happen. Students will also learn of the moral, political, and methodological tensions, challenges, and contradictions that arise today in the practice of what is now described as “social justice research” or “activist-centered research.” Their final project will be to design and justify a research project based on such approaches.
Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2018-19. Visiting Professor H. Cole.2023-24: Not offered
This course deals with the relationships, ones of mutual transformation, between humans and their natural environments. Drawing from archeological studies of past societies and from sociocultural studies of contemporary ones, we will consider how humans have engaged with their natural worlds throughout history, probe non-Western environmental epistemologies, examine discourses and processes of sustainability and collapse, explore the cultural (re)creation of nature, and consider the larger political and economic projects, including capitalist markets and property rights, in which much of current environmentalism is embedded. Most generally, the course will reveal the diverse ways in which people have shaped and been shaped by their physical worlds and how anthropology can clarify pressing, contemporary environmental issues.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2018-19. Visiting Professor Scaramelli.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as ANTH 238 and SWAG 238) This course concerns the reproductive health experiences, including those focused on sexuality, birth, and motherhood, of women in the United States. It explores the relationship between these experiences and the fact of having a black female body (as was first constructed under slavery). It also explores the complex relationship between women’s reproductive experiences and their contemporary racial and socioeconomic locations in American society. The aim is to garner a thorough and sophisticated understanding of why “reproductive justice” is elusive in the contemporary United States and to consider what might be done about it.
Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor H. Cole.2023-24: Not offered
(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 2018-19. Professor Gewertz.2023-24: Not offered
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.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2023, Spring 2025
(Offered as ANTH 248 and SOCI 248) This course explores the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of anti-Muslim discrimination in the United State and Europe. What, in short, accounts for the anxious fear of Islam and the ascendance of “the Muslim” as the defining racial and religious “other” of our time? The course frames Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism, challenging the idea that Islamophobia is merely a problem of individual bias and that “knowing more” about Islam will necessarily lead to a decrease in anti-Muslim racism. Instead, the course will explore how anti-Muslim discrimination is a reality of structural inequality rooted in the history of US and European empire building. By the end of the course, students will have considered how anti-Muslim discrimination relates to histories of white supremacy, racial exclusion, nationalism, settler colonialism, and the security logics of US foreign policy and war. Although the course’s primary focus is on the impact of anti-Muslim racism in the United States and Europe, this will necessarily require us to consider how anti-Muslim discourse functions as an organizing principle of US and European global power.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Dole.2023-24: 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. Fall semester. Professor Chowdhury.Other years: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ANTH 255 and ASLC 255) This course on modernity and media starts from the premise that modernity today is a global experience. Most societies possess the means to produce their own versions of the modern, Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge have argued. In this course, we will collectively study popular culture in South Asia—a staggeringly complex cultural entity—with an eye towards understanding changing forms of subjectivity, enjoyment, agency, and bodily experience. These are all areas that have been shaped by the experience of modernity. While rethinking the predominantly European notion of the modern, we will study how mass media and public culture in South Asia help us reflect on processes of nationalism, globalization, inequality, and economic liberalization. We will discuss film, advertising, public space, and popular art to make sense of the region’s postcolonial public life.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Chowdhury.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as ANTH 271 and ENGL 271) During presidential elections, we often talk as much about how politicians speak as about what they say. This heightened attention to language provides a superb opportunity to dig deeper into our own culture of political communication from “Abe” to “W”: from Obama’s “precision-grip gesture” to Palin’s “Whitmanesque” forms of address; from Hillary’s register-shifting to Trump’s gestural caricatures. The last election cycle has also given observers cause to examine rhetorical technologies that seem not our own—such as “Kremlin propaganda techniques,” the weaponization of “fake news” and populist demagoguery. Over the course of the semester, students will think through the power struggles of democratic process by closely attending to language, rhetoric and performance. Combining fieldwork, theoretical speculation and engaged research we will contribute to community knowledge about public speech and civic life, and, in the end, help shape our local public culture.
Omitted 2018-19. Visiting Professor Sidorkina.2023-24: Not offered
This class will examine how and why education differs in different countries and communities. Students will learn how to compare how and why various kinds of people experience and make decisions about education. We will look at various levels of education, including preschool, kindergarten, primary school, middle school, high school, and college.
Requisite: ANTH 112. Limited to 19 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Fong.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as ANTH 300 and SWAG 303) Reproductive Justice operates at the intersections of both reproductive rights and social justice. In its simplest form, it is a framework that addresses the right to have a child or not as well as the right to parent and raise a child in a healthy and safe environment. Using this framework as an analytical lens, this course seeks to examine representations of race and reproduction in film and media. Given growing national and international interest in maternal health disparities in the United States, reproduction and race currently sit center stage for broad public consumption. Yet, the exhibition of reproductive bodies is not a new phenomenon. This course will examine film (both documentary and popular) as well as other visual media presentations in order to extrapolate the ways in which film and media 1) have depicted historically and continue to depict reproduction, 2) perpetuate and/or challenge stereotypes and the status quo, and 3) (re)create and/or challenge systems of power and social hierarchy. Each week students will view a film and read a set of accompanying texts that will address a variety of topics related to race, reproduction, and health.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor H. Cole.2023-24: Not offered
This seminar draws on readings from medical and psychological anthropology, cultural psychiatry, and science studies to examine mental health and illness as a set of subjective experiences, social processes, and objects of knowledge and intervention. The course invites students to think through the complex relationships between categories of psychiatric knowledge, techniques of clinical practice, and the subjectivities of persons living with mental illness. The course will take up such questions as: Does mental illness vary across social, cultural, and historical contexts? How does the language of psychopathology, and the clinical setting of its use, affect people’s experience of psychological and emotional suffering? What novel forms of care, as well as neglect, have emerged with the “pharmaceuticalization” of psychiatry? How does contemporary psychiatry articulate a distinctive relationship between affect and power? These questions, among others, will be examined through richly contextualized ethnographic and historical writings, literary accounts, clinical studies, and films. The course will emphasize a comparative approach, as it explores the ways that anthropologists have struggled to examine mental illness and mental health in a cross-cultural perspective.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor C. Dole.
(Offered as ANTH 317 and ASLC 317 [C]) 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.
Prerequisite: ANTH 112, 115, 323, or 332. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Fong.Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2023
(Offered as ANTH 318 and ASLC 318 [C]) 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.
Requisite: ANTH 115, 288, 317, 323, or 332. Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Fong.2023-24: Not offered
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 Chowdhury.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
This course explores money as an ethnographic object. It focuses on anthropological writing about the everyday uses of money from “exotic” fields to places much closer to “home," from colonial encounters to household budgeting and the world of finance, for example. Anthropology has long been interested in the diverse ways in which people attach meanings, desires, and value to the idea that is money. If modern money is a universally recognized object of value, what can the histories and cultures of its circulation say about the making of the contemporary world? The course answers the question by approaching money not simply as equal and interchangeable as it is generally understood, but full of cultural significance. Together we will see how money is a powerful medium through which one can understand important social and cultural phenomena, such as morality, violence, faith, gender, power, and resistance.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Chowdhury.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as ANTH 331 and ASLC 341 [WA]) In an era where “terrorism” has eclipsed the nuclear fears of the Cold War and become associated with a radicalism that is portrayed as at once militant, anti-Western, and bound to a particular region (the Middle East) and religion (Islam), the task of this seminar—to examine the everyday realities of people living throughout the Middle East—has become all the more critical. Beginning with an historical eye toward the ways that the “West” has discovered, translated, and written about the “Orient,” this seminar will use anthropological readings, documentary film, and literary accounts to consider a range of perspectives on the region commonly referred to as the Middle East. Rather than attempting a survey of the entire region, the course will take a thematic approach and explore such topics as: Islam and secularism, colonialism and postcoloniality, gender and political mobilization, media and globalization, and the politics and ethics of nation building. As an anthropology course, the class will take up these themes through richly contextualized accounts of life within the region. While it is recognized that the Middle East is incredibly heterogeneous, particular attention will be given to the influence and role of Islam. By the end of the seminar, students will have gained a broad understanding of some of the most pressing issues faced within the area, while at the same time grappling with advanced theoretical readings. No previous knowledge of the Middle East is assumed.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor C. Dole.2023-24: Not offered
This seminar will examine contemporary issues in anthropology. Topics will vary from year to year but might, for instance, include anthropological and ethnographic engagements with postcolonialism, the politics of development, neoliberalism and “anti-globalization” activism, militarism, poverty and the politics of survival, institutions of confinement and care, as well as the writing of grants as a prerequisite for the writing of culture in ethnographies.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Chowdhury.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025
(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 2018-19. Professor Gewertz.2023-24: 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 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Gewertz.2023-24: Not offered
In this course, we will work at the intersections of psychological anthropology and the anthropology of religion to explore foundations of human experience. We will ask: What are the boundaries between ordinary and extraordinary experience? In what ways is our thinking along such lines conditioned, as scholars and as social actors, more generally? And are there means to break habituated ways of knowing to arrive at fresh insight into our own ways of being and that of others? These questions, among others, will be examined through richly contextualized ethnographic writings, science fiction and literary accounts, films, and some cross-disciplinary work from physicists and cognitive scientists. Topics will include new work on local theory of mind, cultures of belief, karma, notions of the self, and varying modes of spiritual experience. Together we will explore ontological possibilities and their political and practical ramifications.
Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Five College Assistant Professor Aulino.2023-24: Not offered
Independent reading course. A half course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
Spring semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
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 30 students. In the Fall, 20 spaces are reserved for first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Lembo.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
This course examines U.S. prisons, schools, and the military as institutions of social reproduction, in historical and comparative perspective. This lens allows for exploration of broad questions regarding the role of the state in society and persistent contradictions of democracy and opportunity vs. coercion and constraint. Specific questions on which the course centers are: How do social inequalities—including, for example, inequalities based on race, ethnicity, citizenship, class, and gender—condition the relationship between individuals, institutions, the market, and the state? How does privatization affect the mission, activity, and future of these institutions? What role do prisons, schools, and the military play in reproducing social inequality on the national and international stage? Readings will consist of sociological perspectives on such questions as well as historical accounts documenting contests over these institutions and their functions.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Holleman.2023-24: 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 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Holleman.2023-24: Not offered
This course will consider various ways that class matters in the United States. Historical accounts will be used in conjunction with sociological theories to discuss the formation of classes, including the formation of discourses and myths of class, in American society. Class will then serve as a lens to examine the origins and characteristics of social stratification and inequality in the U.S. The bulk of the course will focus on more contemporary issues of class formation, class structure, class relations, and class culture, paying particular attention to how social class is actually lived out in American culture. Emphasis will be placed on the role class plays in the formation of identity and the ways class cultures give coherence to daily life. In this regard, the following will figure importantly in the course: the formation of upper class culture and the role it plays in the reproduction of power and privilege; the formation of working class culture and the role it plays in leading people to both accept and challenge class power and privilege; the formation of the professional middle class and the importance that status anxiety carries for those who compose it. Wherever possible, attention will be paid to the intersection of class relations and practices with those of other social characteristics, such as race, gender and ethnicity. The course will use sociological and anthropological studies, literature, autobiographies, and films, among other kinds of accounts, to discuss these issues.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Lembo.2023-24: Not offered
This course examines the use and control of mood-altering drugs in the United States today from a sociological and critical perspective. The issues we examine include the strange confluence of legal and illegal drugs in the making of the opioid “epidemic” and the ongoing effort to criticize and reform the “War on Drugs.”
Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Himmelstein.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as SOCI 265 and AMST 265) This class 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 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Schmalzbauer.2023-24: 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 Freud. 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 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Himmelstein.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2025
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 Himmelstein.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025
(Offered as SOCI 334 and BLST 336 [US]) The passage of civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965 was a defining moment in American race relations. By comparison to what preceded it, the post-civil rights era amounted to a great social transformation, leading many to assert ours is now a “colorblind” culture. This course will use the idea of colorblind culture to examine the changing role of race and racism in the contemporary United States. We will examine specific claims that United States culture is, or is not, colorblind, while exploring the social structural, institutional, and broader cultural factors that shape present-day race relations.
Requisite: SOCI 112 or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Lembo.Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2023
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 weakness 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. Fall semester. Professor Lembo.2023-24: Not offered
(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 2018-19. Professor Holleman.2023-24: 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. Spring semester. Professor Holleman.2023-24: Not offered
Independent reading course. A full course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
Spring semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025