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. 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. Spring 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 course 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. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Fong.2023-24: Not offered
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. Five seats are reserved for first-year students. Admission with consent of the instructor. 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 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. Spring semester. Professor Fong.Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023
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. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Hall.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. Spring semester. 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 20 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 logic 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 20 students. Fall semesster. Professor Dole.2023-24: Not offered
(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. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Dole.Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2023, Fall 2024
In this weekly seminar, students will research, design, and install an exhibition at the Mead Museum centered on the theme of food. Working in teams, students will have the opportunity to experience various aspects of curating a museum exhibit - from selecting and researching art and objects to display, to determining interpretive strategies, to coordinating installation, to writing object labels, to planning educational and public programs for the exhibition. Critical course readings centered on food and museum studies during the first half of the course will provide the foundation for student-directed research outside the class. Situating art and objects as both visual culture and ethnographic evidence, the course asks: How have people built kinship, community and meaning through food and eating? What visual and material culture has been created to celebrate and interrogate the act of planting, preparing, and consuming food? What has been considered a food delicacy and how has that shifted in time? In what ways have foodstuffs been part of a “transit of empire”? What new stories might emerge through conversations amongst those objects?
Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Hall and E. Potter-Ndiaye.2023-24: Not offered
In this course we will consider and examine the photograph as a specific type of social actor. We will explore the ways in which the photograph is a unique representational type, a potent tool for memory making, and a powerful medium to navigate, question and shape social constructs and assumptions. Additionally, we will investigate how the photograph has been deployed as evidence, from its earliest use in scientific projects to its current use in myriad industries and media platforms. In so doing the course seeks to understand the many roles photography has played, and continues to play, in shaping self, culture and knowledge. While this is not a course in photographic technique, students may be asked to produce their own images.
Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor A. Hall.2023-24: Not offered
The 2007/08 collapse of the U.S. housing market and subsequent global recession transformed the social, economic, and cultural significance of “home” as millions of Americans went into foreclosure, the rate of homeownership plummeted, and emergent minimalist and “Tiny Home” movements garnered widespread appeal. This course considers the “home” as an object in transition and as a concept that shapes our understanding of identity, family, community, and nation. From foundational kinship, feminist, and poststructuralist theorists to more recent ethnographic and popular media texts, we will survey the shifting terrain of American housing form and policy across a range of topics such as redlining and racial segregation, suburbanization and gentrification, homelessness and new directions in cooperative or micro-living. Students will lead classroom discussions, critically analyze texts, meet local housing advocates and builders, and work collaboratively on these themes, culminating in a final project that will attempt to answer the question: how can we solve today’s local, national, and global housing crises?
Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Lecturer Formanack.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. Omitted 2020-21. Professor C. Dole.
Are psychiatric disease categories and treatment protocols universally applicable? How can we come to understand the lived experience of mental illness and abnormality? And how can we trace the roots of such experience – whether through brain circuitry, cultural practices, forms of power, or otherwise? In this course, we will draw on psychological anthropology, cultural psychiatry, science studies, and decolonizing methodologies to examine mental health and illness in terms of subjective experience, social processes, and knowledge production. Our goal will be to recognize the centrality of the social world as a force that defines and drives the incidence, occurrence, and course of mental illness, as well as to appreciate the complex relationship between professional and personal accounts of disorder.
Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Five College Assistant Professor Aulino.2023-24: 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: ANTH 115. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Fong.Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2023
(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.
Requisite: ANTH 115, 288, 317, 323, or 332. Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. 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 Gewertz.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
(Offered as ANTH 331 and ASLC 341) 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 2020-21. Professor C. Dole.2023-24: 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 Dole.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 2020-21. 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 20 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 the 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. Omitted 2020-21. 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 18 students. Spring semester. 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
Sundays are not necessarily sunnier than Mondays. Nonetheless, most people prefer Sundays to Mondays. In this course, we discuss this interesting phenomenon in reference to the following question: which historical factors distinguish between days, hours, activities, and places within the “productive” and “unproductive” binary? We will review the basic theoretical perspectives on the homicide of homo ludens by homo faber, read excerpts from ethnographic and historical works on the transformation of the condition of labor from the late nineteenth century onwards in different regions of the world, and discuss the countervailing tendencies toward homogenization and diversification in the labor process, employment, and career building.
We will also look at how millennials have responded to some of the challenges pertinent to dual labor markets, such as investing further in their skills, “delaying” many of the common rites of passage such as marriage, and sometimes withdrawing partially from both productive and consumptive activities.
Along with these discussions, we will review some of the important labor datasets collected by key agencies and institutions such as Bureau of Labor Statistics, World Bank, ILO, and UnStat and use these materials to address the question of how the conditions of work may become diversified and/or homogenized, depending on the region, sector, and group of laborers. Students will gain the skills to assess the basic dynamics in work and employment relations and to investigate related empirical questions using a range of data sources.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Associate Professor Balaban.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as SOCI 209, ARCH 207 and BLST 319) Defying the hopes of many for the future of democracy, cities continue to be the hotbed of racial oppression, exploitation, and injustice in the United States. In this course, we will focus on this connection and discuss the alternatives.
The first theme of the course is the intellectual origins of structural racism in urban theory. The redefinition of racism in the early twentieth century as a predominantly urban phenomenon happened at the same time as (if not as a result of) the foundation of urban sociology in the United States that implicitly justifies racial stratification as a “natural” component of “urban ecology.”
The second theme is the role of U.S. urban planning and policymaking in structural racism. The formation and transformation of urban spaces and institutions such as suburbs, the highway system, the police force, and homeowner associations account for a complex matrix that keeps both the illusion of legal equality and the reality of social inequality intact.
The third theme is urban resistance against structural racism. Both well-known and mostly forgotten incidents, such as the protests in the Watts region of Los Angeles or the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, and the global demonstrations about the death of George Floyd inform us about the actors of urban collective action in the post-WWII context. We will embark on studying the literature concerning social movements to relate these instances to a broader discussion about how urban resistance could both facilitate and contain anti-racist mobilization.
Last, we will focus on the urban elements in alternative political, intellectual, and artistic visions and practices such as the African American communal experiences, separatism, and Afrofuturism. In this section, the goal is to develop ideas collectively about anti-racist urban political action and policymaking in the years to come.
Fall semester. Visiting Associate Professor Balaban.2023-24: Not offered
All urban spaces are invented by the users of those spaces. Following this axiom, this course introduces the basic concepts and themes of urban space theories and then discusses these concepts and themes within the historical context of the invention of mental and physical urban spaces.
Reviewing the basic foundational notions of urban ecology, political economy, and urban planning, we will discuss contrasting urban utopias that underlie different spatial inventions from the nineteenth century and beyond. Then, we will move to ethnographic and historical works that focus on key urban spaces, including suburbia, social housing, slums/barrios/gecekondus, ghettoes, and global cities. We will also discuss the idea of whether the nation state itself is an urban space invented to contextualize other urban spaces.
Along with these discussions, we will review some of the important datasets on cities collected by key agencies and institutions such as GaWC and Eurostat Urban Audits. Students will use these materials to analyze urban spaces during the semester. Students will gain new skills to contemplate social relations through the prism of spatial dynamics and to investigate related empirical questions with the assistance of different data sources.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Associate Professor Balaban.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 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Holleman.2023-24: Not offered
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 was startling to say the least. We begin with the many efforts to explain the results of the 2016 election as well as the more fledgling efforts on the 2020 elections (outcome unknown as I write this), focusing on the role of race, class, place and political party. We then contextualize the results of these elections in four ways: (1) historically (how the American Right has developed over time), (2) socially (how political choices emerge from the complexities of everyday lives), (3) comparatively (how “right-wing populism” is similar or different in different societies), and (4) structurally (the role of large structures and big processes like globalization and neo-liberalism). Placing recent political events in broader social/historical contexts will be challenging and exciting.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Himmelstein.Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023
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 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Himmelstein.2023-24: Not offered
(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 35 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Schmalzbauer.2023-24: Not offered
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 2020-21. Visiting Associate Professor Balaban.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 20 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 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. Spring semester. Professors Holleman and Lembo.2023-24: 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. Omitted 2020-21. 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. Omitted 2020-21. 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 2020-21. 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. Omitted 2020-21. 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