Sociology

Class, power, and inequality; law and society (including drugs, crime and “deviance”); race, ethnicity, and gender issues; and ways of seeing...these are among the topics addressed by Sarah Lawrence College students and professors in sociology courses. Increasingly, social issues need to be—and are—examined in relation to developments in global politics and economics. Students investigate the ways in which social structures and institutions affect individual experience and shape competing definitions of social situations, issues, and identities.

Courses tend to emphasize the relationship between the qualitative and the quantitative, between theoretical and applied practice, and the complexities of social relations rather than relying on simplistic interpretations, while encouraging student research in diverse areas. Through reading, writing, and discussion, students are encouraged to develop a multidimensional and nuanced understanding of social forces. Many students in sociology have enriched their theoretical and empirical work by linking it thematically with study in other disciplines—and through fieldwork.

2017-2018 Courses

Sociology

Borders and Transnational Mobilities

Open , Seminar—Year

In a global context where immigration has become one of the biggest flashpoints in political discourse, our understanding of how human and nonhuman mobility takes place needs constant re-examination and refinement. In addition to major humanitarian issues leading to global refugee crises, we are also looking at an ever-growing number of people who move across and within national borders in search of work, opportunities, education, and a chance to fulfil their aspirations for a better life. People also move because of conflict, dispossession, coercion, and environmental issues. Classical scholarship on migration has focused predominantly on the two largely distinct phenomena of “immigration” and “emigration,” while more recent developments in transnational studies and the "mobility" turn have led to a stronger emphasis on cross-border movements and flows of people, goods, capital, ideas, and vectors. Here, we will focus on building our knowledge about global and transnational mobility from an issue-based interdisciplinary perspective, drawing from the fields of sociology, anthropology, economics, history, and global studies. These issues include refugee crises, human trafficking, economic exploitation, modern-day slavery and indentured servitude, the global care-chain, and the emergence of new groups of precarious people around the world. To help with our exploration of these issues, we will be looking at how different regimes of mobility have developed under the auspices of globalization in the past three decades from a national, regional, international, and transnational perspective. What are some of the reasons influencing the movement of people away from their homes and countries of origin? How does the movement of people from privileged and wealthier backgrounds differ from that of people from poorer, marginalized communities (particularly in the Global South)? What are some of the institutional frameworks and regimes that govern, regulate, and produce new classes of “migrants” in today's world? The course will follow a modular structure that focuses on various themes within mobility studies. In each module, we will be using classical and contemporary readings that address the themes and issues at hand, in addition to nontraditional sources such as videos, blogs, online forums, and websites. The second half of the course will be focused on helping students design and propose projects based around some of the issues covered and through an engagement with different forms of data and methods: surveys, ethnographies, demographics, historical, and digital. This course will likely appeal to students interested in learning, researching, and working with different migrant communities around the world.

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Disabilities and Society

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will broadly consider the topic of disability within contemporary society, examining questions of social justice, discrimination, rights, identities, and cultural representations. Disability studies is an interdisciplinary field of academic study that emerged out of disability rights movements and has, therefore, focused on how social structures are disabling, limiting, and exclusionary. In concert with this perspective, we will study the history of the disability rights movement, including the passage and ramifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We will also consider tensions within disability movements, including the difficulties inherent in mobilizing a collective identity that encompasses a wide range of conditions and circumstances. In addition to political mobilization, we will analyze cultural meanings and representations of physical, psychological, and cognitive disabilities. Cultural representations of disability shape our assumptions and expectations, while disability activists have used literature and art to contest stigma and create new kinds of representations of non-normative bodies and selves. Finally, we will consider questions of embodiment, self, and identity. Disability is typically defined in terms of physical or mental impairment, which implies that there is a “normal” state of non-impairment. Defining disability has been highly contested, both because of the stigma attached to those who are seen as different and because many people with conditions that have been labeled as disabilities do not see their conditions in negative terms. Most of us will experience some degree of impairment at some point in our lives; but only some of us will be seen as, or identify ourselves as, disabled. Some disabilities are a part of identity from an early age, and others develop later in life. Thus, we will consider the relationship between embodiment, ability, and selfhood, looking at how people negotiate identity in relation to social categories and their own embodied experiences.

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Cities of the Global South

Open , Seminar—Fall

Saskia Sassen conceptualizes the “global city” as a model defined by the concentration of the economic activities of globalization, from infrastructure to services, as well as new forms of corporate governance and labor structures. The restructuring of global neoliberal economics has been a major factor in the unbalanced development experiences of various cities and urban centers in the Global South. While many enjoy vast material benefits from rapid economic expansion in cities like Singapore and Mumbai, others also experience an increase in precarious conditions and unprecedented levels of inequality, as witnessed in cities like Jakarta, Johannesburg, and São Paulo. In this course, we will be looking at the implications and consequences of uneven development in urban societies of the Global South. We will be particularly focused on issues such as urban informality, poverty, violence, inequalities, segregation, and surveillance as they pertain to cities outside the Global North countries. In addition, the course will also be focused on changing notions and meanings behind “urban” in the context of increasingly cosmopolitan societies and globalization by looking at how migration and mobility have had an impact on the social, political, and economic dynamics of urban living. Some of the case studies that we examine include gated communities in Johannesburg, informality in Mumbai and Jakarta, and precariousness in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Finally, we look at how urban transformations and realities in cities of the Global South give rise the new forms of social movements and political agency among dispossessed and marginalized communities that strive to make demands and claims at both micro and macro levels—from the collective mobilization of migrant women in Hong Kong in order to secure humane working conditions to the major public protests and revolutionary movements in cities such as Cairo. We will be reading and engaging with the works of scholars such as Sassen, David Harvey, Asef Bayat, Stephen Graham, Mike Davis, Teresa Caldeira, and Ananya Roy, among others. Students will be given the opportunity to design case studies of different cities in the non-Western world, focusing on key issues that we read and discuss in the course.

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Both Public and Private: The Social Construction of Family Life

Open , Seminar—Fall

Many of us take for granted the dichotomy between public and private life. The former is frequently understood as abstract, distant, and a key site of power; the latter, as the site of warmth, intimacy, and emotional sustenance. In this seminar, we will critically examine the assumptions underlying such idealized distinctions between public and private domains. Through such revisioning, it is hoped that we will better understand the public and private dimensions of the family, its complexity, and its historical variability. In particular, our analysis will enable us to critically examine notions that posit the inevitability of the nuclear, heterosexual family as a universal and “natural” institution. Relying primarily on the writings of Stephanie Coontz on the topic of the family, supplemented by relevant additional materials, we will take apart myths of the family to better understand both its discursive production and material reality across time and space. Specifically, we will look at the myriad ways in which personal and social reproduction occur; the relationship between distinct family forms and different systems of social organization and social movements; and the expression of gender, racial, and sexual relations in diverse historical settings. Throughout, we will be attentive to shifting boundaries between the private domain (often erroneously and transhistorically understood in familial terms) and public institutions and practices—from which, again erroneously, the latter is often set apart. Furthermore, the “private” domain of the family will be problematized as a site for the construction of identity and caring and, simultaneously, as a location that engenders compulsion and violence. In this latter context, we will examine how relations of domination and subordination are produced through the institution of the “family” and how resistance is generated to such dominant relations and constructions. The course will conclude with an examination of family forms in contemporary societies—single parent-, same sex-, and fictive kin-based—and of public struggles over these various forms.

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Embodiment and Biological Knowledge: Public Engagement in Medicine and Science

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will explore when, why, and how biological ideas become salient to people’s identities and to political debates, whether and how closely popular conceptions of biology and the physical body match scientific and medical knowledge, and the variations in the extent to which biological knowledge is seen as relevant to particular conceptions of the self or social controversies over the body. For example, why have vaccinations become controversial, and what understandings of the immune system underlie these controversies? How does the subjective nature of pain figure into controversies over contested illnesses such as fibromyalgia or repetitive strain syndrome? What do “genes” or “genetics” mean in social or cultural terms? How do hormones figure into our cultural understanding of gender and into people’s own gendered self-identities, particularly at times of hormonal change such as puberty, hysterectomy, or taking hormones as part of aligning the physical body with gender identity? In sociology and anthropology, medical and scientific knowledge has often been described as alienating, distancing people from their direct embodied experiences. Yet, to be a body is also always to be in a social context; so that perception is simultaneously cultural and physical. While medical and scientific knowledge provides us with ideas about our bodies that we cannot directly experience (e.g., our genes), these ideas can be deeply embedded and socially powerful explanatory systems. Thus, scholars have also argued that rather than alienating us from ourselves and our bodies, medical knowledge is constitutive of bodies and selves. Biological ideas and terms also circulate freely, so that popular conceptions of biology or physiology and scientific knowledge may not map neatly onto each other. We will explore these themes of bodily association and dissociation, science as alienating or constitutive, and popularization and expertise through various domains of biological knowledge, embodiment, and public debate. Past course work in the social sciences is beneficial but not required.

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Temporariness and Displacement: Refugees, Migrants, and Aliens

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

What does it mean to be a “temporary” person? The multiple discourses surrounding “migrants,” “refugees,” “illegals,” and other non-native-born people often paint problematic, exaggerated, and frustratingly misunderstood portraits about entire communities and populations. Politicians and movements (often of the far-right disposition) continue to reinforce views of the foreigner as a national threat, one that will rip apart the fabric of society if left to their own devices. Yet, more than ever, we live in a world where almost 245 million people are living in a country other than where they were born, and that includes millions of refugees and displaced populations who struggle under incredibly vulnerable and precarious conditions. Some 740 million people migrate internally, primarily from rural to urban centers, bringing the total number of migrants to more than one billion people. Here, we focus on communities and groups of migrants who are often targeted as national “problems”: refugees, undocumented persons, and so-called “economic” migrants. We start by looking at how different groups of migrants become categorized through institutionalized regimes as “temporary” populations—guest workers, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, and foreign workers—and examine what implications this temporariness imposes upon migrants themselves, both at the everyday level and in terms of the larger political climate. We will explore the realities of today's migrant experience with a special focus on temporariness, globalized fragmentation of social reproduction, and regimes of managed migration around the world. Throughout the course, we will be reading the works of Faranak Miraftab, Aihwa Ong, Nicole Constable, Guy Standing, Joseph Carens, David Bacon, and others as resources to bolster our discussions and reflections on the key questions of citizenship, rights, and temporariness. The course will require students to seek out and engage with local community organizations that work with different migrant communities and to develop reflective projects (blogs, forums, wikis, or journals) focusing on these key questions.

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Propaganda: A History of Spin

Intermediate , Joint seminar—Spring

This seminar provides an interdisciplinary analysis of the phenomenon of mass persuasion in modern society. How does propaganda “work”? How should we characterize the individuals and institutions that shape and disseminate it? What are the specific languages and visual symbols that propagandists have typically used to affect mass audiences? How have both “democratic” and “authoritarian” societies sought to generate consent; and how, in turn, have individuals and social groups drawn the line between what is truth and what is propaganda? Although the manipulation of information for political ends has been intrinsic to human societies across history, this course focuses on the so-called “axial age of propaganda,” beginning with World War I, which saw the emergence of tightly organized, large-scale, government-sponsored propaganda efforts across Europe and the United States. The course will place special emphasis on the interwar period, when—amid the onset of totalitarian regimes in Europe—the very nature of “public opinion” and mass society were hotly debated by intellectuals and interpretive experts. This course will utilize a variety of case studies to explore the symbolic content of specific kinds of propaganda and the institutional milieux that produce it, paying attention to propaganda that both seeks to overthrow social structures as well as to maintain them. Finally, the course will consider the ubiquity of propaganda in contemporary society, focusing on the role of image-making professionals working in the spheres of political campaigning, advertising, and public relations. Specific case studies may include: The US Committee on Public Information during World War I, the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda, Stalinism and the Soviet Union, state control of culture under the Deutsche Demoktratische Republik (East Germany), McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist, ISIL, and Breitbart News and Trumpism.

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Gender and Nationalism(s)

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Open only to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

Nationalism can be understood as a project simultaneously involving construction(s) of memory, history, and identity. In this seminar, we will identify the multiple and shifting dimensions of nationalism as a world historical phenomenon. Central to our focus will be the centrality and particular constructions of gender in different national projects. Attention will be paid to nationalism in its colonial and contemporary trajectories. Questions to be addressed include the following: What is the relationship between nationalism and identity? Which symbols/languages are called upon to produce a sense of self and collective identity? What are the various inclusions, exclusions, and silences that particular historically-constituted nationalisms involve? Is nationalism necessarily a positive force? If not, under what circumstances, in what ways, and for whom does it pose problems? What is the relationship of nationalism(s) to minorities and socially/politically marginalized groups? How is pluralism and difference constructed and treated? How do the same positions (e.g., issues of cultural authenticity and identity) take on a different meaning at diverse historical moments? How does the insider/outsider relationship alter in different periods and conceptualizations? Women have been interpellated and have participated within nationalist movements in a variety of ways. The dynamics and contradictions of such involvement will be analyzed closely. We will strive to explore the implications of these processes for women's sense of self, citizenship, and belonging at specific periods and over time. In the spring semester, we will turn our attention more specifically to performances of nationalism through institutional and popular cultural arrangements. Under the former category, we will look at issues of migration, immigration, and exile; public policy and international relations; war and conflict. In the arena of popular culture, we will examine the production of nationalism(s) through the mass media, sports, film, museums and exhibitions, and tourism. Conference work may include an examination of a specific nationalist movement, theoretical issues pertaining to nationalism(s), memory, identity, performances of nationalism(s) in popular culture and the mass media, and the interplay between institutional and everyday constructions of nationalism in specific settings.

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Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Open , Lecture—Year

Economics has a profound impact on all of our lives—from where we live and go to school to what we do for a living, how we dress, and how we entertain ourselves. Economics is also crucially intertwined with the social and political issues that we care about, from global warming to poverty and discrimination. This yearlong course introduces a variety of approaches to economics—including neoclassical, Keynesian, behavioralist, Marxian, and feminist—and encourages students to apply these contrasting perspectives to current economic issues. We conclude with an exploration of the causes and consequences of the recent financial and economic crisis.

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First-Year Studies: Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Open , FYS—Year

Some experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

In this yearlong seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to acquaint us with and to analyze the historical origins and evolutions of a world political economy, of which the Third World is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial "development" to understand the evolving meaning of this term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political economy, one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation states. We will then examine globalization; and its relation to emergent international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class—the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies primarily from Africa but also from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project in the fall semester to be completed in the spring. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, students will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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The Geography of Contemporary China: A Political Ecology of Reform, Global Integration, and Rise to Superpower

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Some experience in the social sciences desired but not required.

Despite widespread daily reporting on China’s rise to superpower status—and both its challenge to and its necessary partnership with the United States—what do we really know about the country? In this seminar, we will explore China’s evolving place in the world through political-economic integration and globalization processes. We will consistently focus our efforts on reframing debates, both academic and in mass media, to enable new insights and analyses. We will begin with an overview of contemporary China, discussing the unique aspects of China’s modern history and the changes and continuities from one era to the next. We will explore Revolutionary China and the subsequent socialist period to ground the seminar’s focus: post-1978 reform and transformation to the present day. Rooted in the questions of agrarian change and rural development, we will also study seismic shifts in urban and industrial form and China’s emergence as a global superpower on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. We will analyze the complex intertwining of the environmental, political-economic, and sociocultural aspects of these processes as we interpret the geography of contemporary China. Using a variety of theoretical perspectives, we will analyze a series of contemporary global debates: Is there a fundamental conflict between the environment and rapid development? What is the role of the peasantry in the modern world? What is the impact of different forms of state power and practice? How does globalization shape China’s regional transformation? And, on the other hand, how does China’s global integration impact development in every other country and region of the world? Modern China provides immense opportunities for exploring key theoretical and substantive questions of our time. A product first and foremost of its own complex history, other nation states and international actors and institutions—such as the World Bank, transnational corporations, and civil society—have also heavily influenced China. The “China model” of rapid growth is widely debated in terms of its efficacy as a development pathway, and yet it defies simple understandings and labels. Termed everything from neoliberalism to market socialism to authoritarian Keynesian capitalism, it is a model full of paradoxes and contradictions. Not least of these is its impact on global climate change. Other challenges include changing gender relations, rapid urbanization, and massive internal migration. In China today, contentious debates continue on land reform, the pros and cons of global market integration, the role of popular culture and the arts in society, how to define ethical behavior, the roots of China’s social movements—from Tian’anmen to current widespread social unrest and discontent amongst workers, peasants, students, and intellectuals—and the meaning and potential resolution of minority conflicts in China’s hinterlands. Land and resource grabs in China and abroad are central to China’s rapid growth and its role as an industrial platform for the world. But resulting social inequality and environmental degradation challenge the legitimacy of China’s leadership like never before. As China borders many of the most volatile places in the contemporary world and increasingly projects its power to the far corners of the planet, we will conclude our seminar with a discussion of security issues, geopolitics, and potential scenarios for China’s future. Throughout the seminar, there will be comparisons with other areas of the world within the context of the broader theoretical and thematic questions mentioned above. Weekly selected readings, films, mass media, and books will be used to inform debate and discussion. A structured conference project will integrate closely with one of the diverse topics of the seminar.

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Diversity and Equity in Education: Issues of Gender, Race, and Class

Advanced , Seminar—Year

The education system is a central institution in the socialization of young people and the maintenance of the modern nation-state. Schools support meritocratic models of society by providing opportunities for social mobility. Paradoxically, schools also reproduce gender, racial, and class inequality. In this course, we will examine the roles that schools play in the transmission of culture, formation of identity, and reproduction of social structures. Paying special attention to gender and its intersection with other social categories, we will look at practices and policies that shape students' performance as they strive for competence, achievement, and acceptance. We will also analyze the larger political and economic contexts that shape both schools and the communities in which they are situated.

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Love, Sex, and Globalization

Open , Seminar—Year

In 2015, the issue of gay rights in Israel was thrust into international spotlight when 26 Israeli surrogate babies were evacuated from earthquake-devastated Kathmandu, but their Nepalese surrogate mothers were left behind. Among the Israeli parents were gay couples who had been forced to look abroad, as surrogacy is restricted to heterosexual couples in Israel. What this event also revealed are the strange bedfellows that love and sex find when they travel and take up new life in the age of globalization. In recent years, scholars have been increasingly concerned with the worldwide political-economic and technological restructuring that goes under the name of “globalization.” Too often, however, globalization has been figured as an abstract and all-powerful capitalist phenomenon imposed on the rest of the world by American political elites and US corporations. Missing have been accounts of how this restructuring is experienced by people in their daily lives, including their most intimate acts and practices. This course seeks to challenge the binaries of proximate/distant, economic/intimate, and global/local by which we understand globalization. Using an interdisciplinary lens drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, international relations, literature, and film and media studies, we will seek to account for the complex ways in which political-economic and technological transformations both shape and are shaped by love, sex, and intimacy. Among the topics of discussion will be gay marriage, mail-order brides, transnational adoption, international sex work, militarism, the Internet, and social media. Potential readings will include Symposium by Plato, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1977) by Roland Barthes, The Transformation of Intimacy (1992) by Anthony Giddens, Neon Wasteland: On Love, Motherhood, and Sex Work in A Rust Belt Town (2011) by Susan Dewey, Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)longing in Contemporary India (2008) by Parmesh Shehani, Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender, and Rights in South Africa (2010) by Mark Hunter, and On the Move for Love: Migrant Entertainers and the US Military in South Korea (2010) by Sealing Cheng. For conference work, students will have a chance to expand upon their personal interests and learn the basics of ethnographic research by conducting mini-ethnography on a selected topic of their choice. Samples of past student work may be found on the instructor’s faculty home page.

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Global Masculinities

Open , Seminar—Fall

What does it mean for straight white men in fraternities and the military to grab each other’s penises as part of a hazing ritual (Ward 2015)? Or for blond, “all-American” jocks to dress like “nerds” with glasses and perform a Revenge of the Nerds skit for a high school’s “homecoming king” contest (Pascoe 2007)? Or for the National Basketball Association to feature a promotional video of Yao Ming, the first Chinese player in the NBA, leading a Tai-chi practice on a basketball court wearing his Rockets jersey (Wang 2004)? What do these images and practices reveal about the diverse cultures of masculinity that exist within the United States and around the world? Often when scholars study gender, they focus on women. In contrast, within this course we will spotlight the lives of men who have long escaped critical examination as members of an unmarked category that has stood for humanity in general. In exploring the diversity of men’s lives across the globe, this course will highlight the social construction of masculinity; that is, rather than understanding being “male” or a “man” as biological facts, we will view them as sociocultural constructs that vary not only according to time but also setting. We will see how masculinity intersects with race, class, age, language, sexuality, religion, and nationality to create various models of hegemonic and subordinate masculinities that co-exist and compete with one another. We will explore how, even as masculinity operates to empower men as a group, they inhabit positions of power and wealth and simultaneously regulate the behavior of all men. Therefore, we will also discuss how drag queens, butch lesbians, and transgender people create their own complex genders (Taylor 2004) that have the power to disrupt the gender binary that, in turn, supports not only a white normative queer community and heteronormative family system but also hetero-masculinist states as part of a global capitalist system of homosocial bonding and rivalry. Potential readings include Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (2011) by C.J. Pascoe, Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men (2015) by Jane Ward, Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing (2014) by Jeffrey McCune, “The Track of My Tears: Trans* Affects, Resonance, and PitBulls and Parolees” (2015) by Harlan Weaver, Manly States: Masculinities, International Relations, and Gender Politics (2012) by Charlotte Hooper, and Chih-ming Wang’s “Capitalizing the big man: Yao Ming, Asian America, and the China Global” (2004). For conference work, students will have a chance to expand upon their personal interests and learn the fundamentals of ethnographic research by conducting mini-ethnography on a selected topic of their choice. Samples of past student work may be found on the instructor’s faculty home page.

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Queer New Media

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Until recently, “queer media” called to mind bar rags or community newsletters. With the proliferation of computer-mediated communication—including cell phones, fax machines, satellite television, and the Internet—queer communities around the world have seen the proliferation of multimedia conglomerates very much modeled on their mainstream counterparts (Gamson 2003). Not only that, as location-aware dating applications such as Tinder and Grindr provide novel opportunities for queers to socialize outside of gay spaces, Web 2.0 has resulted in the increased centrality of user-generated content, including DIY porn that is pro-sex, collaborative, and explicitly queer (McGlotten 2012). Finally, social networking and entertainment sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook offer possibilities, in previously unimaginable ways, for grassroots organizing and political struggle for social justice. Yet, even as the connectivity of the Internet has reinvigorated hopes for radical queer politics, democracy, and global community, it has also fed into fears about damage to face-to-face interactions and community. For instance, “No Fats, No Fems, No Asians” is now a ubiquitous phrase on gay hook-up apps where white, muscular, masculinity is most prized. At the same time, Big Data gathered from our Google searches and Facebook likes is threatening to become a regular part of diffuse and opaque campaigns of social engineering that involve guessing, among other things, one’s sexual orientation for marketing purposes. Clearly then, a more precise understanding of both the real and novel effects of queer new media is needed. Eschewing the largely speculative writing on sexuality and new media, this course will investigate how social media affect how queer users interact in online spaces as particular raced, classed, and gendered beings and how these interactions shape their understandings of themselves and the world. It will also explore how these communication technologies are situated in larger structures of political economy and how they have the potential to remediate mass mobilization and political action. Potential readings include Corinne Lysandra Mason’s “Tinder and humanitarian hook-ups: the erotics of social media racism” (2016), Catherine Connell’s “Fashionable Resistance: Queer ‘Fa(t)shion’ Blogging as Counterdiscourse” (2013), Dominique Pierre Batiste’s “‘0 Feet Away: The Queer Cartography of French Gay Men’s Geo-social Media Use” (2013), Shaka McGlotten’s Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (2013), and Lindsey O’Connor’s “‘Weird’ Sex: Identity, Censorship, and China’s Women Sex Bloggers” (2014). For conference work, students will have a chance to expand upon their personal interests and learn the basics of ethnographic research by conducting mini-ethnography on a selected topic of their choice. Samples of past student work may be found on the instructor’s faculty home page.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open , Lecture—Fall

Mathematical prerequisite: basic high school algebra and geometry.

Correlation, regression, statistical significance, and margin of error. You’ve heard these terms and other statistical phrases bantered about before, and you’ve seen them interspersed in news reports and research articles. But what do they mean? And why are they important? And what exactly fueled the failure of statistical polls and projections leading up to the 2016 US presidential election? An introduction to the concepts, techniques, and reasoning central to the understanding of data, this lecture course focuses on the fundamental methods of statistical analysis used to gain insight into diverse areas of human interest. The use, misuse, and abuse of statistics will be the central focus of the course, and specific topics of exploration will be drawn from experimental design, sampling theory, data analysis, and statistical inference. Applications will be considered in current events, business, psychology, politics, medicine, and other areas of the natural and social sciences. Statistical (spreadsheet) software will be introduced and used extensively in this course, but no prior experience with the technology is assumed. Conference work will serve as a complete practicum of the theory learned in lecture: Students working closely in small teams will conceive, design, and fully execute a small-scale research study. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate work and/or research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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The Legitimacy of Modernity

Open , Lecture—Year

How can social order be explained in modern societies that are too large, fluid, and complex to rely on tradition or self-conscious political regulation alone? Social theory is a distinctly modern tradition of discourse centered on answering this question and focused on a series of theorists and texts whose works gave rise to the modern social sciences. They explore the sources of social order in structures, many of which work “behind the backs” of the awareness and intentions of those whose interaction they integrate and regulate. The market economy, the legal and administrative state, the firm and the professions, highly differentiated political and civil cultures, a variety of disciplinary techniques inscribed in diverse mundane practices...one by one, these theorists labored to unmask the often hidden sources of social order in the modern world. Moreover, this understanding of social order has evolved side-by-side with evaluations that run the gambit from those who view Western modernity as achieving the apex of human freedom and individuality to those who see it as insinuating a uniquely thorough and invidious system of domination. This class will introduce many of the foundational texts and authors in social theory and the social sciences, including Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, and Jürgen Habermas. In this way, it will also cover various schools of social explanation, including Marxism, structuralism, poststructuralism, and (in group conferences) postcolonial studies and feminism. The thread connecting these disparate authors and approaches will be the issue of the worth or legitimacy of Western modernity, the historical process that produced capitalism, representative democracy, religious pluralism, the modern sciences, ethical individualism, secularism, fascism, communism, new forms of racism and sexism, and many “new social movements.” Which of the institutions that structured the process of modernization are worth defending or reforming? Which should be rejected outright? Or should we reject them all and embrace a new, postmodern social epoch? In answering these questions in class and group conferences, we will grapple with both the classical texts and the contemporary implications of different approaches to social analysis.

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open , Lecture—Spring

Remember, remember always, that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. —Franklin D. Roosevelt

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon where people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course begins with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of sociological and social psychological research on immigrants. We then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will analyze the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will look at how the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as the intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.​

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Individualism Reconsidered: Beyond Pride and Shame

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never harm you.” Can anything be further from the truth? This course will examine how reputation in all its guises shadows our lives. Do we not dispense praise and blame to control the lives of others? Can we deny that pride and shame represent the rewards and punishments that we employ to imprison ourselves? Can we inhabit a world that goes beyond pride and shame? For example, consider the following tale: Alexander the Great allegedly came across the philosopher Diogenes, clothed in rags and taking a sunbath while reclining on the street. According to one version of this tale, Alexander asked Diogenes if there were anything he desired. If there were, then certainly Alexander would grant his wish. Diogenes waved his hand and replied: “Stand out of my light.” Addressing his troops, Alexander exclaimed, “If I were not Alexander the Great, I would like to be Diogenes.” What of you, dear student?

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Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

For graduate students and for juniors and seniors by permission of the instructor.

This course addresses the multiple factors that play a role in shaping a child’s development, particularly as those factors may result in what we think of as psychopathology. Starting with a consideration of what the terms “normality” and “pathology” may refer to in our culture, we will read about and discuss a variety of situations that illustrate different interactions of inborn, environmental, and experiential influences on developing lives. For example, we will read theory and case material addressing congenital conditions such as deafness and life events such as acute trauma and abuse, as well as the range of less clear-cut circumstances and complex interactions of variables that have an impact on growth and adaptation in childhood and adolescence. In discussing readings drawn from clinical and developmental psychology, memoir, and research studies, we will examine a number of the current conversations and controversies about assessment, diagnostic/labeling, early intervention, use of psychoactive medications, and treatment modalities. Students will be required to engage in fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere and may choose whether to focus conference projects on aspects of that experience.

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Constructing Citizenship, Dismantling Hierarchies: The Immigrant and Racial Struggle for Political Equality

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

In the past few years, we have witnessed the undocumented, African Americans, and Latinos taking to the streets in protest, engaging in acts of civil disobedience, calling and writing letters to policymakers, and participating in a variety of other political activities. Meanwhile, organizations—newly created and long standing, political and nonpolitical—are joining in by organizing political actions and lobbying on behalf of marginalized groups. Still, the impetus for these demonstrations, the mixed and sometimes nativist public reactions toward marchers, and the continued passage and implementation of punitive enforcement policies are also a reminder of the political marginalization of immigrant and racial and ethnic groups in the United States. This course examines this heightened activism by situating it within historical political and social contests over citizenship in the United States. The first part of the course will draw from immigrant adaptation, minority political incorporation, and social movements to examine the political incorporation of immigrant and racial groups in the United States. The second part of the course will provide a historical overview of citizenship and its legal and social constructions at key moments throughout US history. Specifically, we will examine moments in which citizenship was being constructed, challenged, and resettled. Citizenship is a multifaceted concept that is not fixed; rather, it is constantly being negotiated, contested, and reformulated. Students will not only be engaging in theoretical and empirical debates about citizenship but also will be asked to consider their own role in its contestation.

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The Art of Protest

Open , Seminar—Year

Contentious, collective action is everywhere. Especially now, it is easy to recall the images of undocumented youth activists staring down Immigration and Customs enforcement officials or the face-off between protestors and police in Ferguson over the shooting of Michael Brown and the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme launched in solidarity. Protest is (and has been) a major form of claims-making for groups that find their voices shut out of traditional institutional spaces. People take to the streets to challenge policies and systemic violence; they collectively resist in their workplaces; and they confront and assert their place in distinct organizational spheres of society. Through their activism, they create alternative social and political spaces in their efforts to effect change by reforming or dismantling dominant societal institutions. In this course, we will bridge the academic literature on social movements and protest with case studies of different movements in the United States and transnationally. We will imagine and reimagine what a just society looks like and how protest can help to create that society—but also where it fails. Students will consider questions such as: Why do people protest? What gains can be made via protest? How is protest policed, co-opted, or contained as politics-as-usual? And, finally, is there a liberatory potential to fundamentally reshape society via protest?

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First-Year Studies: The Hebrew Bible

Open , FYS—Year

The Hebrew Bible stands at the foundation of Western culture. Its stories permeate our literature, our art...indeed, our sense of identity. The Hebrew Bible's ideas inform our laws, have given birth to our revolutions and social movements, and have thereby made most of our social institutions possible (as well as the movements to remove them). What is this book? How was it written? Who wrote it? Who preserved it for us? Why has all or part of this body of literature been considered holy to the practitioners of Judaism and Christianity? Four thousand years ago, various groups from small tribe-wandering nomads would get together and tell stories. These stories were not preserved on stone tombs but in the hearts and memories of the people to whom they belonged. We will read the collection of traditions in a book called Genesis and compare these stories with other texts (written in mud and stone) such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Babylonian Creation Epic, which were contemporary with biblical traditions. We will read the biblical epic of liberation, Exodus; the historical books that weave theology into a history of a nation; and the oracles of the great Hebrew prophets of Israel, those reformers, judges, priests, mystics, and poets to whom modern culture owes its grasp of justice. We will trace the social, intellectual, and political history of the people formed by these traditions from the Late Bronze until the Roman age.

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Color

Open , Seminar—Year

Color is primordial. It is life itself, and a world without color would appear dead and barren to us. Nothing affects our entire being more dramatically than color. The children of light, colors reveal and add meaning, giving richness and fullness to all that surrounds us. A vehicle for expressing emotions and concepts, as well as information, color soothes us and excites us. Our response to color is both biological and cultural. It changes how we live, how we dream, and what we desire. Using a variety of methods and materials, this course will focus on an exploration of color, its agents, and their effects. Not a painting course, this class will explore relationships between the theory, perception, use, and physiology of color. Clearly defined problems and exercises will concentrate on understanding and controlling the principles and strategies common to the visual vocabulary of color, (hue, value, saturation, form, context, texture, pattern, space, continuity, repetition, rhythm, gestalt, and unity), as well as the personal, psychological, symbolic, expressive, and emotional consequences of that visual vocabulary.

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