ANSO 205(S)Ways of Knowing

An applied exploration of how one makes sense of the social world through fieldwork. Some of the key questions of the course are: What are the philosophical and epistemological underpinnings of social inquiry? How does one frame intellectual problems and go about collecting, sifting, and assessing field materials? What are the uses and limits of statistical data? What is the importance of history to sociological and anthropological research? How can one use archival and other documentary materials to enrich ethnographic research? What are the empirical limits to interpretation? What is the relationship between empirical data and the generation of social theory? How does the social organization of social research affect one's inquiry? What are the typical ethical dilemmas of fieldwork and of other kinds of social research? How do researchers' personal biographies and values shape their work? In the first half of the course, we will approach these problems concretely rather than abstractly through a series of case studies, drawing upon the field experiences of departmental faculty and guest speakers from different professional backgrounds. The second half of the course will be dedicated to a hands-on training in field methods, in which the students will design and undertake their own pilot field projects. [ more ]

ANSO 305(F)Social Theory

An introduction to social theory in anthropology and sociology, with strong emphasis on enduring themes that cut across disciplinary divides. What is modern about modern social theory? How do social thinkers construe "society" and "culture," and have these constructions withstood challenges over time? What role does human agency play in the unfolding of social life, and where does that sense of agency come from in the first place? What are the forces that animate social interaction on the level of individuals, social groups and complex units like nation states? What are the possibilities and limits of systematic approaches to the study of human social experience? The course emphasizes major differences between interpretive frameworks as well as the common elements that contribute to a deeper understanding of the social world. [ more ]

ANSO 402(S)Senior Seminar

This capstone seminar combines intensive discussion and individual research. Half of the course will be dedicated to the discussion of current debates central to the concerns of both anthropology and sociology, such as the ethics of conducting fieldwork, humanitarianism and relief, global public health, poverty and the city, and environmental conservation. Among the topics discussed, the ethical dilemmas of conducting ethnography will be a common theme. The instructor will consult with the students in late fall to decide on the topics for discussion. The second half of the course will be devoted to independent individual original projects which should have a major ethnographic component. At the end of the course, students will present their projects to the seminar. [ more ]


ANTH 101(F, S)The Scope of Anthropology

Is there such a thing as "human nature"? Why have human societies developed such a bewildering range of customs to deal with problems common to people everywhere? This course addresses these questions by introducing students to the comparative study of human social life and culture. Topics surveyed in the course include economics, language and thought, kinship and marriage, law and politics, and the wide variations in human belief systems, including religions. The course also considers the ways that anthropology, a discipline that was until recently practiced almost exclusively by Westerners, approaches other societies in search of insights on our own customs and values. Ethnographic descriptions of both "simple" tribal societies and complex modern ones are a prominent part of the readings. This course explores differences and similarities between cultures and societies and ways in which they have interacted and responded to one another in the past. [ more ]

Taught by: Peter Just, Joel Lee

Catalog details

ANTH 103(F)Pyramids, Bones, and Sherds: What is Archaeology?

Anthropology examines not only living societies, but also prehistoric cultures whose remains are found worldwide. This course will present how archaeology reconstructs the various aspects of human society from the physical record of prehistory. How do we study the subsistence and settlement patterns, the political and social organization, and the economy and ideology of prehistoric societies who have left behind mute material records? The objective of anthropological archaeology is to bring to life these prehistoric cultures through archaeological analysis. The different goals, approaches and methodologies of modern archaeology will be discussed theoretically and then applied to case studies. [ more ]

ANTH 208Afghanistan Post-Mortem

Not offered this year

The United States attacked and defeated the Afghan Taliban regime over in the course of a few short weeks in 2001. Over the next decade, the finality of that victory was brought into question as the Taliban regrouped and eventually reasserted itself as a formidable guerilla army that the U.S. military could not defeat. This course examines the history of American involvement in Afghanistan, beginning in the Cold War when the U.S. used Afghanistan as a test case for new models of political modernization and economic development, through the Soviet occupation and U.S. support for Islamist political parties in the 1980s, and continuing with the most recent abortive U.S. efforts at nation-building and social and political reform. [ more ]

ANTH 209Ecologies of Place: Culture, Commodities and Everyday Life

Not offered this year

This course will explore the environmental implications of everyday life in modern America. It will ask how cultural, political, economic, and ecological systems interact to produce ordinary places and vernacular landscapes, from campuses to cul-de-sacs, farms to forests, nation-states to national parks. Combining approaches from cultural geography, environmental history, and political ecology, it will focus on the hidden lives of "things"--the commodities and technologies that form the basic building blocks of place: food, oil, water, wood, machines. With strong emphasis on local-global relations, it will look beneath the surface of the ordinary to reveal the complex networks of power, meaning, and matter that connect "here" to "there," "now" to "then," and "us" to "them." In so doing, it will pursue parallel goals: to understand the socio-spatial processes shaping today's global environment; and to explore the cultural systems through which those processes are understood and contested. Topics will include the bottled water controversy, factory farming and local agriculture, the political economy of lawns, and the cultural politics of invasive species. [ more ]

ANTH 210Governing Nature

Not offered this year

This course analyzes the regulation of natural resources, primarily in today's United States. We will study how shared definitions of nature and, hence, nature's resources are instituted in law and policy and the extent to which these legal mandates shape actual landscapes. We will examine the workings of government bureaucracies--for example, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service--to see how their understanding and administration of natural resources operate on the ground and affect local communities. We will consider an array of questions: What is the relationship between nature and what anthropologists call "the State"? Does scientific expertise command authority? When is the governance of natural resources synonymous with the governance of people? To what extent are taken-for-granted terms like "endangered" in reality social and legal constructs? In order to unpack these and other puzzles, we will turn to historical works and ethnography, focusing on insights from political and environmental anthropology. We will also read legal doctrine, such as the Wilderness Act of 1964 and judicial opinions regarding tribal sovereignty and fishing rights. Our case studies will range from rivers and national forests in the American Southwest to local conservation issues in the Berkshires, including land trusts. [ more ]

ANTH 214(F)The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

Over the centuries, philosophers and historians have asked how societies evolved from simple hunter-gatherer bands to complex urban civilizations. Human prehistory and history have shown the repeated cycles of the rise, expansion and collapse of early civilizations in both the Old and New World. What do the similarities and differences in the development of these first civilizations tell us about the nature of societal change, civilization and the state, and human society itself? The course will examine these issues through an introductory survey of the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Mesoamerica and South America. Classical and modern theories on the nature, origin, and development of the state will be reviewed in light of the archaeological evidence. [ more ]

ANTH 216 T(S)Urbanism in the Ancient World

This is a course on cities in the ancient world, which will examine four major ancient urban centers (Nineveh and Nimrud, Iraq; Teotihuacan, Mexico; and Angkor, Cambodia) and end with a sustained, in-depth exploration of urbanism in prehispanic Maya civilization. As more and more people move into cities across the world, human societies are becoming forever transformed. This transformation into an urban globalized world has ancient roots at the beginning of the first civilizations in Euroasia and the Americas. We will delve into the nature of the urban transformation by first exploring sociological and anthropological definitions of urbanism, and recent studies of modern urbanism. We will look at Nineveh, Nimrud, Teotihuacan, and Angkor to consider how ancient urbanism was distinct from modern cities, while at the same time, ancient urbanites had to deal with similar issues as residents of modern cities. We will then examine in more depth the cities of prehispanic Maya civilization, answering such questions as: how different were Maya cities from other premodern ones? Is there one type of Maya city or many? How different was life in Maya cities from life in Maya villages? What were the power structures of Maya cities? How common were immigrants and slaves in these ancient cities? This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative through a comparative study of urban cultures and societies across the world in premodern times, and by theorizing how power and privilege inequalities were manifested and dealt with in these ancient cities. [ more ]

ANTH 219The Art and Archeology of Maya Civilization: A Marriage Made in Xibalba

Not offered this year

The ancient Maya civilization was one of the most sophisticated and complex cultures of prehispanic Central America. Its complex calendrics, astronomy, mathematics and hieroglyphic writing system are well known worldwide. The course will examine the trajectory and nature of ancient Maya civilization from the combined perspectives of archaeology and art history. The origins and evolution of the Maya states during the Preclassic period (1000 B.C.-A.D. 250) will be explored by looking at the rich archaeological evidence and at Preclassic art styles. The Classic Maya civilization (A.D. 250-1000) will then be presented through a detailed survey of the archaeology, art and hieroglyphic texts of this period. Finally, the collapse of Classic Maya civilization and its transformation and endurance during the Postclassic period and under early Spanish rule (A.D. 1000-1600) will be critically evaluated through a detailed review of the archaeological and iconographic evidence. [ more ]

ANTH 220Law and Family in South Asia: Post-Colonial Dilemmas

Not offered this year

The American press frequently depicts countries like India and Pakistan as in the grip of lawless, anachronistic beliefs about how to organize family life. Such beliefs are blamed for "tribal" violence in Pakistan's Frontier Regions, for dowry disputes in north India and for the persistence of corrupt dynasties in leading political parties. Yet these beliefs and practices aren't in fact old-fashioned or lawless, and many of them result from South Asia's unique historical position as a former British colony. In this class, we will use ethnographic and historical research to examine what law and kinship can teach us about how the past shapes the present in post-colonial South Asia. In particular, we'll examine how a perspective that seriously considers law and kinship can help us better understand contemporary dilemmas in South Asia, ranging from controversy over women's right to inherit property, to the role of caste in contemporary democratic politics. The course is organized into three sections. First, we will discuss kinship, reading classic theories of kinship in the region, as well as critiques of those theories, and ending with a contemporary dilemma, the problem of dowry "pressure". Next, we learn about how family relationships were codified legally, and how laws were shaped to respond to perceived family "traditions," in colonial and post-colonial South Asia. Finally, we will look at specific topics concerning law and kinship. As we do so, we will move from reading ethnographies to producing our own ethnographic observations using film, news stories and first-hand accounts as our primary materials. No prior knowledge about South Asia is necessary. [ more ]

ANTH 222(S)Heroes, Saints and Celebrity

This course examines the ways in which cultures select, ritually celebrate, institutionally harness, and ultimately devour people designated as 'extraordinary'. We will begin by considering cultural archetypes and theories of the hero and how heroism has been understood in different eras and cultural contexts. Using Weber's theory of charisma as a foundation, we will look at a number of specific case studies to evaluate the relationship between individual creativity and action and the demands of social conformity and control. Finally, we will examine how charisma is commoditized in the form of the celebrity in contemporary American culture. [ more ]

ANTH 223Ethnic Minorities in China: Past and Present

Not offered this year

By 2000, of the 1.3 billion population of China, more than 100 million were ethnic minorities (shaoshu minzu). Most of these reside in autonomous regions and districts, which constitute 64% of China's total acreage. This course introduces students to the multiethnic aspect of China's past and present. We will address topics such as the minority-group identification project; the definition of minzu; government policy toward and the current situation of the fifty-five official ethnic minority groups; historical sino-centric views about "foreigners" and "barbarians"; ideas of "diversity," "unity," and "sinicization"; and the roles that "barbarians" have played in China's long history. All readings will be in English. This is an EDI course. We will explore various meanings of "diversity" and "being ethnic" in the Chinese context and compare them with students' own experiences through class discussions and an essay assignment. [ more ]

ANTH 225Visible Culture: Documentary and Nonfiction

Not offered this year

This course examines the potential of moving images to reveal aspects of culture normally obscured by the written word. We will consider both the theory and practice of documentary film from its inception around 1900 to the present, paying particular attention to the way documentary filmmakers have approached the representation of social reality in Western and non-Western cultural settings. Questions that we will consider include: What is the relationship between written text and image, or between image and story? What is the role of film in anthropology? What counts as a document? [ more ]

ANTH 231Survey of Linguistic Diversity: Meaning, Context and Communication

Not offered this year

This course explores ways in which human experiences, including vision, space, emotion and interpersonal awareness are encoded similarly or differently between Western and Asian languages. The course centers around two core areas of linguistics, semantics (study of meaning) and pragmatics (study of meaning in context and use), which are discussed from cognitive, cultural and social perspectives. Discussion topics include: grammar and cognition, lexicon and culture, conceptual metaphor, honorific systems, communicative strategies, and theories of politeness. Lectures and in-class activities will primarily focus on two typologically distant languages, English and Japanese, for comparison. Reading materials may include data from other languages as well, and students may work on languages of their interest for selected assignments. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

ANTH 232(F)Town and Gown: Investigating the Relationship of College and Community

Team-taught by an anthropologist and a journalist, this course investigates the relationship between Williams College and the surrounding communities of Northern Berkshire County via ethnographic/journalistic research conducted by students. The course will look at several case studies centered on "town-gown" relations in different eras and locations in order to contextualize and provide comparative material for understanding the relationship of Williams to its neighboring communities. Among the topics to be considered and possibly investigated will be the social and economic effects of colleges on local communities, the role of alcohol and athletics in town/gown relations, and how the increasing corporatization of academic institutions has changed the nature of town-gown interactions and the place and role of institutions of higher education in their communities. The focus of the course will be on student research, and a large percentage of class time will be devoted to learning the basic techniques of ethnographic and journalistic research, including interviewing, oral historical research, survey research, and participant-observation. Each student will conduct a major research project of his or her own devising, which will culminate in an investigative report and a public presentation. [ more ]

ANTH 233Spiritual Crossroads: Religious Life in Southeast Asia

Not offered this year

No region of the world presents a richer tapestry of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions than Southeast Asia. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are all to be found and all of them interpenetrate and contend with each other and with a deep undergirding of animism, shamanism, and mystical folk belief systems. This course will survey these religious traditions through time and space, looking in particular at the growing tension between religion and the state as fundamentalism and religious militancy have spread into the region in recent times. All of Southeast Asia will be covered, but particular attention will be devoted to Indonesia, where religious blending and the growth of new fundamentalism are both especially marked. [ more ]

ANTH 234Masculinities

Not offered this year

What does it mean to be a man? This course approaches masculinity in its various forms as a culturally constructed category and as an achieved aspect of social identity. We will look at characteristics of manhood as they are imagined cross-culturally: man as warrior, lover, husband, father, protector, provider, disciplinarian, abuser; we will look at how manhood is variously achieved and how it can be lost; and we will look at forms of masculinity as they articulate with modes of sexuality and gender. The course will make extensive use of cinema in exploring these themes. [ more ]

ANTH 235(S)Roman Archaeology and Material Culture

This course examines the development of Roman archaeology and material culture from the early Iron Age, ca. 1000 BCE, to the end of the reign of Constantine in 337 CE. The primary goal of the course is to help students understand the social and historical context in which Roman material culture was created and used. We will consider a variety of evidence from across the empire, including monumental and domestic architecture, wall painting, mosaics, sculpture, coins and inscriptions. Special emphasis will be placed on the city of Rome; however, we will also look at other important urban centers, such as Pompeii, Aphrodisias and Lepcis Magna. Roman art and architecture were not the product of any single people or culture, but rather the hybrid synthesis of complex cultural negotiations between the Romans and their colonial subjects (i.e., Greeks, Jews, Celts, etc.). Class discussions will focus on issues related to gender, ethnicity and cultural identity in the Roman Empire. For example, we will explore what it meant to be "Roman" in terms of language, ethnicity and cultural institutions. We will also discuss how Roman elites used material culture to convey political messages and social status in the imperial hierarchy, as well as the legacy of Roman art and architecture in the modern world. [ more ]

ANTH 236Individuals in Context: Personhood, Emotion, Thought

Not offered this year

How does culture get inside our heads? How does variation between societies or social groups intersect with variation between individuals within those groups? What can ethnographic methods, in particular, tell us about the intersections between individual and culture? This course offers an introduction to the theoretical and methodological tools of psychological anthropology, a sub-field of anthropology that investigates the relationship between interior experience and social worlds. We will explore studies of personhood, emotion, socialization, and cognition across cultures, topics that draw together the individual and her broader social context. We will pair these studies with key theoretical texts from the field, and will conclude by discussing how psychological anthropology can contribute to contemporary debates about power, inequality, and social transformation. [ more ]

ANTH 240(F)Roman Cities in the Near East

The Near East under Roman rule was a zone of intense cultural contact and exchange. Major urban centers, like Ephesus and Alexandria, were home to a diverse array of Greeks, Romans, Jews, Egyptians and other Semitic peoples. Out of this cultural crucible emerged new movements in religion, science, and the arts which changed the face of the Roman Empire. This course examines the history and material culture of Roman cities in the Near East, from Pompey's annexation of Syria in 64 BCE to the Arab conquest in the 7th century CE. We will consider a variety of evidence, including sculpture, architecture and epigraphy, as well as textual sources, such as Josephus' Jewish War, Acts of the Apostles and Tacitus' Histories. Class discussion will focus on issues related to ethnicity and identity formation in the eastern Roman provinces. Possible topics include the Romanization of the Near East, the First Jewish Revolt, the formation of early Christianity, and the Roman wars with Sassanian Persia. This course fulfills the EDI requirement because it explores the interaction between peoples and cultures in the ancient Near East and their diverse responses to Roman imperialism. [ more ]

ANTH 246 T(F)India's Identities: Religion, Caste, and Gender

This course considers India's contradictory legacy as a booming Asian democracy and fragile society built upon deep and enduring divisions. Why is India's growing population so often described in terms of multiple identities or fragmenting oppositions -- Hindu/Muslim, rich/poor, high caste/outcaste, male/female? What are the historic roots and ongoing causes that produce structural violence around these axes of difference? We pay particular attention to key moments (Partition, communal riots in Gujarat in 2003, Hyderabad in 1990, Delhi in 1984), and places (Punjab, Bengal, Jammu &b Kashmir) for our analysis of how religion, gender, and caste intersect to produce a landscape of communal violence, social hierarchy, and fragmented subjectivity in India today. We are as interested in discourses and practices that shore up these binaries as well as the third terms that attempt to transcend or diffuse them. For instance, we look at hoe Buddhism is and is not a middle path between Hindu/Muslim conflict in Indian Kashmir and how a third sex is and is not a middle term that transcends the gender binary of male/female. Our course readings include ethnographic, sociological, and historical analyses, oral histories, and more popular media that attempt to explain India's diverse and fragmented society. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative by theorizing the ways that difference has been used to effect profound historical, social, and individual changes in India. [ more ]

ANTH 248Body Politics in South Asia: Gender, Sex, Religion, and Nation

Not offered this year

This course examines the relationship between body, gender, sex, and society in South Asia, using three countries and religions---India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, and Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam---as its foil. The course uses the body as a lens by which to unpack South Asian discourses that link body and sexuality with nation, community, and population. In particular, it explores a South Asian sociology that links individual and social bodies in ways that occasion solidarity as well as social suffering, violence as well as communal cohesion. How do bodies come to signify the purity or prosperity of the nation or community and with what social or discursive effects? We begin by unpacking foundational theories of the body as proposed by Mauss, Foucault, Douglas, and Bourdieu in order to better understand how local discourses of the body help produce gender and other social hierarchies in South Asia. By considering how the human body can serve as a map for society and vice versa, we examine both classical discourses and modern institutional practices of the body including the temple, the monastery, the mosque, and the mendicant, as well as bodily practices such as yoga, celibacy, sex work, and new reproductive technologies. We also analyze how the body has served as a symbol of nation, community, and social health. Throughout, we are interested in the cross-cutting effects of gender and sex in perpetuating structural hierarchies and social suffering around the body in South Asia. [ more ]

ANTH 255(S)Buddhism: Ideas and Practices

This course introduces students to Buddhism by examining its ideas and practices as they have taken place in actual social contexts rather than as disembodied textual objects. After examining the main ideas and narratives of the tradition, we turn our attention to Thailand where we examine how these ideas and narratives have shaped a whole range of practices, from meditation to shamanistic rituals. We then consider the transformations that Buddhism is undergoing in contemporary society, examining the rise of meditation movement, the changing role of monks and laity, the resurgence of the nun order, the rise of Buddhist social activism and the development of new Buddhist social philosophies. We ask questions such as: How can Buddhism adapt to a modern global consumerist society? What are the transformations involved in this process and the role that Buddhism can play in such a global society? Should Buddhists take advantage of the opportunities of this new global culture or should they adopt a critical stance toward its consumerist values? [ more ]

ANTH 256Engendering Buddhism: How Women and Men Shape and Are Shaped by Buddhism

Not offered this year

This course looks at how gender has shaped Buddhism as well as how Buddhism has shaped gender. Most generally, it considers the myriad ways that Buddhist soteriology and practice produce the very gender differences they purport to overcome. How have the Buddha and his far-flung disciples institutionalized gender differences in spite of their putative goal of transcending duality? We examine the varying experiences of women and men in Buddhist societies and literatures as a lens by which to analyze the pervasive operation of social and gender hierarchies. Last but not least, we discuss how well feminist and American revisions of Buddhism have transformed gender and other forms of difference. Our analysis revolves around several interdependent themes. (1) How do female and male bodies become the subject of a specific set of Buddhist gazes? What does Buddhist discourse say about the possibility of gaining enlightenment in the female body? (2) How do gender divisions reflect deeper social divisions such as class and race in Buddhist discourse? (3) How have feminist deconstructions of Buddhism transformed gender and social hierarchies in the contemporary world? This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative by seeking to theorize the ways that Buddhism has produced and reinscribed gender differences and social hierarchies. [ more ]

ANTH 258(F)Divine Kingship in the Ancient Mediterranean

What is the relationship between politics and religion? How do kings legitimate their rule? Why did the ancient Greeks and Romans worship their emperors as gods? This course examines the origins and development of divine kingship in the ancient Mediterranean from its earliest beginnings in Pharaonic Egypt to the reign of the Christian Roman Emperors in the fourth century CE. We will address the various symbolic strategies employed by ancient kings to project their own divinity. These include portraiture, panegyric poetry, ritual processions, royal autobiography and monumental architecture, e.g., the Great Pyramids in Egypt and the Pantheon in Rome. We will also study the reception of royal art and ideology among the king's subjects. Special attention will be paid to the role of the Roman emperor-cult in shaping social, political and religious identity in the Roman Empire. [ more ]

ANTH 262(F)Language, Interaction, and Power in Everyday Life

"Microaggressions." "Hate speech." Even on campus, we have a number of terms that point to how spoken interaction can reflect and even further inequality. But how exactly does language intersect with power? In this course, we'll follow the lead of linguistic anthropology, a subfield of anthropology that explores the role of language and interaction in shaping social life. What are the relationships between linguistic forms and cultural practices? In order to answer that question we'll explore ethnographic methods focused on language, examining how interactive practices intersect with categories like race, gender, sexuality, and social status. Throughout, we'll consider concrete examples, ranging from studies of Kenyan courtrooms to American basketball courts. We'll discuss what we can learn about the operations of power in everyday life by attending carefully to how language use shapes social context and vice versa. [ more ]

ANTH 270Object and Place/Memory and Nation

Not offered this year

This course explores the role of object and place in the creation and perpetuation of national identity. In particular, we will consider the role of monuments, battlefields, museums, and various 'sacred' sites in inculcating a sense of shared origins, values, commitments, and ultimate ends. Using a variety of key theoretical texts (including Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities and Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger's The Invention of Tradition) and maintaining a focus on two countries -- Afghanistan and the Czech Republic -- with long and painful histories of foreign invasion and occupation, the EDI course focuses on the ways in which people orient themselves within the symbolic worlds they inherit and how they negotiate tragedies of circumstance. [ more ]

ANTH 271(F)Medicine, Pathology, and Power: An Ethnographic View

How do medical anthropologists examine and interpret disease and illness between and within societies across the globe today, in order to elucidate the biosocial determinants of health and health-seeking behaviors? We are particularly interested in how medical anthropologists employ ethnographic techniques such as participant observation and reflexive interviewing that James Clifford once described as "deep hanging out". Through experiential and phenomenological inquiries, we will investigate how structural violence produces systemic health inequalities in response to the workings of power and other social factors, while paying particular attention to the most marginalized and vulnerable populations or individuals in society. After reading a selection of medical ethnographies, students will pursue their own individual, fieldwork-based projects in the Berkshires. Our goal is a better understanding of the limits and strengths of ethnographic inquiry as we explore and experience the challenges of medical anthropology research including informed consent, access, and sensitivity to our informants' explanatory models. [ more ]

ANTH 272Sex and the Reproduction of Society

Not offered this year

Why is reproduction such a controversial subject in society today, especially in areas of medicine, culture, and religion? And why is the reproductive body subject to such highly ideological and yet contradictory types of practices and discourses across the globe? This course seeks to examine the myriad ways that societies police the range of practices surrounding reproduction--including fertility, conception, pregnancy, birth, abortion, and motherhood. We will pursue a comparative analysis of reproduction across major societies and cultures, through an in-depth look at specialized topics such as the new reproductive technologies, the medicalization and ritualization of obstetrics in America, the continuing controversies over abortion across the globe, and the ongoing debates about the rise of women and the 'End of Men'. Throughout the course, we remain focused on the cultural, social, and medical construction of birth and reproduction more generally. To this end, we explore the varying ritual and medical practices that surround reproduction in different cultural contexts, from high tech to low tech settings and societies. We will deconstruct the process of human reproduction through readings culled from a variety of cultures and disciplines including anthropology, medicine, religious studies, sociology, and gender and sexuality studies. [ more ]

ANTH 274(F)Africa + the Internet: Producing Global Citizenship

This course theorizes 'Internet citizenship' as a new form of belonging based on participation in a global network of information rather than location or nationality. In a world mapped differently by technological, social and economic divides, how can New Media generate mutuality? Orienting globalization from the South, we will explore cosmopolitan- and cyber-cultures of today's Africa: Points of departure will be case studies in expressive culture and digital research in sites such as Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and more, as well as in the contemporary African diaspora. You will critique notions of the Network Society and develop skills in digital storytelling, visual design, and online tool making. Students will not only interact with each other online, but working with virtual communities external to Williams, develop a final tech project that produces Internet Citizenship. Portions of this course will be conducted in an online format via video discussion and interactions on a Web site. Students must have regular access to a computer and Web camera. Students will be evaluated for their attendance and participation, weekly reading and responses, and a final projects portfolio. No prior knowledge of coding required. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

ANTH 299(F)The Body in Power

The thesis of this course is that ritual plays a crucial role not only in legitimizing and mobilizing political power, but also in determining whether people decide to act in defense of or dissent against the status quo. In the first part of the semester, we focus on the ways in which different cultures construct categories of inclusion and exclusion, safe and dangerous, while also creating rituals for ensuring the preservation of the dominant social order against all that is transgressive and undermining to those in power. Of particular importance to our discussion will be consideration of how the body is ritually mobilized as an instrument of persuasion and control. On this foundation, we move to a examination of how political rituals are used to undermine established orthodoxies, mobilize popular dissent, and bring down those on top. Among the topics to be discussed are the role of martyrdom and beheadings in the rise of the Islamic State, the use of symbols and ritual interventions in framing both sides of the abortion debate, and the expanding importance of social media in protests movements around the world. The final unit of the course will consider a current controversy (e.g., police violence against African-American men) in light of the concepts discussed during the semester. [ more ]

ANTH 301Sexual Economies

Not offered this year

This course examines various forms of sexual labor in a variety of global contexts with an emphasis on contemporary anthropological and sociological research and its implications for public policy. Our topics include: (a) traditional sex work (e.g., pornography, escorting, street prostitution, brothels, sex tourism), (b) sexualized labor without physical contact (e.g., stripping, burlesque, phone/online sex), and also (c) contemporary debates about sex trafficking and sex worker migration. Because of our ethnographic focus, the readings for this class will frequently foreground the lived experiences of sex workers from a variety of nations, races, classes, and backgrounds in order to explore the broader social implications of our subject matter. A key component of this course is a field trip to New York City to meet with sex workers and sex worker rights advocates. (Note: students should be advised that we will necessarily encounter and discuss adult content and images that some may find offensive.) [ more ]

ANTH 312(F)Paradoxes of Human Rights and Humanitarianism

In recent decades, human rights activism has become the central idiom through which people world-wide make claims about social justice. Yet issues like gendered and sexual violence, access to health-care, and socio-economic inequality have only recently been framed as human rights issues. In this course, we examine this recent transformation, focusing on the paradoxes and possibilities of a human rights framework for addressing these problems. We will do so by comparing different humanitarian and human rights-based interventions as they play out in places from rural Kenyan courts to United Nations conferences to the American college campus. Along the way, we will examine the history of human rights as a means to imagine social justice, and how a focus on human rights reveals and complicates new configurations of global power. We will read historical and ethnographic studies of human rights, and finishwith several case studies of human rights work on gender, violence, and health. [ more ]

ANTH 314Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora

Not offered this year

This course explores the visual arts of the contemporary African Diaspora from the Caribbean, Islamic Mediterranean, Europe, and the United States. The first half of the course examines art historical and anthropological theories utilized in analyses of global contemporary art. The second half of the course uses original works from WCMA's permanent collection and the exhibition Fathi Hassan: Migration of Signs to consider areas of convergence and divergence in the practices of artists from the Atlantic and Islamic worlds. [ more ]

ANTH 321(F)Real Indians: Indigeneity and the Authenticity Problem

In settler societies, Indigenous peoples must be recognized by the state as sufficiently authentic in order to have rights as legitimate Indigenous peoples. This constitutes a structural dilemma in which Indigenous people face considerable pressure to embody external stereotypes and racial expectations. In this seminar, we will engage with recent scholarship in Native American and Indigenous Studies that addresses indigeneity as a political status, a supposed biological category and frozen temporal/geographic state, and a social experience. Our readings will also engage feminist and queer perspectives on the problem of authenticity and we will devote attention to the appropriation of Indigenous culture by non-Indigenous people. Our primary focus will be on Anglophone settler states, especially the United States and Canada, but we will occasionally draw upon examples elsewhere in the world. Moreover, we will discuss indigeneity as a source of global affinity among colonized peoples and as a human rights framework within the United Nations. This course will satisfy the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement as we will critically engage colonial power structures and processes of othering. [ more ]

ANTH 324Empires of Antiquity

Not offered this year

Cycles of rise and collapse of civilizations are common in our human past. Among the most fascinating cases are those of empires, conquest civilizations, or states that encompass a number of different ethnicities, polities and peoples. However, their rise and often rapid collapse begs an important question: how stable have empires been in human prehistory? Are they intrinsically unstable political forms? The course will address these questions by examining the major empires of the Old and New World in pre-modern history: Persian; Assyrian; Mongol; Roman; Chinese; Ottoman; Aztec; and Inca empires. Using readings by political scientists, historians, epigraphers, archaeologists and political anthropologists, we will consider the causes of the expansion and collapse of these empires. We will also explore their sociopolitical and economic structures as mechanisms for their maintenance in order to provide a cross-cultural comparison of the differential success and final decline of all these empires. [ more ]

ANTH 328 T(F)Emotions and the Self

Everyone everywhere experiences emotions, and everyone everywhere is faced with the task of conceptualizing a self-hood and its place in the social world. This course analyzes a variety of recent attempts in the social sciences to come to grips with topics that have long been avoided: the nature of the interior experience and an epistemological framework for its cross-cultural comparison. Exploring the borderlands between anthropology, sociology, and psychology, we will bring the tools of ethnographic analysis to bear on central pan-human concepts: emotions and the self. By examining these phenomena as they occur in other cultures, we will be better placed to apprehend and challenge the implicit (and often unconsciously held) assumptions about emotions and the self in our own culture, both in daily life and in academic psychological theory. What are emotions? Are they things--neuro-physiological states--or ideas--sociocultural constructions? How are they to be described; compared? What is the self? How are selves constructed and constituted? How do various cultures respond to categories of emotion and self, and how can we develop a sense of the relationship between self and emotion? [ more ]

ANTH 331Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Magic

Not offered this year

Beliefs in magic, malign and otherwise, have been nearly universal in human experience. This course examines these beliefs in an attempt to understand their cognitive basis, symbolic effectiveness, and social consequences. In particular we will approach the question of "magical thinking:" is magical thought "mistaken science" or a universal non-rational way of seeing the world? What does the fact of presumably rational people holding apparently irrational beliefs say about the whole idea of rationality? Are witches self-aware agents who believe in the malign magic they practice, or are they innocent, marginalized victims of hegemonic powers? To answer these and other questions we will draw on case studies from a broad range of ethnographic and historic sources, including Aguaruna love magic, Azande oracles, Voodoo in Brooklyn, and witches in Renaissance Italy and twentieth-century England. [ more ]

ANTH 332(S)Environmental Justice

This course explores the concept of justice and the ways in which interested parties have defined that term in relation to man-made environmental hazards. We will analyze episodes of environmental injustice recounted in ethnography, literature, and historical works. To familiarize ourselves with the remedies available to people disproportionately affected by environmental perils, we will read domestic and international legal doctrine as well as documents produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the United Nations Environment Programme. Our initial readings will include philosophical treatises on justice as well as texts outlining the spatial dimensions of social inequality. In the United States, our case studies will range from air quality in the South Bronx to water pollution in New Jersey and West Virginia. Internationally, we will study the effects of oil extraction in the Niger Delta as well as climate change adaptation in nations that emit relatively little carbon dioxide. Throughout the course, we will discuss how lawyers and the communities they represent mobilize scientific evidence to achieve desired ends. Simultaneously, we will consider the extent to which otherwise marginalized people participate in environmental law- and policymaking. This course satisfies the EDI requirement, by critically examining the unequal exposure of different social groups to environmental harms. [ more ]

ANTH 334(S)Imagining Joseph

Beloved son, rival brother, faithful servant, dreamer, seer, object of desire, lover, husband, bureaucrat, Joseph is one of the most fully-limned and compelling figures in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptural traditions. The story of Joseph unfolds over fourteen chapters in the Hebrew Bible, and is the subject of the fourth longest sura in the Qur'an. Through millennia, the story of Joseph has inspired a wealth of interpretations, commentary, apocrypha, re-tellings, and back-story, including an apocryphal book of scripture about Joseph and his wife, Asenath, Sufi poetry about Joseph and Zuleikha (Potiphar's wife), a trilogy by the 20th century German novelist Thomas Mann, a musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber, and many expressions in Western visual art. The course will explore these various expressions, looking to them for the ways in which Joseph has captured the imaginations of peoples and cultures across time and space. The course will be organized as a collaborative seminar in which the class will read the foundational scriptures together, followed by thematic discussions to which students will contribute insights from their own readings of particular peripheral texts. Students will learn the pleasures of close and intense exegetical reading in approaching the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, as well as the more expansive pleasures of linking post-scriptural expressions together. [ more ]

ANTH 335In Between: The Ritual Construction of Identity and Difference

Not offered this year

This course examines the categories of inclusion and exclusion, safe and dangerous, pure and impure, right and wrong that constitute cultural worlds, while also creating the middle zones that make cultural creativity possible. Beginning with an examination of "liminality" and rites of passage in the work of Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner, we will go on to look at Mary Douglas's seminal work on the construction of categories of inclusion and exclusion and other theoretical works on ritual and the sacred. In the course of the semester, we will consider a variety of cultural contexts in which liminality is of central importance, including transvestitism in traditional Native American and contemporary US cultures, various avant garde artistic movements, and the ritual construction of the suicide bomber/martyr in Islamist practice. [ more ]

ANTH 340(S)Artisan and Connoisseur

In recent decades Americans have increasingly taken up the small-scale hand-work production of specialized goods as a livelihood, depending on connoisseurs who appreciate and are willing to pay high prices for their goods. Products ranging from cheeses to wooden boats have secured markets enabling lifestyles that appear to challenge classic capitalist modes of labor and consumption. We'll explore this movement. Students will conduct original research resulting in a major paper and presentation. To elaborate: We will explore the differences among traditional craftsmen, hobbyists, and contemporary artisans, considering the nature of creativity and hand-work. We will use Marx's concepts of the alienation of labor and commodity fetishism as a frame for considering the ways in which both artisans and connoisseurs appear to be resisting modern capitalist modes of production and consumption. But we will also look at the ways in which artisans' articulation with capitalism and industrial production has shifted over time, beginning with the Arts and Crafts movement around the turn of the last century, through the "hippies" of the 1960s and '70s, to more recent entrepreneurial artisans and those engaged in the "Maker Movement." The course entails a commitment to undertaking an original, possibly ethnographic research project in which a student undertakes a detailed investigation of the production and consumption of an "artisanal" product, involving a preparatory paper, a preliminary proposal, and culminating in a research paper of at least 20 pages and a class presentation. [ more ]

ANTH 346(S)Islam and Anthropology

If anthropology has helped to define Islam in global thought, Islam has returned the favor, holding a critical mirror to the anthropological endeavor perhaps more than any other traditional "object" of study. This course examines anthropological studies of Islamic societies for what they teach us both about Islam and about anthropology. We begin with foundational social theorists whose studies of religious phenomena helped give rise to the field of anthropology of religion. We then survey influential efforts to construct "ideal-type" models of Muslim society based on anthropological and historical knowledge, alongside efforts to critique, historicize, and redirect the model-building project (notably by Talal Asad and Edward Said). The second half of the course is devoted to ethnographies that explore, from a variety of perspectives and in several regions (Morocco, India, Egypt, Syria), questions of human agency, hierarchy and resistance, and Islam as discursive resource, ethical project, and embodied community. [ more ]

Taught by: Joel Lee

Catalog details

ANTH 347Tribe and State on the Afghan-Pakistan Border

Not offered this year

One of the major challenges President Obama will face in his first term in office involves the perilous situation on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the problems in the region are generally framed in relation to Islamic extremism, the more fundamental issue is the failure of the Afghan and Pakistani governments to exercise control over the tribes that occupy the mountainous frontier. This course will look first at the history of the Afghan and Pakistani states and of the Pushtun and Baluchi tribes that are part of, yet independent from the states that surround them. We will go on to consider the role of Islam as a political force in the region, with particular emphasis on the ways in which outside religious groups, most recently al-Qaeda, have managed to gain a foothold in the borderlands, despite the historic resistance of the tribes to outsiders of any kind. The course will also examine the efforts of, first, the Soviet Union in the 1980s and, more recently, the United States and its allies to control the borderlands, and we will conclude with a consideration of the geopolitical implications if Afghanistan and Pakistan prove in the end to be "failed states." Readings will include theoretical discussions of tribe/state relations, British and Soviet era accounts of the frontier (non-fiction and fiction), ethnographies of tribal societies, and contemporary studies. [ more ]

ANTH 391Insurgencies: Revolts, Revolutions, Wars of National Liberation, and Jihads

Not offered this year

We often tend to think of warfare in the classic terms described by Clausewitz: states waging armed conflict against other states using uniformed armed forces that are distinct from non-combatant civilian populations. Throughout history, however, we may also encounter many instances of asymmetric conflict within states, colonies, and other political entities, involving combatants who are often indistinguishable from the general population and whose objectives are often unlike those of states: Peasant revolts, revolutions, wars of independence or national liberation, and other forms of resistance and civil insurgency pit the relatively weak against the power of the state and may succeed because, to use Mao's metaphor, the insurgents move among the people like fish in water. The close relationship between insurgent fighters and the supporting population makes the social structure, social values, social institutions--in short, the culture--of the society particularly relevant to understanding the nature of a given asymmetric conflict. In this course we will use theoretical and analytical concepts from anthropology, sociology, history, and political philosophy to examine asymmetric conflicts of the twentieth century and the present day. The course will be divided into three parts: in the first we will explore some of the theoretical literature on violence and warfare as well as some of the basic literature on tribal and peasant society, peasant revolts, wars of national liberation, guerilla warfare, and insurgencies. The second part of the course will be devoted to presentations prepared by small groups of students on case studies, e.g., the Hukbalahap insurgency in the Philippines, the communist revolutions of China, Cuba, and Malaysia, wars of national liberation such as those in Algeria and Vietnam, and other ongoing civil conflicts such as the Palestinian intifadah and "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans. The final portion of the course is devoted to an in-depth study of Iraq following the American invasion and to a consideration of the evolving nature of asymmetric conflict in a globalizing world. [ more ]


SOC 101(F, S)Invitation to Sociology

An introduction to sociological analysis. The course focuses on the relationship of individual men and women to the social world and introduces students to systematic institutional analysis. Students will explore the intersection of biography, history, culture, and social structure as seen in the work of classical and contemporary social thinkers, including Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Veblen, Simmel, and Goffman. Special consideration will be given to the social and cultural problems of capitalism, rationality and irrationality in modern institutions and organizations, the psychological dilemmas facing the individual in modern society, and the problem of social order and conflict. [ more ]

SOC 202Terrorism and National Security

Not offered this year

An analysis of the roots, goals, and social organization of contemporary radical Islamist terrorism and of the state efforts to defeat it. A focus on: the recruitment, training, and indoctrination of Islamist terrorists; their ideologies and self-images; and case studies of specific terrorist attacks and the vulnerabilities of modern societies that such attacks reveal. The course analyzes the exigencies and dilemmas of ensuring public safety in a democratic society. Special attention to: the structure and ethos of intelligence work; the investigation of terrorist networks and their financing; the relationship between organized and semi-organized crime and terrorism; the legal dilemmas of surveillance, preemptive custody, and "extraordinary rendition" in democratic societies; and the technology and organization of ascertaining identities in modern society. The course also addresses the crisis facing European societies--particularly the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany--with growing populations of radical Islamist minorities who reject cultural assimilation into Western social or legal frameworks, a crisis paralleled in the United States, with important differences, by widespread illegal immigration. An assessment of the ideology of multiculturalism and its intended and unintended consequences in the fight against terror. The course also examines the threat of terrorists' use of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction and the defenses against such threats. Finally, it appraises the structure and content of mass media coverage of terrorism, as well as official and nonofficial propaganda on all sides of these issues. A Gaudino Fund Course. [ more ]

SOC 211(S)Race and the Environment

In contemporary societies, race remains an enduring impediment to the achievement of equality. Generally understood as a socially meaningful way of classifying human bodies hierarchically, race manifests itself in a number of arenas, including personal experience, economic production and distribution, and political organization. In this course, we will explore how race emerges in local and global environmental issues, like pollution and climate change. We will begin with a review of some of the landmark texts in Environmental Studies that address "environmental racism," like Robert Bullard's Dumping in Dixie and David Pellow's Garbage Wars. We will examine how and to what extent polluting facilities like landfills, oil refineries, and sewage treatment plants are disproportionately located in communities of color; we will also pay attention to how specific corporations create the underlying rationale for plotting industrial sites. After outlining some of the core issues raised in this scholarship, we will turn to cultural productions--like literature, film, and music--to understand how people of color respond to environmental injustice and imagine the natural world. [ more ]

SOC 215Crime

Not offered this year

An examination of crime, criminals, and crime-fighters. Topics include: violent urban youth gangs in America; the recruitment, socialization, argot, culture, worldviews, and ethics of professional criminals, both in America and in the international arena; the stages of criminal careers; the violence inherent in the drug trade; the trafficking of girls and women; the illegal immigration industry; white-collar scams, fraud, and financial depredations; identity theft; the work worlds and habits of mind of crime-fighters, with a special focus on the work of uniformed police officers, detectives, federal agents, and state and federal prosecutors; the symbolic representations of criminals and crime-fighters in American and international popular culture; and the crisis of public social order. Special attention to the nature of criminal investigation. [ more ]

SOC 216The City

Not offered this year

Modern humans have moved to the city, a site with concentrated powers of various kinds, this move has effected irreversible change in human life. We will examine these forces through readings in urban theories as well as ethnographic studies. We will address themes such as the organization of urban life, the political economy of cities, housing and homelessness, and urban planning. The city is also the chief site of cultural production and meaning, and our scope of interest will range from studying subcultures, to reading graffiti, to analyzing monuments. Bearing in mind the inexorable social change of past decades, we will reconsider some classical thought on urban life in the context of postmodern discourse, conceptualize the post-industrial and global city, and conclude with an examination of the problems faced by cities in developing countries. This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive introduction to urban studies. Students will become familiarized with both classical and modern urban theories, and in reading ethnographies they will have an opportunity to understand some fundamental methodological approaches to the study of the city. [ more ]

SOC 217Race(ing) Sports: Issues, Themes and Representations of Black Athletes

Not offered this year

Althea Gibson to the Williams Sisters. Julius (Dr. J) Irving to Michael Jordan. Jesse Owens to Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Throughout the 20th century, black athletes have broken through Jim Crow restraints, challenged racial stereotypes, and taken their sports to new heights of achievement. In this course, students will explore a range of black athletes in the 20th century, paying particular attention to the attitudes, stereotypes and experiences they endured. In addition, this course will prompt students to analyze the representation, perception, and commodification of black athletes in popular media forms. Students will trace trends, shifts and themes in representations of blackness across different sports and historical periods. Topics under study may include resistance against and affirmation of athletes as role models, racial slurs in sports broadcasting, common themes in commercialized images of the black male athlete, and distinctions in media coverage based on race and gender. Texts will include everything from critical essays and sociological studies to commercials and documentary films. In their final projects, students may put their newfound knowledge to the test by exploring their campus or hometown to investigate the role that race plays on their own playing field. [ more ]

SOC 218(S)Law and Modern Society

This class is designed to introduce students to the field of law and society. The course begins with an overview of the various theoretical perspectives on the subject, including Durkheimian, Marxist, Foucauldian, and Weberian analyses of law and society; as well as the work of those following in the different theoretical schools established by these scholars. Informed by the theoretical overview, the next part of the course considers empirical research in selected areas of law, including tort law, criminal trial procedures, abortion and divorce law, "community justice," and the adjudication of drug offenses. Recognizing that understandings of our own legal practices are enlightened through comparisons to other legal systems, the second half of the course is primarily historical/comparative in focus. In this section, through an exploration of several case studies, American legal processes and habits are compared with related legal practices in such places as England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Norway, and Canada. [ more ]

SOC 219(S)Images and Society

"This is obvious!" is what we say when we believe our point is irrefutable. But images are far less obvious than we may like to think. This course will create a forum for discussing the role of images in our lives, as well as the place of the visual in social inquiry. It will explore the variety of ways in which images--and even vision itself--are shaped by the social and cultural context in which they are embedded, develop skills for critical analysis of existing representations, and address the analytical possibilities and limitations of the study of signs and images. The course will touch upon a range of visual material, from advertising to paintings, but the bulk of the course is dedicated to photography, both as an object of visual analysis and as, increasingly, a research method in social sciences. Topics for discussion include debates around truth in photography and the politics of representation, changing uses of photography in institutional settings, different photographic cultures and their anthropological and sociological significance, as well as the use of photography in social research. Primary sources for the discussions will be drawn from a variety of spheres, from Soviet propaganda posters to Indian studio portraiture, and will include the images we encounter in everyday life, media, politics, academia, "high" art and pop culture. [ more ]

SOC 221(S)Money and Intimacy

Can money buy love and care? The course will consider this taboo question from a sociological perspective. We will look into how relevant this question has been over the course of history, what forces have contributed to the shift in thinking about it, and, most importantly, how sociological research helps us understand its current ramifications. We will discuss a wide range of aspects of family life: the relationship between arranged marriage and romantic relationship, the role of inheritance in family and social life, the distribution of resources in the context of modern family forms (most notably remarriages), and the outsourcing of care for dependents. Intimacy bears different value and content in these changing contexts. The course will further look into the changing character of new economy where "people's skills" are ever more required from employees (emotional labor) and where intimacy, care, and/or sex constitute purchasable commodities. A reflection on the growth of new technologies will complicate some of the discussed concepts and notions, but throughout a common denominator of our discussion will be the role of social inequality. [ more ]

SOC 230(F)Memory and Forgetting

On the surface, remembering generally confronts us as a deeply personal act. What is more private than nostalgic reverie or the secrets of a dark and painful past? Yet even "individual" memories take shape through social frameworks, and we also remember "collectively" through shared myths, narratives, traditions, and the like. This course will explore the social dimensions of memory and remembering as well as their inevitable counterpart--forgetting. How do social frameworks inform our individual understandings of the past and shape our sense of selfhood? How and why are figures from the past cast as heroes or villains? How do collectivities celebrate past glories, and how do they deal with shameful or embarrassing episodes? How do economic and political power relations shape struggles over the past? In an increasingly global society, can we speak of "cosmopolitan" or "transcultural" forms of memory? Topics will include self-identity, memoirs, and oral history; memorials, museums, and monuments; reputations, commemorations, and collective trauma; silence, denial, and forgetting; and transitional justice, official apologies, and reparations. This course meets the EDI requirement by taking a comparative perspective, attending to cross-national struggles over memory and examining cases such as the Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel, apartheid in South Africa, and slavery in the United States. [ more ]

SOC 232(S)Symbols and Society

Human beings, as Kenneth Burke put it, are "symbol-using, symbol-making, and symbol-misusing" animals. Indeed, among humans, symbols help to substitute for "instincts." Symbols guide our actions, shape our emotions, and enable us to coordinate with others. Symbols may generate solidarity across wide spaces and among people who have never encountered one another face-to-face. They may also inflame conflicts and exaggerate distinctions, even promote violence. This course will examine the role of symbols and symbolism in modern society, exploring how words, gestures, images, and icons give shape and form to social life. The first part of the course will provide a broad introduction to the sociological study of symbols. The second part of the course will pay particular attention to the role that symbols play in politics and nationhood. How do symbols such as flags, anthems, values, ideals, monuments, and memorials promote solidarity and common identity across space and time? When and why do nations struggle over symbols, and what influence do these symbolic struggles have on collective life? What role do symbols play in war, conflict, and violence? Topics will include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the 1995 Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian, the Holocaust Museum in D.C., the "Ground Zero cross," and the recent debates over the Confederate flag in South Carolina and beyond. We will focus primarily on the U.S., but will also work to make comparisons. [ more ]

SOC 240Performing Masculinity in Global Popular Culture

Not offered this year

This course examines popular cultural contexts, asking what it means to be a man in contemporary societies. We focus on the manufacture and marketing of masculinity in advertising, fashion, TV/film, theater, popular music, and the shifting contours of masculinity in everyday life, asking: how does political economy change the ideal shape, appearance, and performance of men? How have products - ranging from beer to deodorant to cigarettes -- had their use value articulated in gendered ways? Why must masculinity be the purview of "males" at all; how can we change discourses to better include performances of female masculinities, butch-identified women, and trans* men? We will pay particular attention to racialized, queer, and subaltern masculinities. Some of our case studies include: the short half-life of the boy band in the US and in Asia (e.g., J/K-Pop), hip hop masculinities at home and abroad, and the curious blend of chastity and homoeroticism that constitutes masculinity in the contemporary vampire genre. Through these and other examples, we learn to recognize masculinity as a performance shaped by the political economy of a given culture. The course includes a field trip to a drag performance in Northampton. [ more ]

SOC 241Meritocracy

Not offered this year

Although far less than 1% of American college and graduate school students attend an Ivy League university, 40% of the top decision makers in the second Obama administration did. Is this fact a positive sign that the United States is governed by its most talented and capable members who have risen through hard work and equality of opportunity? Or a negative one pointing to the power of a corrupt and self-selecting elite? This course explores the theme of meritocracy-- rule by the intellectually talented--in comparative perspective. We will look at both old and new arguments regarding the proper role and definition of merit in political society as well as take the measure of meritocracy in present-day China, France, and the United States. The course concludes with a focus on the current debate over American meritocracy and inequality and will include one or more of the following authors: Joseph Kett (Merit), Charles Murray (Coming Apart), Tyler Cowen (Average is Over), and Christopher Hayes (Twilight of the Elites). [ more ]

SOC 242(S)Food and Society

The French critic Roland Barthes famously said that food is a system of communication. This multidisciplinary course explores the complex social and cultural rules that underlie the consumption of food. Because our food choices communicate who we are--or what we aspire to be--the study of food reveals how societies throughout the world construct difference, whether religious, ethnic, national, or racial. The class will also examine nutrition, hunger, ideals of desirability in body image, and visual representations of food in advertising and art. Probable readings include: policy analyst Raj Patel on the global food system; linguist Dan Jurafsky on the language of food; historian Rachel Laudan on cuisine and empire; journalist John McQuaid on taste; and environmental scientist David Cleveland on the future of food and agriculture. [ more ]

SOC 244(S)What They Saw in America

This course traces the travels and writings of four important observers of the United States: Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, G.K. Chesterton, and Sayyid Qutb. The course will consider their respective journeys: Where did they go? Who did they talk to? What did they see? The historical scope and varying national origins of the observers provide a unique and useful outsider's view of America--one that sheds light on persisting qualities of American national character and gives insight into the nature and substance of international attitudes toward the United States over time. The course will analyze the common themes found in the visitors' respective writings about America and will pay particular attention to their insights on religion, democracy, agrarianism, capitalism, and race. [ more ]

SOC 248 T(S)Altering States: Postsoviet Paradoxes of Identity and Difference

Critics and apologists of Soviet-style socialism alike agree that the Soviet ideology was deeply egalitarian. Putting aside for a moment the very reasonable doubts about how justified this perception actually was, it is still worth asking, how did people who lived in the world in which differences in rank, class, gender or ethnicity were not supposed to matter, make sense of their postsocialist condition, one in which new forms of difference emerged, and old ones assumed greater prominence? And how do these encounters with difference impact current events, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict or the persistent tensions between East and West Germans? This tutorial will examine new dilemmas through ethnographic studies and documentary films that aim to capture in real time the process of articulating and grappling with newly discovered divides. We will focus especially closely on Russia, but will also read studies on East Germany, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Hungary. This course fulfills the EDI requirement by exploring comparatively the ways in which people in different countries made sense of the social, cultural and political heterogeneity of the postsocialist condition. [ more ]

SOC 252(S)Moral Life in the Modern World

This interdisciplinary seminar attempts to locate and examine modern moral life (i.e., the ethical dimension of modern culture) in its broader historical and cultural context. The aim of the course is less to analyze and debate the theoretical moralities of philosophers and theologians, than it is to interpret and attempt to understand the lived moralities that people actually practice and carry out; that shape conduct and selfhood in the modern world. Part I of the course will provide a guided introduction to a range of contested issues in the study of ethics and morality: moralism, moral relativism, and the nature of modern moral discourse; moral truth, and value freedom; the differences between normative and descriptive ethical inquiry; "thick" and "thin" moral concepts, and the historically variable relationships between lived moralities, theoretical moralities, and moral customs. In Part II we will work through a series of case studies that take up the following issues: moral life in corporate, urban, and suburban contexts; media, moralism, and moral panics; business ethics; race and racism; depersonalization, war and genocide. The course will furthermore examine ethics and morality "in," "through," and "of" literature, as students will select, read, and critique a work of fiction. [ more ]

SOC 263Cold War Technocultures

Not offered this year

With the Soviet Union's collapse at the end of the twentieth century and the emergence of the United States as an unchallenged victor and "new world" hegemon, have we lost a sense of the drama, fear, and unbridled terror that permeated American life during the Cold War? In this course we will set out to understand Cold War American culture(s) by examining the intersection of politics, aesthetics, and a range of major technoscientific developments during this period. The course will take shape in three parts. Part I will explore the emergence and role of the computer in shaping the distinctly American style of thought aimed at Soviet "containment". We will furthermore trace historical treads connecting MIT's legendary Whirlwind computer, the SAGE continental air defense system, nuclear wargaming at the RAND Corporation, artificial intelligence, and the advanced technologies, management strategies, and atrocities of the Vietnam War. Part II takes up the symbolic potency of the space race, which we will use as a conduit through which to explore the following events and developments: Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin's spaceflight, the Apollo moon landing, and American civil defense; the postwar science of cybernetics and the emergence of the now iconic cyborg; the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth report and the Gaia hypothesis; plans backed by NASA for the industrialization, humanization, and colonization of outer space; and Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, '"Star Wars". Finally, case studies considered in Part III will focus on moments of conflict and resistance, appropriation, and unintended consequences of the preceding and other Cold War technological developments, among them antipsychiatry and environmentalism; Project Cybersyn, an infrastructural causality of the US/CIA-backed Chilean coup of 1973; the American counterculture and the countercultural roots of neoliberalism(s). [ more ]

SOC 268Class and Inequality

Not offered this year

This course is designed to explore, both theoretically and empirically, the theme of social structure and inequality in contemporary modern societies. One's position in social space largely determines one's consciousness, identity, values, attitudes, interest, and behavior. While inequality is ubiquitous, there are cross-cultural variations in the definition of status and consequent distribution of social conditions and opportunities among individuals. In modern societies, social space and individual status are closely interconnected with the economic system and, consequently, with the occupational structures and relations evolving from it. Currently, globalization and technological developments are rapidly transforming societies and patterns of inequality. In stable societies, changes in the economic and social sphere are evolutionary in nature. However, these changes come at an accelerated pace and are typically accompanied by initial chaos and turbulence in societies undergoing major systemic transformation (or even revolution). These societies provide excellent opportunities to study the relationship of social change and stratification. Therefore, an important focus of this course will also be on the systemic transition from state socialism to market democracies in Russia and Eastern Europe since 1989. [ more ]

SOC 283(S)Religion and Capitalism

Up through the 1960s it was popular to claim that the world was becoming increasingly and inevitably secular, with the development of modern capitalist social relations as a signature cause. Today the 'secularization thesis' is largely defunct. Instead one sees the vibrant return of religion to social, economic, and political prominence in most parts of the world--at the very same time we are experiencing through globalization and the information revolution the most dramatic economic advances in a century. This course investigates the historical and contemporary relationship between culture and economics, religion and capitalism, in their most encompassing forms. In investigating this theme, our cornerstone will be Max Weber's famous argument from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Along the way we will discuss both the origins of capitalist society as well as its more recent transformations through the rise of the welfare state, consumerism, and globalization. We will also discuss changes in religion under the influence of capitalism including romanticism, Pentecostalism, moralistic therapeutic Deism, and the 'God gap' between largely theist Africa, South and West Asia, and the Americas on the one hand and largely atheist Europe and East Asia on the other. The focus of the course is on Christianity in Western countries both historically and in the present, but we will spend time discussing religion (particularly Pentecostalism) and capitalism in the contemporary Global South as well. [ more ]

SOC 291(S)Religion and the American Environmental Imagination

This course examines the relationship between religious and environmental thought in modern America. Exploring a broad range of practices and beliefs, we will examine the religious (and anti-religious) roots of contemporary environmental discourse. Drawing widely on both religious studies and the environmental humanities, we will examine the works of famous environmental thinkers such as Henry David Thoreau and Wendell Berry, as well as a number of lesser-known writers from non-Christian backgrounds. We will read these writers alongside recent scholarship on religion and ecology to understand how they were influenced by social and environmental trends such as urbanization, industrialization, immigration, and globalization. We will also ask how religion has intersected with gender, race, class, and ethnicity to shape environmental politics in the twenty-first century, with particular emphasis on agrarianism, wilderness preservation, and climate justice. [ more ]

SOC 303(F)Cultures of Climate Change

This course asks why people think and talk about climate change in such very different ways. Climate change is a physical phenomenon that can be observed, quantified, and measured. But it is also an idea, and as such it is subject to the vagaries of cultural interpretation. Despite scientific agreement about its existence and its causes, many people do not see climate change as a serious problem, or as a problem at all. Many others see it as the most serious problem our species has ever faced. What are the sources of this disparity? Why can't we agree about climate change? How does something as complex and confusing as climate change become a "problem" in the first place? This course will explore a broad array of factors, from religion to race, class to colonialism. It will focus especially closely on the communication of scientific knowledge, risk perception, and environmental ethics, and it will apply a range of theories from the social sciences and humanities to a set of concrete case studies. [ more ]

SOC 305The Sociology of Black Religious Experience

Not offered this year

The United House of Prayer For All People. The Nation of Islam. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The African-American Buddhist Retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. While each of these groups reflects a different spiritual tradition, all are examples of the rich religious expressions of Black Americans. This course will introduce students to the landscape of Black religious practices in the United States. We will begin with a historical survey of the literature on Black religions. Our review will yield some of the primary themes of the Black religious experience--the injustices of modern racism, the significance of liberation, and continued meaning of Africa as a homeland. We will then investigate how secular processes like industrialization, commodification, and the modern media, alter understandings of the sacred in Black experience. [ more ]

SOC 306Lessons of 'The Game': The Wire and American Culture

Not offered this year

The critically acclaimed television program, The Wire, ran for five seasons on Home Box Office (HBO) between 2002 and 2008. Set in "inner city" Baltimore, the program addressed a wide array of topics, including, but not limited to, the urban drug trade, law enforcement, local city politics, labor unions, education, and the newspaper industry. Though a work of "fiction," sociologist William Julius Wilson has called the show an important and instructive portrayal of the "deep inequality in inner-city America." By contrast, some scholars and critics have decried the series and indeed, courses like this one, as examples of mainstream America's fascination with and acceptance of African American drug use, criminal tendencies, and corruption. In this course, we will not deconstruct The Wire per se, but use select episodes from the series to explore key issues in Africana Studies, ranging from political geography to a history of Baltimore and the "War on Drugs." Students should have some familiarity with the show. Africana Studies will show select episodes during Winter Study. Readings will include texts about African American urban life, such as Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street and Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day. Due to its attention to crime, drug addiction, violence, and urban decay, this course is a part of the Gaudino Danger Initiative. [ more ]

SOC 311(F)Espionage

An exploration of the occupational world of intelligence officers. A focus on the 20th-century history of intelligence in the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and on the post 9/11 Western intelligence efforts against Islamist terrorists. An appraisal of the structure and ethos of intelligence work both in the field and in the headquarters analysis of field materials. An examination of the training, social psychology, moral rules-in-use, and world views of intelligence officers, including those engaged in counterintelligence and counterespionage. A look at both remarkable intelligence successes and catastrophic failures. Extensive reading of declassified materials and interviews and oral histories given by former intelligence officers and of memoirs written by them as well as an examination of interviews collected by the instructor. [ more ]

SOC 315Culture, Consumption and Modernity

Not offered this year

How do lifestyles, fashions and trends appear and evolve? Are we authors of our own taste? What structures our choices of goods and activities? What is it that gives meaning to objects and makes them desirable? Are there non-consumer societies in the modern world? How has globalization changed the ways people consume in different parts of the globe? This course will explore the consumption and consumer practices as products of modernity and will analyze the political, cultural and social agendas that have transformed consumption over time. Politics of consumption (the way in which seemingly free and independent consumption choices aggregate into the existing system of global capitalism) will be treated alongside its symbolic element: the role of consumer practices in creating and articulating identities, building relationships and creating solidarities. It will look at fashion, advertising, arts and shopping in places as varied as nineteenth-century France, socialist Russia, and in contemporary United States, tracing both the mechanisms that structure patterns of consumption, and the implications that these patterns have for the larger social order. [ more ]

SOC 317 TThe Public and the Private

Not offered this year

The sharp distinction between the private and the public spheres is often taken as one of the defining features of the Western modernity itself. Furthermore, the existence and vibrancy of the public sphere is a crucial precondition for participatory democracy, whereas respect for privacy and provisions and guarantees that ensure personal autonomy remain fundamental for the daily operations of society. This tutorial course will address the public and the private as concepts that are always in a state of tension, and will explore these tensions from a sociological and historical vantage point. Topics include: democracy and the public sphere, publicity and its institutions, from the coffee house to the mass media, individual and collective identities, the "religion of individualism" and its rites and priests, public and private uses of space, the shifting lines of differentiation between the private and the public and the contestations of this distinction, as well as the impact of new technologies on the relationship between the public and the private. The tutorial will mainly address the Western cultural tradition, although it will involve intercultural comparisons, drawing on a wide range of literature, from Jurgen Habermas to Svetlana Boym, Nancy Fraser and Richard Sennett. [ more ]

SOC 318 TDeclining Significance of Race and Racism in U.S. Politics?

Not offered this year

Historically, America has faced a dilemma. On one hand, the United States was founded on the principles of liberty and equality, and consequently the American ethos is largely characterized by individualism and egalitarianism. On the other hand, the U.S. has faced and continues to be challenged with matching its expectations and ideals of itself with reality, as there are on-going inequalities based on race, gender, religion, and sexuality. Nonetheless, one would have difficulty in arguing that American society has not improved at all, especially over the past half-century. The U.S. government -- via Congress, the Supreme Court, and Executive Orders of various Presidents -- has improved the well-being and status of racial minorities. Further, the overwhelming majority of American citizens eschew racist language and attacks on racial and ethnic minorities. Some would argue that the election of the United States -- first Black president is a clear indication that the country is approaching -- if not already realizing -- its post-racial, American Dream. But, scholars who have tried to measure the significance, impact, and effect of race on American politics are currently engaged in a highly contested debate on the extent to which racism has declined in this society. In this tutorial, we will explore a variety of debates concerning the role of race in American society and American Politics. Have racial attitudes improved over the past 60 years or has the language of racial animus simply changed over that time? Are racial minorities failing to live up the opportunities provided to them by the U.S. Constitution and various other laws or are there structural barriers that are too high for them to overcome? Is the election of minority leaders in majority white districts a sign that racial attitudes have an insignificant influence on candidate evaluation and elections or have minority candidates deracialized their campaigns in a way that may ultimately disserve minority groups? These are just a few of the questions we will consider. Students will be exposed to texts on at least two sides of various debates. [ more ]

SOC 319Ethnographic Approaches to Africana Studies

Not offered this year

Ethnography is the systematic study and recording of human cultures. It involves the collection and analysis of information from multiple sources including (but not limited to) first-person accounts, life histories, interviews, observations, and autobiographical materials. Within Africana Studies, ethnographic approaches have been utilized to reflect complex narratives of black experience throughout the Diaspora. This seminar is a critical introduction to the theory, method, and practice of ethnography in Africana studies. We will explore a variety of cultures and settings, and discuss the practical, methodological, and ethical issues related to ethnography. Three broad questions will dominate our discussions: 1) What are the theoretical, practical, and stylistic tools needed to fashion compelling ethnographies that get to the heart of what it means to document Africana experience? 2) What are the ethical and political implications of representing Africana perspectives in fieldwork studies? 3) What are the strengths and limitations of ethnography as a research method in Africana studies? Each student will utilize the materials covered in the course to research and write his or her own ethnography. [ more ]

SOC 324Memory and Identity

Not offered this year

Our sense of self is inextricably tied to our understanding of our past, both as individuals and as members of society. This sense of origins, however, is far from natural; it itself has its origins in the debates and politics of the time, and evolves under an array of influences. This course analyzes discourses of collective and individual identity and the mechanisms involved in the formulation of the individuals' sense of their place in the world. Topics include: media of memory, politics of commemoration, nostalgia and selective forgetting, narratives of trauma and of a "golden age," the invention of tradition, and battles over remembrance and heritage, such as the dispute over the ownership of Parthenon Marbles between Greece and the UK, or over the proper way to commemorate the victims of 9/11 in the US or the victims of Stalin's purges in the post-Soviet space. This course fulfills the EDI requirement because it explores the diversity of the ways in which communities imagine and engage with their past, and puts struggles over memory in the context of groups' struggles for power and visibility. [ more ]

SOC 328(F)Media Events

Today, live broadcasts of historic events draw together wide audiences, creating modern rituals that invite participation and foster a sense of membership in society. Media events, as Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz argue, include "contests" such as political campaigns and sporting events, "charismatic missions" such as the moon landing, and "rites of passage" such as state funerals and national memorial services. This course will examine media events as a modern form of ritual. Preliminary readings will include theoretical treatments of ritual by thinkers such as Emile Durkheim, Claude Levi-Strauss, Mary Douglas, and Victor Turner as well as more recent adaptations of these theories for the age of mass media. We will then examine several case studies, reading scholarly interpretations of media events while also delving into media representations firsthand by viewing news coverage, analyzing magazine and newspaper articles, examining photographs, and--for more recent events--exploring the role of social media. How do modern media events compare with the forms of ritual described in classic theoretical texts? Are they merely "spectacles" or "pseudo-events" that serve political and/or corporate interests, or are they sources of genuine solidarity and wellsprings for civic participation? What role do political comedy and satire play in shaping and framing media events? Has the rise of social media transformed our experience of these events? Have catastrophic events such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks--which we can increasingly "witness" in real time through various media sources--become a new kind of media event? We will focus primarily on the U.S., but will also work to draw comparisons. Throughout the semester, each student will develop a significant project on an event of his or her choosing. [ more ]

SOC 330(S)Technology, Culture and Society

An introduction to major trajectories of theory and empirical research in the sociology and history of technology: the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), Large Scale Technological Systems (LTS), Actor-Network Theory (ANT), and cultural studies of technoscience broadly. Students will also become acquainted with a number of philosophical positions on technology: instrumentalist, Marxist, cultural/ substantivist, humanist and posthumanist. Topics to be explored include technology, (post)industrial capitalism, and the nature of modern power; the role of technology in giving shape and weight to social institutions and forms of agency; technology, individualism, and everyday life in the modern world; technological determinism; resistance and accommodation to technological change; technology as a point of view and total way of life (culture); language, quantification, computerization, and (tele)visual media; and technology and environment. The course is furthermore designed to allow students to explore and research topics not appearing on the syllabus in the main. [ more ]

SOC 332(F)Life and Death in Modernity

Death is a biological fact. Death is also one of the few universal parameters in and through which social worlds and individual lives are created. Death, in other words, is a primary source of the material and symbolic activities through which humans work to construct, legitimate, and maintain social realities. To attend to "ways of death", then, is to attend simultaneously, if only indirectly, to "ways of life'--the hopes and fears, the ways and wants of a people. In this course we will ask: How, why, and with what manner of consequence has it come to be that, under late-western modernity, the aged, the sick, the dying, the bereaved, and indeed death itself, are routinely "set aside", hidden from view and thus awareness, institutionally sequestered from those of us among the living? We will attend to the historical emergence of the institutional forms that perpetrate this sequestration, and show how they have become tightly articulated with one another: hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, funeral homes, cemeteries. We will furthermore examine the peculiar bodies of expert knowledge that have arisen in tandem with these institutional forms, among them gerontology, thanatology, and bereavement therapy, showing how they have conspired in the (bio)medicalization of aging, death, and grief. Other topics to be explored include the commodification and consumption of health and well-being; the emergence of anti-aging medicine and "popular" rationalities of human life extension; cryonic suspension, zombies, and the paranormal. [ more ]

SOC 368Technology and Modern Society

Not offered this year

With widespread use of new social media, controversial developments in such bio-technical practices as the cloning of mammals, rapid advances in various forms of telecommunication, and the increasing sophistication of technological weaponry in the military, the triumph of technology remains a defining feature of modern life. For the most part, modern humans remain unflinchingly confident in the possibilities technology holds for continuing to improve the human condition. Indisputably, technology has benefited human life in innumerable ways. However, as with other features of modernity, technology has also had significant, albeit largely unanticipated, social consequences. Working within a sociological paradigm, this course will focus on the less often examined latent functions of technology in modern society. It will consider, for example, the social effects of technology on community life, on privacy, and on how people learn, think, understand the world, communicate, and organize themselves. The course will also examine the effects of technology on medicine, education, criminal law, and agriculture and will consider such counter-cultural reactions to technology as the Luddite movement in early nineteenth century England, Amish agrarian practices, and the CSA (community supported agriculture) movement. [ more ]

SOC 371Science, Technology, and (Bio)medicalization

Not offered this year

Medicalization: those processes by which previously non-medical problems, once defined as ethical-religious, legal or social (e.g. drug and alcohol addition, shyness, obesity), are brought within the purview of medical science and redefined as medical problems, usually in terms of "illness" or "disorder." Part I: The history of the medicalization thesis; medicalization as a technical process; modern medicine as a form of social control; critiques of the medicalization thesis. Part II: From medicalization to biomedicalization; from the management of human life to the transformation of "life itself" by way of post-World War II technoscientific interventions aimed at "optimizing" human vitality. Empirical cases for consideration will be drawn from those technoscientific developments having made possible the work of optimization that defines biomedicalization: molecular biology, pharmacogenomics, biotechnologies, imaging techniques, robotics, and transplant medicine, among others. Finally, a consideration of how processes of biomedical optimization have produced new ways of seeing, knowing, and imagining human bodies, such that biology is increasingly less representative of "destiny" than it is of possibility. The course will to this end conclude with a survey of emerging issues in speculative technoscience and the ethics and politics of human enhancement. [ more ]

SOC 385(F)Breaking Apart

The course examines the splintering of American social structure and culture. Attention to the: transformation of family, marked by the abandonment of traditional definitions of sex and gender; consequences of the de-industrialization and globalization of our economy and our new debtor-nation status; increasing bureaucratization of every sphere of life, especially the growth of the leviathan state; institutionalization of adversary political cultures, on both left and right; proliferation of claims on public and private bureaucracies, fueled by competing propaganda spun by technicians in moral outrage; transformation of mass media and of audiences into specialized cliques; alliance of insulated elites with lower classes and the underclass against the interests of middle/working classes on myriad issues, particularly crime and illegal immigration; metamorphosis of public manners, etiquette, and rules for discernment of aesthetic, artistic, and intellectual worth; clashes between the manifold cultural frameworks that give meaning to personal experiences; the racialization of public opinion and discussion; and the multiplicity of moral codes and conceptions of public order that often conflict with presumably common laws. In short, who are we now as a nation? [ more ]

SOC 387Propaganda

Not offered this year

A sociological analysis of the phenomenon of mass persuasion in modern society. The course will examine the institutional and technical apparatus of modern propaganda and the role of intellectuals and technicians in shaping and disseminating propaganda. The symbolic content of specific kinds of propaganda--political, commercial, social, and organizational--will be considered with attention to propaganda that seeks to overthrow social structures as well as maintain them. The course will proceed through a series of intensive case studies with a particular focus on propagandists themselves, considered as experts with symbols, and on the institutional milieux in which they work. Among other examples, we will examine the U.S. Committee on Public Information during the First World War; the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda; the propaganda machinery in contemporary states and non-state actors of both the left and right; conservative and liberal "public interest" groups; propaganda in contemporary social movements and national political campaigns; the workings of corporate and university personnel offices; and advertising and public relations agencies in the United States. Throughout the course, we will analyze how the language, ideologies, and visual symbols of particular varieties of propaganda seem to affect mass audiences. [ more ]