Sociological theory is the foundation of sociology. Students in this course will learn two things: first, what theorists do and why and, second, how to use fundamental theoretic concepts — such as exploitation and alienation, social structure and solidarity, bureaucracy, and charisma — to analyze and explain contemporary society.
As a science, sociology uses various tools to establish knowledge about the social world. This course provides an introduction to research design, data collection, and evaluation of sociological arguments. It will discuss the logic of social research across several approaches, including quantitative and qualitative research methods. We will investigate experimental, survey, and observational approaches to systematically gathering and analyzing data, and discuss crucial ethical issues in social research. At the end of the course, students should appreciate both the strengths and limitations of sociological research methods.
We frequently encounter statements or claims based on statistics, such as: "Women earn less than men," "The American population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse," or "Married people are healthier than unmarried people." On what information are these statements based? What kinds of evidence support or refute such claims? How can we assess their accuracy? This course will show students how to answer these sorts of questions by interpreting and critically evaluating statistics commonly used in the analysis of social science data. Hands-on data analysis and interpretation are an important part of the course. You should finish the course with the ability to interpret, question, and discuss statistics accurately and with an understanding of which type of statistic is appropriate for different kinds of data and research questions. You should also finish the course with basic programming and data analysis skills. No prior statistical knowledge is required. This course is ideal for students interested in the social and/or life sciences as well as business and/or law.
SOC 10002/20002 “Understanding Societies”
What are the influences that shape who we are and how we think? Why do people act the way they do? How can we better understand why people's lives take certain paths? The answers to these questions are central to our well-being as individuals and as a society. In this course, you will learn how sociologists approach and answer these questions. During the semester, you will explore our society through a variety of lines of inquiry. What is the link between individuals and their culture? How is social interaction structured and how does this affect our behavior? What is inequality? How do institutions influence our lives? The overarching purpose of the course is to cultivate your "sociological imagination," which can then be used to better understand yourself and your place in the larger world.
SOC 10342/20342 “Marriage and the Family”
The family is often agreed to be the primary and most fundamental of social institutions. It is within this institution that early socialization and caregiving usually take place, and therefore, many of our ideas about the world are closely tied to our families. This course will give students the opportunity to learn about the diverse forms the family has taken over time and across different groups. This knowledge will be useful in examining the ongoing debate about the place of the family in social life. By taking a sociological approach to learning about the family and by gaining knowledge about national family trends and patterns in the U.S., this course will give students the theoretical and empirical tools for understanding how family life is linked to the social structure; to economic, cultural, and historical events and transitions; and to societal factors like race, class, and gender.
SOC 10722/20722 “Introduction to Social Psychology”
The overarching goal of this course is to provide students with a working knowledge of social psychology and, with that knowledge, to increase awareness of ourselves, the social world around us, and the connections between the two. This is a course about social interaction — how the self shapes and is shaped by others, how we interact in and with groups and social structures, and how we perceive the world around us. Because the subject of the course is the very social interactions in which we are immersed, it is expected that students will develop the habit of applying social psychological concepts to everyday life.
SOC 10732/20732 “Introduction to Criminology”
Introduction to Criminology provides students with an overview of the sociological study of law-making, law-breaking, and the resulting social responses. In this class, we not only look at a variety of crimes, but we also discuss the varying methods sociologists use to collect, interpret and evaluate data, as well as how we theorize about crime and punishment. We address questions such as "Why are some people or groups labeled as criminal, while others are not?" "Do laws in both their construction and enforcement serve everyone's interests equally?" "How can the communities in which people are embedded be considered as criminogenic?" "How are poverty, race, gender, and other social factors related to crime?"
SOC 20033 “Introduction to Social Problems”
Today's society is beset by many serious social problems, for example, crime and deviance, drug abuse and addiction, domestic violence, hunger and poverty, and racial/ethnic discrimination. How do we think about these problems in ways that lead to helpful solutions? In what ways does one's own social background and role in society affect his/her views of these problems? In this course, students will learn to take a sociological perspective not only in examining the causes, consequences, and solutions to some of society's most troubling social problems but also in taking a critical look at their own perceptions of the problems.
Other Fabulously Interesting Classes
SOC 43919 “Text Analysis for Social Science”
Screens are all around us. From TVs to smartphones and e-books, the ubiquity of screens and the fact that we use them to communicate with one another means that virtually all of us create some form of "text data" every day. Further, the proliferation of mass communication technologies over the past couple of decades-including the rise of social media, the emphasis on document digitization in archives, libraries, and organizations, and increasing access to these data-has opened the door to new questions for social scientists and to new data and methods for answering these questions. For example, do anti-immigration laws shape how people tweet about immigration? Does war shape how U.S. presidents frame the role of governance in society, as reflected in State of the Union addresses? What accounts for the gender gap in net neutrality activism? Did national news media or activist social media matter more for sparking #BlackLivesMatter? Can Twitter sentiment predict stock market activity? This course will introduce students to some of the methods that social scientists use to answer these types of questions. The focus will be on understanding and developing some of the fundamentals for designing and conducting text analysis projects from a social science perspective. We will also touch on some of the more advanced topics in this rapidly growing field. Hands-on analysis in the R statistical computing environment will be integral to the course, though no prior coding experience is required.
SOC 43990 “Social Networks”
Social networks are an increasingly important form of social organization. Social networks help to link persons with friends, families, co-workers and formal organizations. Via social networks information flows, support is given and received, trust is built, resources are exchanged, and interpersonal influence is exerted. Rather than being static, social networks are dynamic entities. They change as people form and dissolve social ties to others during the life course. Social networks have always been an important part of social life: in our kinship relations, our friendships, at work, in business, in our communities and voluntary associations, in politics, in schools, and in markets. Our awareness of and ability to study social networks has increased dramatically with the advent of social media and new communication tools through which people interact with others. Through email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, people connect and communicate with others and leave behind traces of those interactions. This provides a rich source of data that we can use to better understand our connections to each other; how these connections vary across persons and change over time; and the impact that they have on our behaviors, attitudes, and tastes. This course will introduce students to (1) important substantive issues about, and empirical research on, social networks; (2) theories about network evolution and network effects on behavior; and (3) tools and methods that students can use to look at and analyze social networks. The course will be a combination of lectures, discussions, and labs. Course readings will include substantive research studies, theoretical writings, and methodological texts. Through this course students will learn about social networks by collecting data on social networks and analyzing that data.
SOC 43909 “Introduction to Causal Inference”
Questions concerning causation are abundant in everyday life. Does a higher GPA cause higher income later in life? Do religious values shape voting behavior? Does a job applicant's race or ethnicity affect their chance of getting interviewed? This course introduces students to concepts and methods of causal inference. The first half of the course discusses the potential outcomes framework and experimental designs, whereas the second half discusses different identification strategies to estimate causal effect from observational data. R programming is an integral part of the course. By the end of the course, students are expected to understand the intuition behind the potential outcomes framework, to be able to design a simple experiment, and to be able to analyze observational data using an appropriate causal approach.
SOC 43402 “Population Dynamics”
Demography, the science of population, is concerned with virtually everything that influences, or can be influenced by, population size, distribution, processes, structure, or characteristics. This course pays particular attention to the causes and consequences of population change. Changes in fertility, mortality, migration, technology, lifestyle, and culture have dramatically affected the United States and the other nations of the world. These changes have implications for a number of areas: hunger, the spread of illness and disease, environmental degradation, health services, household formation, the labor force, marriage and divorce, care for the elderly, birth control, poverty, urbanization, business marketing strategies, and political power. An understanding of these is important as business, government, and individuals attempt to deal with the demands of the changing population.
SOC 43959 “How Did I Get Here and Where Am I Going”
Though sociologists are not fortune tellers, life course sociology has documented the human life course enough to reliably understand how and why people's lives are patterned in certain ways. This course seeks to understand how and why people change or remain the same throughout their lives. We will explore how lives are shaped by specific historical contexts, how individuals actively construct their life course within historical and social constraints, how our lives are intertwined (and how this shapes human action), and how the impact of life transitions on life trajectories is contingent on the timing of a particular change in a person's life. We will investigate patterns common in the different stages of our life course as well life course pathways related to family relationships, education, health, and religion. Including all of these elements of life course sociology gives a fuller understanding of how individual lives are lived within our communities as well as global contexts, and also how lives are rooted in intersections of gender, class, race, sexual orientation, and other statuses.
SOC 10502/20502 “Surviving the Iron Cage: Organizations in a Complex World”
We live in a society populated and dominated by organizations. Throughout our lives, we engage with many different types of organizations: hospitals, schools, businesses, government agencies, religious institutions. It has been argued that the very essence of modern society is the rise of large scale formal organizations, which can help us by creating efficiency, predictability, and fairness, but can also trap us in an iron cage of numbing bureaucratic rationalization. The objective of this course is to help you analyze and assess the good, bad and ugly about modern organizations. It specifically aims to provide analytical tools and case studies to help you: 1) understand how different kinds of organizations function 2) assess organizational effectiveness and failure, and 3) evaluate the role of organizations in a globalizing world. Broadening our understanding of organizations can facilitate our ability to both negotiate our way through organizations and, perhaps most importantly, try to change them.
SOC 20666 “Environment, Food, and Society”
This course is an introduction to environmental sociology, the sociology of food, and Catholic social teachings on creation, solidarity, human dignity and rights, and social justice as they relate to the environment and food issues. The course has two directly linked central purposes. One is to learn descriptive and analytical sociological perspectives on environmental and food issues, as well as related matters of agriculture, globalization, consumerism, rural America, health, social movements, and human futures. A second purpose is to learn Catholic social teachings on the environment and food issues, in order to deepen our capacity to reflect normatively from a particular moral perspective about crucial social problems. Achieving these two purposes will require us recurrently to engage the sociological and the Catholic perspectives and contributions in mutually informative and critical conversation. This is fundamentally a sociology course, but one in which Catholic social ethics stand front and center. In other words, this course will engage in multiple, ongoing exercises of "reflexivity," engaging the sociological imagination, issues of environment and food, and Catholic social teachings — to consider what possible fruitful understandings each may provide for and about the others. Students need not be Catholic (or even religious) to benefit from this course, but everyone must be open to learning about and reflecting upon Catholic ethical teachings as they relate to the environment and food. This course will explore a number of interconnected substantive issues, descriptively, analytically, and normatively. These will include technological development, energy consumption, global warming/climate change, neoliberal capitalism, interests of nation-states, corporate power, the role of mass media, population dynamics, the maldistribution of wealth, political decision-making, the status of science, ocean environments, extreme weather, sustainable development, environmentalist movements, agribusiness, nutrition, food supply systems, hunger and obesity, organics, fair trade, localism, agrarianism, human dignity, the common good, the option for the poor, the universal destiny of the earth's goods, creation care, and the moral goods of solidarity, subsidiarity, and participation, among other relevant topics.
SOC 43839 “Unequal America”
America is the richest country in the world and yet roughly three million American children now grow up in families surviving on just $2 a day. As America's richest 0.1% have seen their incomes more than quadruple over the last forty years, the incomes for 90% of Americans have barely changed. These financial disparities reflect deeper inequities in educational opportunity, incarceration rates, social status and more.In this course, we will examine the nature and consequences of American inequality. Through close reading and spirited discussion, we will address such questions as: What is the meaning of meritocracy in an age of profound inequality? What is the lived experience of American poverty and American privilege? How are race and gender inequalities (re)produced throughout the life course? And, finally, how do all of these issues manifest in the successes and struggles of students at Notre Dame? In this course, we will examine the nature and consequences of American inequality. Through close reading and spirited discussion, we will address such questions as: What is the meaning of meritocracy in an age of profound inequality? What is the lived experience of American poverty and American privilege? How are race and gender inequalities (re)produced throughout the life course? And, finally, how do all of these issues manifest in the successes and struggles of students at Notre Dame?
SOC 43581 “Race and Activism”
Throughout much of American history, individuals have organized and acted collectively to advance interests based on a common racial or ethnic identity. In some instances, groups have organized in an attempt to overcome discrimination and to stake a claim to rights and privileges enjoyed by majority group members. In other cases, members of the majority group have organized to restrict opportunities for the minority and to protect an advantaged position. We will consider the causes and consequences of both progressive and conservative social movements--such as the civil rights movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and the contemporary alt-right — giving particular attention to how theories of social movements help us to understand episodes of race-based collective action.
SOC 43479 “International Migration and Human Rights”
This course will examine the causes and consequences of international migration from a human rights perspective, ie, within the framework established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We will investigate the experiences of populations who undergo displacement and resettlement across nation-states and the socio-political forces that criminalize populations seeking work and refuge across borders. Using readings and documentary films, students will become versed in contemporary current events within and outside of the United States, including the current crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. Course material will cover the social construction of borders, identities, and citizenship; differences in categories distinguishing migrants from one another; the factors fueling migration and the consequences of cross-border movement; the impact of emigrants? contexts of reception on their abilities to "make it"; racism, exploitation, and criminalization; and how non-citizens mobilize to contest discrimination. Grades will be based on attendance, active participation in class discussions, and writing assignments.
SOC 43818 “The Sociology of Sexuality”
When people think about sexuality, they often adopt a biological view - seeing sexuality as "driven" by hormones and nature. This course adopts a different approach by viewing sexuality through the lens of sociology — as shaped by social processes, including social interaction, institutions, and ideologies. The course will focus on examining three sociological aspects of sexuality: 1) The social, historical, and cultural factors that shape sexual behaviors, desires, identities, and communities; 2) The ways in which sex and sexuality are constantly regulated and contested at multiple levels of society, including within families, schools, workplaces, and religious and political institutions; and 3) The sources, causes, and effects of sexual inequality. While our focus will be on sexuality, we will also study how other identities (including gender, race, class, religion, etc.) influence and affect it. Students will be encouraged to question their taken-for-granted assumptions about sex and sexualities and to formulate critical perspectives on issues pertaining to sexuality in today's public discourses. This course is sex-positive in that it assumes that knowledge about sexuality is empowering, not dangerous. The readings and discussions will be frank, and students will be assisted in developing a language for and comfort level with discussing a wide range of sexual topics in a respectful and sociological way. In the process, students will be challenged to improve their critical thinking, researching, writing, and public speaking skills.
SOC 43281 “Racial/Ethnic Educational Inequality”
This course examines the educational experiences and struggles of racial/ethnic minority students in U.S. public schools. Students will study educational stratification by race/ethnicity, as well as how racial/ethnic minorities experience this stratification. We will explore legal, political, historical, and social perspectives regarding educational policies and practices. Additionally, this course focuses on the potential of education as an agent for social justice and change for linguistically and culturally diverse groups.
SOC 20672 “Deities Denominations, and Diversity”
How does social life influence religion? How does religion influence society? What is religion's social significance in a complex society like ours? Is religion's significance declining? This course will consider these and other questions by exploring the great variety of social expressions of religion. The course examines the social bases of churches, sects, and cults, and it focuses on contemporary religion in the United States.
SOC 43579 “The Social organization of Secrecy and Deception”
One would think that secrets are hard to keep and lies hard to maintain because it doesn't take much for the truth to escape and once it's out, it can't be put back into the bottle. Yet secrets and lies reside at the heart of much social and political order, sometimes for years and even decades at a time. The objective of this course is to advance our scientific understanding of how this is possible, drawing on sociological, psychological, and historical research on such things as performance, secrecy, lying, forgetting, doubt, denial, and inattention. Case studies will include instances of corporate malfeasance (such as Ponzi schemes and insider trading), Big Tobacco's cover-up of the health consequences of smoking, the lies told by the totalitarian regime of North Korea, the secret British program to break the German cipher during WWII, elaborate attempts to cover up government atrocities, and the cat-and-mouse game between international inspectors and regimes thought to be developing banned weapons. Throughout, we will be concerned with the distinct methodological challenges of studying things many people want to keep secret. Requirements will include midterm and final examinations, reading quizzes/reaction papers, participation, and a final research paper.
SOC 43165 “Art in Everyday Life”
When discussing "art," most people think of paintings housed in museums, winners of the Booker Prize, or Russian ballet. This rigorous, hands-on seminar is less interested in the so-called fine arts. We will bend, stretch, and stress our definitions of art by considering the aesthetics of our daily lives and the urban streetscapes around us. What are the politics of producing public sculpture and graffiti? How do we judge the power of protest posters? What ideologies underlie the practices of advertising? This seminar addresses a variety of perspectives on visual culture, from critical theory to contemporary cultural sociology. We will consider the autonomy and politics of art, examine the distinctions between high and popular culture, and consider what is at stake in the production and interpretation of these images. From there, we use these theories as a framework to examine a number of pieces of pop culture, and not so popular culture.