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The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise.
Because sociology addresses the most challenging issues of our time, it is a rapidly expanding field whose potential is increasingly tapped by those who craft policies and create programs. Sociologists understand social inequality, patterns of behavior, forces for social change and resistance, and how social systems work.
Sociology is the study of human groups, organizations and societies and the patterns of similarity and difference among them. In this course, we will examine the major questions that guide sociological analysis. We will also practice “doing” sociology by exploring our everyday social worlds and the oftentimes invisible or taken-for-granted social forces that shape it. Sociologists are concerned with a vast array of topics and they approach the investigation of these topics in numerous ways.
Sociologists are concerned with a vast array of topics and they approach the investigation of these topics in numerous ways. Influential sociological studies have focused on everything from how people try to look their best in face-to-face interactions, to how race, gender and class shape our identities, social status and economic mobility, to how the system of industrial capitalism came to dominate the world. They have sought answers to the puzzles of social life through inventive and sometimes controversial methods - living and working with homeless street venders, simulating prison conditions on a college campus, collecting questionnaires from thousands of random people in the phonebook, or conducting interviews with their most intimate friends and family.
In short, sociologists are an eclectic, eccentric, and energetic bunch and I hope this course will introduce and draw you into our ways of seeing the world, provide you with tools for understanding your own social position and the conditions in which you live, and fuel your passion and vision for a just, equal, peaceful and diverse society.
Goals of the Course:
Organization of the Course:
Introductory courses can be both exciting and frustrating in that they cover so many topics in such a short period of time. Thus, I have designed the course to try and give you both breadth and depth as you venture into new intellectual terrain. The main reader for the course, Mapping the Social Landscape (MSL), evokes the metaphors of geographical exploration and discovery, and will take you on a journey of addressing the many broad subfields within sociology.
I have chosen books that integrate several subfields within sociology, and in addition, are considered classic works (not to mention being good reads). The course is organized in such a way that we will first examine a few topics within the MSL reader, then focus on a book as a case study of how sociologists have actually researched and written about these topics. Thus, rather than completing one section and moving on to a seemingly unrelated one, I hope the course will weave and layer many different strands of thought to give you an experience of sociology as a coherent, although not necessarily unified or consistent academic discipline and intellectual perspective.
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