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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Sociology

GRADUATE SUBSTANTIVE SEMINARS

GRADUATE SUBSTANTIVE COURSES: DESCRIPTIONS

AGING AND SOCIETY (SOC 664)

This course examines the theoretical perspectives and empirical research in the sociology of aging.   It is designed to develop the student’s “gerontological imagination” by reviewing the theoretical background and major propositions of current sociological theories of aging.  Various theoretical traditions are covered including: social constructionism, phenomenology, age stratification, life course inequality, feminist theory, political economy, critical theory and welfare state theory.  The class discussion of the assigned readings considers how these theories can be employed to understand the aging process and age-based public policy.  The last portion of the course is devoted to exploring a range of student-selected topics, such as retirement, economic status, health, social support, the aging body, and variation in the aging experience based on race, class, gender, and sexuality. 

AGING IN THE CONTEXT OF FAMILY LIFE (SOC 800) *Crosslisted with SWK 600

This course provides an overview of theory, research, and policy concerning family relations in adulthood and later life.  It will summarize the major findings, concepts, research methods, and policy considerations for understanding and helping older families.  Family theory, research, and their practical implications will be examined from multidisciplinary perspectives: sociology, psychology, demography, public policy, biology, and social work. 

ASIAN INDIANS IN THE UNITED STATES (SOC 800)

The course will focus on the migration, settlement and development of Indian communities in the US, starting from the early migration at the turn of the 20th century to the current period through an examination of the literature in sociology, anthropology, ethnic studies and religious studies. Ethnicity, religion, politics, gender and the second generation (children of immigrants) will be important themes. As part of the course we will also do a quick overview of Indian history and contemporary Indian society and politics since this is important background to understand Indian American migration and ethnicity. The Internet has emerged as an important arena for Indian American community development and ethnic mobilization and one of the class projects will be to look at several Indian-American web-sites and discussions to understand some of the issues that are important to the community.

THE BIOPOLITICS OF LIFE, DEATH & DISEASE (SOC 880)

This is an advanced theory seminar designed to explore a set of questions launched by Michel Foucault’s analysis of ‘biopolitics’ as a founding regime of power/knowledge in Western modernity. Drawing on theoretical, ethnographic, and historical texts, the course attempts to develop a critical analytics of contemporary biopower while attending to concrete social sites including the U.S. prison-industrial complex, the ‘war on terror,’ and biomedicine. Our animating questions will include: How do colonialism and state racism operate biopolitically? What role do ‘biocapital’ and technoscience play in contemporary biopolitical regimes of population management? How is biopower also entangled with the social production of death, or what Mbembe (2003) terms ‘necropolitics’? The course aims to raise questions about how to think and how to live in an historical moment when ‘life itself’ becomes a terrain for biopolitical control.

CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL THEORY: GLOBALIZATION, MULTICULTURALISM, AND IDENTITY (SOC 621)

What does it mean to be American today? Large scale immigration, multiculturalism, and globalization have fundamentally transformed the meaning of national identity in the U.S. and other Western countries. This course will deal with theories of postmodernism, globalization, transnationalism, postnationalism, the global rise of religious and ethnic movements, multiculturalism, immigrant incorporation, and identity politics with a special focus on how these issues affect racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.

CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL THEORY: BODIES, POWER, KNOWLEDGE (SOC 880)

Over the last several decades, an explosion of social theories has transformed—or tried to—understandings of power, language/representation, the dynamics of oppression & privilege, capitalism, the body, colonialism, sexuality, culture, the nation, the human subject, science & technology, and the politics of producing knowledge itself. The seminar offers a focused and selective engagement with only a small sample of this enormous theoretical creativity. Drawing on recent interdisciplinary work in feminist theory, critical race and anti-racist theory, postmodernism, postcolonial studies, queer theory, and theories of globalization and transnational politics, we will explore the productive disruptions of contemporary theory with an eye towards how they might challenge and enliven our own sociological imaginations and methods.

ETHNIC INEQUALITIES AND PUBLIC EDUCATION (SOC 880)

This course examines racial-ethnic stratification and related issues in the context of the American school system.  The course focuses on schools as social institutions and questions whether, and in what contexts, they may act to ameliorate or reproduce existing inequality within society. In addressing this question, the course will provide an overview of theoretical perspectives on race and ethnicity as well as empirical research on ethnic inequalities in public schools. Major themes will include school segregation, education of immigrant and bilingual children, racial-ethnic achievement gaps, intersections between race and gender related to education, family-school relationships, and routes to higher education.

FEMINIST ORGANIZATIONS (SOC 600)

This combined graduate/undergraduate course provides a history of second- and third-wave feminisms, and an opportunity to read and produce case studies of feminist activism.  Drawing on feminist theory and history, social movement theory, and intersectional sociological perspectives, we explore the production of grass-roots and organizational activism, the distinctively feminist structures of activist groups, and the institutional forces that shape (and sometimes co-opt) activist efforts.  We use oral history and participatory methods to conduct case-study research.

FEMINIST METHODOLOGIES (SOC 880)

In this course, we explore feminist strategies for planning, conducting, and reporting on empirical research studies.  There is no standard “recipe” for feminist method; indeed, most feminist researchers would resist any such orthodoxy.  Still, we have a strong, lively, and growing literature about the distinctive challenges that scholars confront when they set out to do feminist research.  This class, conducted as a seminar/workshop, is designed for students with training in the research methods of their disciplinary fields and with some previous exposure to feminism; our work is to explore possibilities at the intersection/s of such commitments.

FOUNDATIONS OF ORGANIZATIONAL SOCIOLOGY (SOC 825)

This seminar is designed to introduce students to fundamental questions and approaches related to the study of complex, formal organizations.  It will provide a thorough grounding in the “classic” and (mostly sociological) literature on the theory of organizations.  The readings are organized more or less historically.  This will enable students to understand the intellectual development of theory and the various shifts in emphasis: from workers to managers, from organizational processes to outputs, from studies of a single organization and its environment to studies of populations of organizations, new institutionalism and culture, organizational networks, and so on.

GLOBALIZATION (SOC 880)

This seminar engages the debates that continue to swirl around “globalization,” both as a set of contested practices and as a contested term. The overall objective of the course is to examine some of the key thinkers on globalization as well as some of the key practices and processes that are broadly assumed to constitute its defining moments. We begin by considering the historical origins of globalization (and the neoliberal theory that “normalizes” it) as a portal through which to enter the “great globalization debates.”  Is “globalization” too neutral a term to carry the weight of all that has been attributed to it by its advocates, detractors and opponents alike? Is the nation-state dead and are we now entering a phase of predominantly transnationalist social and institutional realities and identities? Do the various deployments of the term suppress – to a greater or lesser extent – the reality of globalization as driven by an overarching system of imperialist domination whose roots extend all the way back to the age of formal colonialism?

HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE INEQUALITIES: U.S. AND GLOBAL (SOC 880)

In this seminar, we make connections between social structure and individual experiences in health and health care.  Students develop a broad understanding of the social, economic, and political factors that shape health and health inequality in the U.S and abroad.  The central objective is to examine the causes and impacts of health inequality and health policy, particularly with respect to gender, race, and class. Through films, readings, and student projects, we explore special topics such as food distribution and health, violence and health, HIV/AIDS, and birthing practices.

IMMIGRATION (SOC880)

This class will provide an overview of issues related to immigration to the United States. In the first part of the course students will focus on the history of immigration and immigration policy.  Because immigration to the United States is often driven by labor market processes, students will also learn about various aspects of immigrant labor including farm labor, domestic labor, and immigrant enclaves.  In addition students will learn about sociological theories of immigrant incorporation as well as specific issues related to the second-generation children of immigrants including their educational, labor-market and transnational experiences.

INEQUALITIES IN HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE (SOC 880)

This course is designed to introduce students to a range of topics relevant to discussions of inequality in health and health care.  Drawing on a range of source materials, we will address such topics as: whether and how inequalities matter for the health of populations; race-, class-, gender-, and sexuality-related health inequalities; life course, cumulative disadvantage, and double-jeopardy perspectives on aging and health inequalities; neighborhood disadvantage and health; infections and inequalities; inequalities in access, diagnosis, and treatment; and health-related carework and inequality.

INSTITUTIONAL ETHNOGRAPHY: INQUIRIES INTO TEXT-MEDIATED SOCIAL ORGANIZATION (SOC 880)

This course introduces an approach to the analysis of texts as constituents of social organization.  It provides an introduction to institutional ethnography, first developed as a feminist “sociology for women” and now understood as a “sociology for people.” Borrowing the words of Dorothy Smith, the course is concerned with: "(a) phenomenon. . .to which sociology has been extraordinarily blind. . . . As intellectuals we take it for granted as much as we take for granted the air we breathe.  Yet it not only constitutes both the arena and the means of our professional work, but permeates our everyday world in other ways.  We get passports, birth certificates, parking tickets; we fill in forms to apply for jobs, for insurance, for dental benefits; we are given grades, diplomas, degrees. . . .and so on and so on." Textual practices are viewed, in this approach, as integral to relations of ruling in contemporary society. Each student develops a project that involves analysis of activity organized through texts; such projects typically require both textual analysis and fieldwork.

LATIN AMERICAN MIGRATION AND TRANSNATIONALISM (SOC 700)

This multidisciplinary course will examine issues related to Latin American migration to North America, Europe and Asia, and the transnational relationships that link migrants with people in both their sending and receiving communities.  In particular, we will look at case studies of migrants from Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.  We will also discuss how immigration and refugee policies, international trade agreements, foreign policy, and domestic political and economic conditions shape the context of migration in both sending and receiving societies as well as how emigration impacts the countries of origin and how migration varies across the region.  The course is integrated with the PLACA speaker series and the annual PLACA conference (cosponsored with Cornell University) and through the speaker series and conference, students will have the opportunity to meet with some of the authors from the course and talk about their work.  Featured speakers will include:  Alfredo Lopez (Physician and former migrant worker) who will speak about the lives and health issues of migrant farmworkers,  Maria Cristina Garcia (Professor of History at Cornell University) who will speak about her research on Central American refugees in Mexico, the US, and Canada,  Jorge Durand (Professor of Anthropology at the Universidad de Guadalajara), who is the codirector of the Mexican Migration Project and the Latin American Migration Project (focused on migration from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic), and who will speak about the findings from these large-scale research projects on Latin American migration and Robert Courtney Smith (Professor of Sociology at Baruch College and CUNY Graduate Center) who will speak about the transnational lives of Mexicans in New York.

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER (LGBT) STUDIES IN SOCIOLOGY (SOC 600)

Although LGBT Studies is a burgeoning, multidisciplinary field, it is useful to focus at times on scholarly contributions from particular disciplines.  This course is designed to provide an introduction to recent sociological research in LGBT Studies.  We will read selected peer-reviewed journal articles and three books that address questions related to identity, community, representation, politics, social change and their inter-relations.  Readings will be supplemented with films, documentaries, and presentations by guests.

MEDICAL SOCIOLOGY (SOC 880)

This course is designed to provide an overview of some major topics in the Sociology of Medicine (a.k.a. the Sociology of Health and Health Care).   Topics covered might include: medical socialization; historical perspectives on the profession of medicine; the epidemiological transition; population health; the stress paradigm; social epidemiology; social construction of disease and illness; labeling, stigma, and their consequences; medicalization and demedicalization; conceptualizations of the sick role; doctor-patient interaction; health care systems and policy; the research-policy linkage; and the state of the field and future directions for the sociology of health and health care (medical sociology).

MULTICULTURALISM, SECULARISM, AND CONTEMPORARY IMMIGRANTS (SOC 880)

This course will focus on how countries in Europe and North America have been developing policies to accommodate (or "manage") the rising numbers of non-Western immigrants in their countries, the ways in which various groups in the West have been mobilizing to challenge conventional understandings of secularism, assimilation, and citizenship, and the response of Western countries to these challenges.  We will deal with three main topics:  1) the development of multiculturalism as state policy and philosophy in Western societies and the recent turn away from multiculturalism in many of these societies 2) the meanings of secularism in the West and the challenges to secularism 3) contemporary immigrants and their children in Europe and North America, their patterns of social and political incorporation, and the ways in which immigrant religion is being reformulated in the West.

NEW YORK CITY: BLACK WOMEN DOMESTIC WORKERS (SOC 627) *Crosslisted with AAS 627, WGS 627 & Double numbered with SOC 427

Historical understanding of Black women's engagement in paid domestic work in the United States, increasing need for domestic workers in the ever-changing economy and family, and the social construction of Black women as "ideal" domestic workers.

POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY (SOC 635)

This seminar is designed to provide a graduate introduction to political sociology.  We begin with its classical foundation, reviewing a few of the key contributions by some of major architects of sociology as a discipline – Karl Marx/ Frederick Engels, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim/ Alexis de Tocqueville along with other prominent thinkers of old such as Antonio Gramsci and Karl Polyani. We continue by reviewing the authors and their writings that shape four general contemporary theories of political sociology – Pluralism Theory/Theories, Elite Theory, Class Domination Theory, and State Autonomy Theory/Historical Institutionalism.  We conclude by looking more closely at other key dimensions of the sub-discipline, including civic society & engagement, social movements/ social change as well as more post-structural contributions of Michel Foucault as well as other more cutting edge thinking.

POVERTY, PRECARITY AND SOCIAL SUFFERING (SOC 800)

This seminar explores the interconnected afflictions of poverty, precarity, and social suffering, predominately in the context of the contemporary U.S.  Precarity is increasingly invoked to name, make sense of, and – in some cases- contest lived experiences of ambient insecurity, economic instability, and structural and symbolic violence.  Though its origins lie in the flexibilization of labor, the dissolution of social protections and the spread of radically insecure and contingent forms of work, precarity is now used to refer to what many see as a generalized affective condition of gnawing uncertainty.  Indeed, many theorists- from Bourdieu to Butler- see precarity as a defining characteristic of our time, referencing a shared affective condition, a regime of governance, and a political platform for social movements.

RACE, CLASS, AND GENDER (SOC 833)

This course provides directed readings on the intersecting dimensions of inequality that are woven through life in contemporary societies.  Our collective goal will be movement away from unidimensional analyses and toward thought and scholarship that consider the multiple effects of simultaneous cross-cutting oppressions and privileges.  We will consider sexualities and ability/disability issues as well as the intersections of race, class, and gender.  The course content emphasizes North America's history and institutions, but we will move toward more global analyses and interested students may develop international/transnational projects. 

RELIGION, TRANSNATIONALISM, AND CONTEMPORARY ASIAN IMMIGRANTS (SOC 600)

There has been an explosion of literature recently dealing with religion and transnationalism (either treated separately or together) in the lives of contemporary immigrants to Western countries. This course will examine this literature as it relates to contemporary Asian Americans but we will also discuss some literature dealing with Asian immigrants in Britain and Canada. We will look at a variety of Asian American groups and religions. One of the important issues that we will be dealing with in the course is the way in which the media (Internet, satellite TV, ethnic newspapers) permit the creation of imagined ethnic communities and thus reinforces transnationalism.

SOCIOLOGY OF DISASTER (SOC 600)

What is a disaster? How do social structures, groups and institutions react to the loss of social function as a result of natural, technological, or sociopolitical events? This course explores social effects of disaster from both a macro and a micro level of analysis, using social theories of organizational behavior, political sociology, community development, urban planning, and rural sociology that inform the field of disaster research. 

EDUCATION AND INEQUALITY (SOC 880)

The course intends to discuss the ways that education systems both maintain and challenge social inequality. Students will read and discuss topics such as racial inequality in school achievement, inequality in college admission, gender equity and inequity in schooling, children of immigrants' education outcomes, debates on college-for-all, the equity in access and attainment in STEM fields, etc. While most of the topics are in the U.S setting, we will also discuss issues related to international education. We will explore these issues by reading books and journal articles. This class intends also to advance students’ own research projects through frequent discussions and evaluations of students’ own work by the instructor and their peers. 

SOCIOLOGY OF FAMILY: CHANGE AND VARIATION IN CONTEMPORARY FAMILIES (SOC 880)

This graduate seminar examines sociological perspectives on family behaviors and relationships. Readings are drawn not only from the sociology literature but from demography, economics, history, and human development.  Readings and discussions will focus on major changes that have occurred in families since the middle of the last century. The class will emphasize sociological theory about families and empirical approaches sociologists use to better understand family life. Seminar discussions will consider theories, explanations and debates about changing family forms and assess the implications of contemporary family change for research and public policy.  Emphasis will be on empirical approaches to knowledge building in family science.  Students will develop a research paper as the main requirement of the class. Class topics include families through the lens of gender; race and class variations; fertility intentions and childlessness; non-marital childbearing and teen pregnancy; transition to adulthood; marriage and cohabitation; parenting; divorce, remarriage, and step families; multigenerational and aging families; same-sex couples and parents. 

SOCIOLOGY OF HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE (SOC 880)

This course is designed to provide an overview of some major topics in the Sociology of Medicine (a.k.a. the Sociology of Health and Health Care).   Topics covered include: medical socialization; historical perspectives on the profession of medicine; the epidemiological transition; population health; the stress paradigm; social epidemiology; social construction of disease and illness; labeling, stigma, and their consequences; medicalization and demedicalization; conceptualizations of the sick role; doctor-patient interaction; health care systems and policy; and the state of the field and future directions for the sociology of health and health care (medical sociology).

SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY (SOC 611)

This course is both an advanced introduction to animating concepts in sociological theory, and a selective intellectual history that situates theories of society within concrete political, cultural, and economic contexts. Questions we will bring to the readings include: What theoretical stories are told about the relations between individual experiences and broader social structures or forces? How is power theorized? How does the theory address (or ignore) gender, racial/ethnic, class, sexual, or national differences? What are the epistemological assumptions of the theory: what gets to count as 'real,' 'true' or 'valuable' knowledge? What aspects of the social world does the theory make central and visible, and what aspects does it exclude or render invisible? How can contact with this intellectual history influence our own practices of research and sociological storytelling? back to the top

STUDIES IN WORK AND INEQUALITY (SOC 880)

Work, defined broadly, can be conceptualized as the bedrock of social life, and the sociological concept of a “division of labor” has been central to the field since its inception.  A global division of labor slots people into activities that give them differential access to resources, identities, and powers, and that links them to others in various ways.  This is not exactly a course on the sociology of work, nor a “race, class, and gender” course, but rather a proposal for readings and discussions that draw from each of these areas in ways I see as productive for empirical research on just about anything.  I believe that any sociological topic can be approached through the analysis of work processes and relations, and I welcome to this seminar students who are interested in a wide variety of questions and issues.  We will also consider issues related to research and social justice (some of our readings will illustrate the possibilities of a “sociology for people” and we will discuss some as exemplars of “public sociology”).

THE CARIBBEAN: SEX WORKERS, TRANSNATIONAL CAPITAL, AND TOURISM (SOC 645) *Crosslisted with AAS 645, WGS 645

A political economy approach to educating students about the human and capital costs of tourism to the Caribbean. The integral relationship between sex work and Caribbean tourism exposes the region's development that has resulted in its current configuration. 

THE SOCIOLOGY OF RACE AND ETHNIC RELATIONS (SOC 800)

This course is designed to be a primer for graduate students who may be interested in pursuing comprehensive exams focusing centrally on the sociology of race and ethnicity or where issues related to race and ethnicity are a major component.  The goal of this course is to introduce students to major frameworks and theories that have influenced how sociologists have come to approach the study of race and ethnicity.  Although we will explore race in the international context in the last couple of classes, this course primarily focuses on the United States.  Students will be exposed to a combination of classical scholars including W.E.B. Dubois, Oliver Cox and Milton Gordon and contemporary scholars, including Michelle Alexander, Michael Omi and Howard Winant, and Michelle Lamont.  The course begins by examining the emergence of the concept of racial and ethnic inequality and bias.  We will discuss and critique each of these frameworks at length, detailing their contributions and their limitations.  We will also situate these frameworks in the social, historical, political, and economic context in which they emerged.  Finally, students will also be introduced to new frameworks used to examine contemporary issues related to the study of race and ethnicity.

WORK AND HEALTH:  HOW JOBS AND INDUSTRIES SHAPE HEALTH INEQUALITY (SOC 800)

This course explores sociological analyses of how occupations, such as a migrant work, and industries, such as the health care industry, shape health inequality linked to gender, race, SES, and other social factors.  Students develop and lead a portion of a class on the health impact of a job or industry of their choosing.