Yuval Elmelech (director), Michael Donnelly, Sarah Egan, Allison McKim, Joel Perlmann, Clement Thery
Sociology at Bard aims to provide an understanding of the structure and processes of society, explain and chart the course of social changes, and offer knowledge of the sources of those actions and ideas that are learned and shared through social membership. While contemporary complex societies are of central concern, cross-cultural comparative materials also lend meaning to the particular patterns of American life. Students are encouraged to engage in internships and original research.
Students planning to moderate in sociology are required to take Sociology 101, Introduction to Sociology; Sociology 203, History of Sociological Thought; and Sociology 205, Introduction to Research Methods, before Moderation. For Moderation, students submit the standard autobiographical outline of past and future work and a 10-page essay on a topic of their choice that has been approved by their adviser. Majors are expected to take Sociology 304, Modern Sociological Theory; two 300-level seminars; and two additional electives. Each student must write a Senior Project.
Recent Senior Projects in Sociology
“Amakwerekwere:’ An Assessment of Xenophobic Sentiment and Violence
in South Africa”
“Brotherhood and (Dis)unity? Politics of Memory and the Reconstruction of History in Bosnia and Herzegovina”
“The Influence of Key Adult Relationships on the Motivation and Achievement of Urban High
School Students: A Qualitative Analysis”
“Under the Uniform: Identity and Gender in the U.S. Military”
In addition to required courses, tutorials and Major Conferences are offered regularly, based on individual study and interest. Recent tutorials include Minorities and the Media, The Death Penalty and Public Opinion, and Controversies in Education.
Introduction to Sociology
cross-listed: american studies, eus
This introductory course illuminates the way in which social forces impinge on individual lives and affect human society. It reviews key sociological concepts and methods through the study of Durkheim, Weber, and Marx; examines forms of social inequality, particularly those based on class, race, and gender; surveys important social institutions (e.g., the family, education, religion); and explores interrelated issues of ideology, social movements, and social change.
Inequality in America
cross-listed: american studies, eus, gss, human rights
An examination of the ways in which socially defined categories of persons are unevenly rewarded for their social contributions. Sociological theories are used to explain how and why social inequality is produced and maintained, and how it affects the well-being of individuals and social groups. The governing themes are the structure of inequality as part of the study of the unequal distribution of material and social resources, and the processes that determine the allocation of people to positions in the stratification system.
Race and Place in Urban America
cross-listed: american studies, eus, human rights
To fully understand the process of racial segregation (its origins, stability, and effects on individual life chances), it is necessary to attend carefully to historical variations of the category of “race” and the multiple dimensions of the notion of “place.” The course explores such notions as race as a social construction, ecological thinking, ghetto, spatial assimilation, discrimination, suburbanization, gentrification, and neighborhood effect.
Sociology of Gender
cross-listed: anthropology, gss
This course examines how and why gender is an organizing principle of social life; how social structures and practices construct gender identity and culture; how different groups of women and men experience this gendered order; and how gender is significant within different institutional and interpersonal contexts. The course also considers the ways that gender inequality is intertwined with other axes of oppression such as sexuality, race/ethnicity, and class.
Introduction to Urban Sociology
How do cities grow, develop, and decay? How and why are cities segregated, gentrified, and stratified? What happens in the urban public realm? An introduction to urban sociology, this course addresses these questions and many more. Through ethnographies, comparative studies, theoretical works, fiction, films, and other sources, students explore the social organization of cities and the nature of the urban experience.
Israeli Society at the Crossroads
cross-listed: gis, human rights, jewish studies, mes
Israel is a vibrant and diverse society characterized by contradictions and profound tensions between political and religious ideologies, social classes, and ethnic groups. This course provides students with the knowledge and analytical tools needed to understand the social institutions and problems that dominate the public discourse in Israel. Topics include Jewish immigration, democracy and militarism, segmented residential patterns, social class and inequality, religion and religiosity, ethnicity and national origin, gender and family.
History of Sociological Thought
cross-listed: human rights
This course retraces the origins of modern social theory in the aftermath of the democratic revolutions in America and France and the capitalist Industrial Revolution in Britain. Readings include Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Simmel. Sociological themes include alienation and anomie; social disorganization and community; and class conflict and solidarity. The contributions of classical sociologists to subsequent social science, and their aspirations to criticize, reform, or revolutionize modern society, are assessed.
Introduction to Research Methods
cross-listed: eus, human rights
This course helps students understand and use the various research methods developed in the social sciences, with an emphasis on quantitative methods. Topics covered: how to formulate hypotheses and research questions, choose the appropriate research method for the problem, maximize chances for valid and reliable findings, perform simple data analysis, and interpret and present findings in a written report.
Deviance and Social Control
All societies establish norms, and in all societies there are individuals who violate norms and are sanctioned for doing so. The sociological study of deviance examines how certain people and behaviors come to be defined and labeled “deviant.” Who or what defines and identifies deviance? How do the labelers understand or explain the sources and causes of deviance? What are the consequences for deviants of being so identified and treated? Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of the instructor.
cross-listed: human rights
This course traces classical and contemporary sociological theory, and introduces such enduring themes as secularization and individualism, bureaucracy and institutions, the division of labor, and the nature of authority. It considers foundational theories that emerged from the social upheavals of modernization in the 19th century, including those of Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Simmel, and Du Bois, and contemporary traditions such as functionalism, conflict theory, rational choice, and feminist theory.
cross-listed: american studies, historical studies, human rights
Why do immigrants come to the United States? How do they handle cultural differences? How do they affect class and racial relations and to what extent do immigrants and their children assimilate into mainstream society? This course examines immigration to the United States since the 1960s, as well as its effect on both the immigrants and the society they have entered.
Sociology of Knowledge
An introduction to the sociology of knowledge, ideas, and expertise. Beginning with classic statements on knowledge as a social product, students read works by Karl Mannheim, Berger and Luckmann, Thomas Kuhn, and members of the Frankfurt School. Topics include the idea of social construction, the ethnography of scientific practice, the role of experts in politics, and the study of intellectuals and academic production. Prerequisite: all students are required to have prior experience with sociology courses.
The Historical Sociology of Punishment
cross-listed: human rights
This course examines the character of punishment and the rationales for it in different historical circumstances, including primitive societies, Puritan New England, and the American South, among others. Comparisons among such disparate cases are meant to suggest broad development patterns in punishing and more specific queries about the connections between culture, social structure, and penal strategies. Case studies offer a historical perspective on many contemporary issues and controversies.
The American Family: Continuity and Change
cross-listed: american studies, gss
How do we choose the people we date and eventually marry? What effect does marital separation have upon the success of children later in life? This course uses sociological literature to study these and related questions. Focusing primarily on family patterns in the United States, it examines the processes of partner selection, the configuration of gender and family roles, and the interrelationships among family and household members.
Political Sociology: Exploring the Social Foundations of Politics
cross-listed: american studies
An introduction to political sociology. Seeing politics as more than just voting, parties, and the policy process, this course offers a sociological perspective on those elements of collective life that are often taken for granted but which supply the foundations of our political structures. Students analyze major concepts in political sociology, such as the state, civil society, and citizenship. The fate of the state and civil society in the age of globalization is also considered.
. . . And the Pursuit of Happiness
What makes people happy? Does money improve life satisfaction? Does marriage? Friendship networks? Volunteering? Religious activity? And can it be that gender, race, and ethnicity influence life satisfaction in systematic ways? The aims of this course are to introduce students to the various measures of subjective well-being (e.g., happiness, life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, relative deprivation); to explore the social, economic, and demographic determinants of well-being; and to better understand the relationship between objective and subjective well-being.
cross-listed: human rights
This course considers what is living and what is dead in the tradition of Marxist sociology. It begins with an in-depth reading of texts by Karl Marx, moving from his earlier work in politics and philosophy to his later critique of political economy. The second part of the course examines the prospects of critical sociology in today's world and the connection between sociology and the utopian imagination.
This course examines how sexual identities and social categories of sexuality are created and maintained or changed over time; how historically specific social contexts shape the meaning of sexual experiences; and how we use sexuality to define ourselves, produce social hierarchies, and mark moral boundaries. Students review theories of sexuality; the history of social institutions that help to produce, construct, and control sexual practice and identities; the development of modern sexual communities, identities, and politics; and related subjects.
Drugs and Society
This course explores the social organization and history of drug control and trade, and how social processes shape drug usage and the cultures that develop around it. It focuses primarily on illegal drugs in America, but also considers legal drugs and the international politics of drugs. Students learn to think sociologically about drug use as a historically situated social practice, examine how institutions develop categories and ideas about drugs, and grapple with the social consequences of drug policies.
Theories of the City
This course considers dominant theories about cities and their assumptions about the proper character of urban life. Topics include cities as “cultural machines,” where the modernization of ways of life happens; the relationship of cities with capitalism; public spaces, where strangers meet, creating opportunities and raising danger; and the city as political arena, where government and grassroots movements influence each other to define the material environment in which urban dwellers live.
Space and Place in Urban Sociology and Geography
cross-listed: eus, sts
This course analyzes the production of space and place, with an emphasis on the history of urban geographical thought. Topics include human ecology, the relationship between the city and development, and the intersections between culture and nature, among others. Readings cover foundational texts in urban theory and studies of American cities, as well as works examining cities of the “global south.”
Modern Sociological Theory
cross-listed: human rights
This course examines functionalism, conflict theory, exchange and rational choice theory, feminist theory, critical theory, symbolic interactionism, and other modern sociological theories. Readings include works by Ralf Dahrendorf, Jon Elster, Michel Foucault, Harold Garfinkel, Erving Goffman, Jürgen Habermas, George Herbert Mead, Talcott Parsons, and Dorothy Smith. Prerequisite: Sociology 203 or permission of the instructor.
Education and Social Policy in the United States, 1954–2002
Sociology 315 / History 315
See History 315 for a full course description.
Can We Study Everything? Original Thinking about Difficult Topics
This course looks at how social scientists have studied “resistant objects,” or empirical entities that are not easily circumscribed and categorized by the ideas that social scientists commonly use. These puzzling issues include extraordinary individual belief (Ginzburg, The Cheese and The Worms); the moral life of the extremely poor (Duneier, Sidewalk); the production of scientific truth (Latour, The Pasteurization of France); unique events (Vaughan, The Challenger Launch Decision); and bad faith (Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer).
A Sociological Classic: Middletown and America
Sociology 322 / History 322
cross-listed: american studies
A close reading of Robert and Helen Lynd’s Middletown and Middletown in Transition. The first volume was based on the work of a research team that lived for months in the “typical” American community of Middletown in the 1920s; the second was based on a similar study during the Great Depression. The volumes try to understand the social life of the community, notably class structure and class relations; politics; courtship, family, child raising, and schooling; and entertainment, religion, and other aspects of cultural life.
Race, Ethnicity, and Assimilation in American Thought
Sociology 324 / History 324
See History 324 for a full course description.
Seminar on Social Problems
cross-listed: american studies, human rights
We often read shocking stories about children in poverty, segregated and failing schools, family dissolution, and other problems in contemporary American society. While these accounts provide a sensational and superficial treatment of various social problems, what do researchers really know about the causes of, and solutions for, these problems? This seminar provides a critical survey and analysis of the research on various topics, including poverty and wealth, schools and education, and gender inequality in the workplace.
cross-listed: eus, sts
An advanced seminar in urban theory and the sociology of cities. Course readings and discussions focus on the history of urbanism, the production of social space, and the politics of urban knowledge. What are some major forms that urbanism has taken? What factors make cities change, stagnate, or transform? Course readings include Lewis Mumford, Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey, Alice O’Connor, M. Christine Boyer, and others. Prerequisite: previous experience with sociology and urban studies.
Welfare States in Comparative Perspective
cross-listed: gis, human rights, political studies
This course retraces the main lines of development of the welfare state, examining the social demands and political conflicts out of which “welfare” emerged, and the values and principles that have subsequently informed welfare policies. It considers debates and conflicts over the scope and aims of welfare states during the last two decades, and examines innovative policy ideas to reform the welfare state or bring it into line with changing realities. Case studies are drawn from Sweden, Germany, Britain, Italy, and the United States.
Governing the Self
This seminar traces sociological approaches to the self and examines various institutional and political attempts to govern social life by shaping the self. It covers the symbolic interactionist tradition of sociology, including thinkers such as Mead and Goffman, and its break with Enlightenment ideas about the individual. The course then explores scholarship associated with Foucault and “governmentality.” The goal is to examine questions of identity and individuality, the changing nature of state governance, and the politics of empowerment.
Gender and Deviance
cross-listed: gss, human rights
This seminar uses gender as a lens to approach the sociological field of “deviance and social control.” Students develop understanding of different theoretical approaches to deviance and to gender. The course considers the relationship between gender and definitions of what is normal, sick, and criminal, and investigates how norms about masculinity and femininity can produce specifically gendered types of deviance.