Bard College Catalogue

The Bard College Catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the College's undergraduate programs and courses, curriculum, admission and financial aid procedures, student activities and services, history, campus facilities, affiliated institutions including graduate programs, and faculty and administration.

Bard College Catalogue 2017-18

Bard College Catalogue 2017-18



Yuval Elmelech (director), Laura Ford, Peter Klein, Allison McKim, Joel Perlmann


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 a 100-level course in sociology (ideally Sociology 101, Introduction to Sociology); Sociology 205, Introduction to Research Methods; and Sociology 213, Sociological Theory, before Modera­tion. For Mod­era­tion, students submit the standard autobiographical outline of past and future work and a 12-page essay on a topic of their choice that has been approved by their adviser. Majors are expected to take two 300-level ­seminars and three additional electives. Each student must write a Senior Project.

Recent Senior Projects in Sociology

  • “Affirmative Action and Asian Americans: The Politics of an Ambiguous Racial Identity”
  • “In the Wake of No Child Left Behind: Improving National Accomplishment while Targeting the Performance Gap Caused by Poverty”
  • “The Negotiated Me: A Deeper Look at the Educational Experiences of Young Black and White Women”
  • “Walking Toward the Horizon: Understanding the Impact of Latin American Immigrant Organizations”


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.

The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.

Introduction to Sociology
Sociology 101
cross-listed: american studies, eus
Sociology is the systematic study of social life, social groups, and social relations. This course explores many aspects of social life from the sociological perspective, including work, family, inequality, media, crime, gender, race, and class. Students learn how aspects of life we may take for granted are socially constructed, and how our individual choices and actions are constrained and enabled by social, economic, and cultural structures.

Inequality in America
Sociology 120
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.

Environment and Society
Sociology 121
cross-listed: eus, human rights
This course challenges students to critically assess the relationship between society and the environment at local and global scales, focusing on three topics: how people collectively understand and frame environmental issues; how the natural world and its changes shape social organization, the distribution of power, and decision making; and how social structures, political and economic institutions, and individual actions produce and respond to environmental change.

Sociology of Gender
Sociology 135
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
Sociology 138
cross-listed: eus
More than half the world’s population now lives in urban areas. Thus, the study of social and political dynamics in urban centers is crucial if we are to understand and address the pressing issues of the contemporary world. This course explores these dynamics through an introduction to urban sociology: the study of social relations, processes, and changes in the urban context as well as the diverse methods that social scientists use to understand these dynamics.

Culture, Society, and Economic Life
Sociology 141
cross-listed: american studies
An introduction to sociological principles and perspectives through a focus on the economy, beginning with the question: Why would sociologists study the economy? Students explore three classical answers to this question from foundational thinkers Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim. Most class time, however, is spent with contemporary authors in the developing field of economic sociology, which looks at the ways the economy is embedded in worldviews, moral frameworks, and social-relational structures.

Introduction to Research Methods
Sociology 205
cross-listed: eus, human rights
An introduction to 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.

Sociological Theory
Sociology 213
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.

Punishment, Prisons, and Policing
Sociology 224
cross-listed: american studies, human rights
The amount and type of punishment found in society is not a simple, direct result of crime patterns. To understand how and why we punish, it’s necessary to examine the ways that historical processes, social structures, institutions, and culture shape penal practices as well as how systems of punishment shape society. This course explores the social functions of punishment, its cultural foundations and meanings, the relationship between penal practices and state power, and the role of crime control in reproducing race, gender, and class inequality.

The American Dream
Sociology 2307 / History 2307
See History 2307 for a full course description.

From Food to Fracking: The Environment and Society
Sociology 231
cross-listed: eus, human rights, sts
Food systems, fracking, health disparities, and natural disasters are among the examples used to assess the relationship between society and the environment at local and global scales. Topics covered include how people collectively understand and frame environmental issues; how social structures, political and economic institutions, and individual human actions shape and disrupt the natural environment; the social consequences of a changing natural world; and the ways that scholars, policy makers, and citizens are responding to contemporary environmental challenges.

Political Sociology 
Sociology 232
Students learn about the sociological study of politics, including such topics as the nature of power, the relationship of the state to other societal institutions, varieties of political and economic arrangements, mechanisms of political change, the obligations of citizenship and cosmopolitanism, and sources of authority and legitimacy. Topics addressed also include classical sociological perspectives on state and society and theoretical reconsiderations of the state inspired by feminism and critical theory. 

Laying Down the Law: Legal Systems in Comparative Perspective
Sociology 233
A look at ancient and modern legal systems from a sociological perspective, with a focus on Eurasian traditions. Readings cover ancient Iraq and India; Israel, Athens, and Rome; medieval Europe; law schools of Constantinople and Beirut; Enlightenment; and modern legal systems.

Law and Society
Sociology 235
An introduction to the foundational roles that law has played, and continues to play, in our political communities, social institutions, and everyday lives. The focus is on American law, both in its historical development and its contemporary, lived reality. What explains variations between states in the laws of self-defense? What is “corporate personality,” and why is it so controversial in today’s world? Do intellectual property laws really give people property rights to abstract ideas? The course attempts to answer these and related questions.

Sociology 236
The course explores the roots and consequences of the immense concentration of personal wealth in advanced industrialized nations, beginning with an overview of the classic literature on elites and the ruling class. Institutional, social, and cultural explanations for wealth creation are also examined, as is the link between family background and privilege. Finally, the class assesses the extent to which the wealthy and those less privileged differ in their work experiences, personality traits, social networks, and consumption patterns.

Sport, Culture, and Society
Sociology 237
An examination of sociological approaches to the study of sport in society. The first part of the course introduces the concepts used in classical sociological theories. The class then considers inequalities portrayed and reproduced in sport related to gender, race, and class; the roles of fans and athletes; the politics of sport; globalization; media; and sport and the body.

Interracial, Interethnic, and Interfaith Unions and Their Descendants in American Society
Sociology 245
“Intermarriage” implies crossing a boundary, violating a prohibition (of law or custom) against certain kinds of unions. This course focuses on three forms of boundary crossing—race, ethnicity, and faith—and the implications of such unions on their descendants. Specific topics include the legacy of European (“white”) immigrant and ethnic boundaries and their decline, institutional and cultural explanations for such decline, Asian and Hispanic American patterns, the distinctive situation of African Americans, and the impact of all these upon our understanding of America’s soon-to-be nonwhite majority.

A Changing American Racial Order? Race, Ethnicity, and Assimilation
Sociology 246
cross-listed: american studies, human rights
The changes in the racial order during the past half century have been staggering. What will it be like in the next half century? The course considers black political, economic, and social gains since the Civil Rights era; Hispanics and Asians transforming what it means to be nonwhite; and the virtual disappearance of earlier rigid divisions among Euro-American ethnics such as Irish, Italians, Jews, and Slavs. Also explored is the meaning of contemporary race, ethnicity, and assimilation with these recent patterns in mind.

The American Family
Sociology 247
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. 

Sociology 262
cross-listed: gss, human rights
Although sexuality is often considered to be inherently private and individual, this course examines sexuality as a social phenomenon. It asks how sexual identities and social categories of sexuality come to be and how they are maintained or changed over time. It also explores 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. Throughout, the course considers the important role of gender in the social organization of sexuality.

Drugs and Society
Sociology 263
A look at the social organization and history of drug control and trade, and how social processes shape drug usage and the cultures that develop around it. The primary focus is on illegal drugs in America, but legal drugs and the international politics of drugs are also considered. Students learn to think sociologically about drug use as a historically situated practice and grapple with the social consequences of drug policies.

Sociology of Social Movements 
Sociology 266
cross-listed: human rights
The course looks at questions about the origins, activities, and consequences of movements organized to produce or promote social, political, and cultural change. Also considered: the intellectual history of social movements and approaches to social movement research from microlevel social-psychological accounts through macrolevel political process theories.

Media, Power, and Social Change
Sociology 267
Is Google making us smarter? Is Twitter enabling revolutions? Technology changes what we do, but does it change who we are? This course explores a variety of media technologies in their historical context and the impact of these technologies on social and political life.

A New Look at Gentrification
Sociology 268
This course explores the definition, explanations for, and consequences of gentrification. Particular attention is paid to the displacement of vulnerable residents and to local forms of resistance. Students also consider questions such as: What are the political and economic tools that preserve the city’s social mix? Does gentrification promote new economic circuits and new forms of social life? How can we ­balance demands for an affordable city and the process of urban development?

Global Inequality and Development
Sociology 269 / GIS 269
See GIS 269 for a full course description.

(Re)Imaging Protest: The Changing Face of Democracy
Sociology 325
cross-listed: american studies, gis, human rights, political studies
This course is based on the premise that democracy comprises much more than voting. Topics discussed include traditional forms of activism, such as taking to the streets to protest and riot; newer forms of engagement, including online activism and social entrepreneurship; how the law and the courts have emerged as a potential avenue to increase democratic possibilities; and innovative efforts by local and national governments to give citizens opportunities to directly participate in decision-making processes.

Seminar on Social Problems
Sociology 332
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.

Tricks of the Trade: Qualitative Research Practicum
Sociology 333
cross-listed: american studies, eus, gis
To study social life, researchers often turn to methods of inquiry based on observing everyday activity, talking to people, and unpacking the meanings of public discourse, such as ads and news coverage. To prepare students for this kind of qualitative research, the course focuses on ethnography (participant observation), in-depth interviewing, and discursive/content analysis. Ideal for students from various majors who plan to use these methods for their Senior Project.

Seminar on Social Performance
Sociology 339
cross-listed: anthropology
A look at the emerging discipline of performance studies, which combines insights from theater and the performing arts with sociological and anthropological work on ritual and community. The class examines how sociologists have used performance as an analytical model, from Goffman’s presentation of self in everyday life to Alexander’s model of social performance. Other topics covered include the performance of reconciliation in post-Apartheid South Africa, the mobilization of mothers in Argentina’s “Dirty War,” gender as a socially constructed performance, and the use of performance in social movements and political campaigns.

Capitalist and Secular? Theorizing Modernity
Sociology 341
cross-listed: historical studies, political studies
A look at the emerging discipline of performance studies, which combines insights from theater and the performing arts with sociological and anthropological work on ritual and community. The class examines how sociologists have used performance as an analytical model, from Goffman’s presentation of self in everyday life to Alexander’s model of social performance. Other topics covered include the performance of reconciliation in post-Apartheid South Africa, the mobilization of mothers in Argentina’s “Dirty War,” gender as a socially constructed performance, and the use of performance in social movements and political campaigns.

Governing the Self
Sociology 346
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
Sociology 352
cross-listed: gss, human rights
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.