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, 2018–19

Bard College Catalogue, 2018–19



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


Sociology at Bard aims to provide an understanding of the structure and processes of society—from everyday interactions among friends to social transformations of global magnitude. Sociology students learn to systematically examine of a wide array of social phenomena, including social inequality, politics and the state, race, economic systems, gender, technological change, culture, religion, environmental risks, cities, family structures, and criminal justice. Unlike other social sciences, sociology situates the economic, cultural, and political aspects of human communities within the complex whole of social life. While contemporary complex societies are a central concern, historical and comparative questions are also essential to a sociological perspective. With its range of topics, theories, and methodologies, sociology teaches people to examine the social world in a way that is both rigorous and flexible.


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 10-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 based on their own original sociological research.

Recent Senior Projects in Sociology

  • “Dreams Deferred: An Examination of the Experience of Downward Mobility among the Black Middle Class”
  • “An Exceptional Nation: Why the United States Lacks Universal Health Insurance”
  • “Producing Meaningful Work: An In-Depth Study of Domestic Workers and Stratified Reproduction”
  • “The South Bronx: Exploring the Critical Role of Neighborhood Attachment in Education, Financial Security, and Aspirations”


The Sociology curriculum offers students a theoretical and methodological foundation to examine important social issues. Courses in the program expose students to quantitative, qualitative, and historical research. Students learn to use research to inform policy, and they use social theory to engage profound questions about the nature of social life. Through this training, students acquire skills in conducting systematic social research. 

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

Introduction to Sociology
Sociology 101
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
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.

Sociology of Gender
Sociology 135
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
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.

Israeli Society at the Crossroads
Sociology 140
Modern Israel is a diverse society characterized by profound tensions between contending political ideologies, ethnic groups, economic interests, and religious beliefs. This course provides students with the knowledge and analytical tools needed to understand these emerging trends. Selected topics include the “New Jew” and Israeli identity, socialism and capitalism, religiosity and secularism, militarism and democracy, immigration and integration, national identity and minority rights, inequality and the “start-up nation,” gender roles, and family patterns.

Culture, Society, and Economic Life
Sociology 141
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.

Global Challenges of the 21st Century
Sociology 142
Since the 1970s, globalization has been celebrated as a solution to worldwide inequalities and criticized as the key cause for the decay of national values, growing economic instability, and the dispersal of local cultures. This course provides a foundational understanding of how global issues appear, change, and are contested over time and in different parts of the world.

Introduction to Research Methods
Sociology 205
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
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.

Contemporary Immigration
Sociology 214
Why do immigrants come to the United States? Where do they come from, geographically and socially, and how do they handle cultural differences? What is the economic and cultural impact of immigrants on American society? This course examines U.S. immigration since the 1960s—and its effect on both the immigrants and the society they entered. Throughout, the class considers how such questions distinguish the present era from the American historical experience as “a country of immigrants.” Also addressed: the issue of illegal immigrants and the balance of civil liberties and national security in immigration policy.

Punishment, Prisons, and Policing
Sociology 224
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.

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.

A Changing American Racial Order? Race, Ethnicity, and Assimilation
Sociology 246
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
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? Focusing primarily on family patterns in the United States, this course examines the processes of partner selection, the configuation of gender and family roles, and the interrelationships among family and household members. 

Sociology 262
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
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.

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

Hudson Valley Cities and Environmental (In)Justice
Sociology 319 / EUS 319
See EUS 319 for a full course description.

Environment and Society from a Global Perspective
Sociology 320
In recent years, concerns for the rapid depletion of natural resources and the devastation caused by repeated man-made, natural disasters are challenging human societies with identifying long-term strategies and solutions to ensure the survival of various communities. This course considers present-day environmental challenges and conflicts, as well as the struggle for environmental justice, from multiple sociological perspectives. Students also analyze how the logics of capitalism and of social inequalities intertwine with, and are challenged by, various environmentalist efforts and social movements.

(Re)Imaging Protest: The Changing Face of Democracy
Sociology 325
This course is based on the premise that democracy requires 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 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
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
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
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.

Big Changes and Grand Narratives: Macrohistorical Sociology
Sociology 341
Classical sociological thinkers were unapologetic about thinking big. They sought to uncover the architectonic social forces of historical and cultural change, and to peer into the future such forces might be leading toward. This course surveys the grand narrative tradition of sociological theory, beginning with exemplars such as Marx, Weber, Du Bois, and Durkheim, and including examples from outside the boundaries of canonical sociology and more contemporary works by Foucault, Bellah, Mann, Huntington, and Gorski.

Gender and Deviance
Sociology 352
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.