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Bard College Catalogue 2022-23
Allison McKim (director), Karen Barkey, Yuval Elmelech, Peter Klein, Joel Perlmann, Jomaira Salas Pujols, Jussara dos Santos Raxlen
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 a wide array of social phenomena, including social inequality, political and social movements, race, gender, economic systems, law, technological change, culture, media, religion, environmental risks, cities, family structures, and criminal justice. The Sociology curriculum offers students a theoretical and methodological foundation for conducting social research and thinking rigorously about important social issues. The most wide-ranging of the social sciences, sociology situates the economic, cultural, and political aspects of human communities within the complex whole of social life and its historical foundations. With its diverse array of topics, theories, and methodologies, the sociological perspective 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
- “Conditional Whites: An Analysis of Identity Formation Patterns among Second-Generation Arab American Muslims Today”
- “Cultivating Futures: Creating the Conditions for an Agro-Ecological Farming Tradition in Puerto Rico”
- “Instagram’s Indifference: An Examination of the Effects of Instagram on Societal Distinctions between Public and Private Life”
- “Student, Athlete, or Neither at All: A Closer Look into the Experiences of Black Basketball Players in the NCAA”
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. Recent courses include:
The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
Introduction to Sociology
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN AND INDIGENOUS STUDIES
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.
Wealth, Poverty, and Inequality
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN AND INDIGENOUS STUDIES, GSS, HUMAN RIGHTS
Why do some people face severe economic hardship and persistent poverty while others enjoy financial security and experience upward mobility? What are the patterns and sources of this inequality? Is inequality inevitable? Through lectures, scholarly works, documentary films, and class discussions, this course examines the causes and consequences of socioeconomic inequality in the contemporary United States.
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
CROSS-LISTED: ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
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
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, JEWISH STUDIES, MES
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.
Introduction to Political Sociology
This course address central concepts in political sociology, especially those dealing with power, politics, and the state. For each section—power, politics, state—students read a conceptual, theoretical piece as well as a historical or contemporary case study. The interplay between theory and case provides ample opportunity to see how political sociologists define concepts and how they use them in their empirical settings.
Introduction to Research Methods
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN AND INDIGENOUS STUDIES, ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS
This course helps students understand and use the various research methods developed in the social sciences, with an emphasis on quantitative methods. They first learn how to formulate research questions and hypotheses, how to choose the appropriate research method for the problem, and how to maximize chances for valid and reliable findings. In the second part, they learn how to perform simple data analysis, and how to interpret and present findings in a written report. Admission by permission of the instructor.
Deviance and Social Control
The sociological study of deviance examines how certain people and behaviors come to be defined and labeled as deviant in certain contexts. The course explores three levels of analysis: Who or what defines and decides what is deviant? How do those responsible for identifying deviant behavior understand or explain the sources and causes of deviance? What are the consequences for deviants of being so identified and treated? Issues of class, race, gender, and cultural and historical contexts relating to deviance are discussed throughout the semester.
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.
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
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN AND INDIGENOUS 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 Environment and Society
CROSS-LISTED: ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS, STS
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
The world’s environmental problems and their solutions are not merely technical; they are social as well. This course explores climate change, food systems, health disparities, and natural disasters to critically assess the relationship between society and the environment at local and global scales. With particular attention on environmental justice, the course also explores the ways in which scholars, citizens, and policy makers respond to racial, class, and social inequities and other contemporary environmental challenges.
The American Family
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 configuration of gender and family roles, and the interrelationships among family and household members.
Power, Politics, and Protest
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN AND INDIGENOUS STUDIES, ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES, GIS, POLITICS
How is power produced, maintained, distributed, and transformed? How is authority supported or challenged by social structures, institutions, and collective behaviors and identities? These questions frame the field of political sociology—and guide this course. Students examine theoretical conceptions of the state, the public sphere, and governance, drawing on case studies to bring these theories to life. They also examine how individuals and groups challenge structures of power through struggles for environmental justice, urban social movements, participatory democracy, and the use of the law and legal institutions.
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.
Global Inequality and Development
Sociology 269 / GIS 269
See GIS 269 for a full course description.
Democracy and Religious Pluralism
DESIGNATED: OSUN COURSE
This course brings the study of democracy together with notions of religious pluralism to ask how democratic regimes can adapt to increasing religious pluralism and avoid the pitfalls of creating fixed majorities and minorities. Recent research recognizes that explaining variations in democratic experience requires close attention to sociological structures and historical traditions. Using examples from around the world, the class explores the differences between relatively homogeneous societies and societies where varieties of religious commitments and expanding religious publics inhabit democracy and pose a different set of issues.
Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Theory
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS, PHILOSOPHY
Should we think of law as being about rules, and, if so, do those rules have a fixed meaning? What is the best way to conceptualize the relationships among law, politics, and society? Such questions are asked by scholars of legal philosophy, or jurisprudence—and are similar to foundational questions in political and social theory. Developments in jurisprudence and social theory—from Critical Race Theory to natural law and feminism—have often been mutually influential. This seminar introduces core debates in jurisprudence that have been linked to developments in social theory.
Hudson Valley Cities and Environmental (In)Justice
Sociology 319 / Environmental Studies 319
See Environmental Studies 319 for a full course description.
Punishment and Society: Race, Inequality, and Criminal Justice
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN AND INDIGENOUS STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS
The United States began a world-historic transformation of its criminal justice system in the 1970s that led to the highest incarceration rate of any nation. Lesser sanctions, like probation, also expanded; policing changed form; and new modes of social control proliferated throughout social institutions. This advanced seminar delves into recent research on this punitive turn and the role of punishment in society. Prerequisite: Sociology 224 or permission of the instructor.
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN AND INDIGENOUS STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS
What is a social problem? What are the origins and consequences of social problems and why are they so persistent and difficult to solve? This course explores the causes and consequences of various social problems in the United States. Particular emphasis is placed on the examination of disparities in socioeconomic status (e.g., education, poverty, employment, and wealth).
Tricks of the Trade: Qualitative Research Practicum
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN AND INDIGENOUS STUDIES, ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES, 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.
Empires, City-States, and Nation-States: An Exploration of the Social and Political Dimensions of Rule
CROSS-LISTED: HISTORICAL STUDIES
This course explores the three different models of political and social governance in historical and comparative fashion. The class first studies concepts of state, power, and governmentality, and then moves to exemplary cases of empire (the Roman and Ottoman Empires), Italian city-states (as well as contemporary city-states), and transitions to nation-states.