After taking several courses that introduce you to the themes and methodology of anthropology and sociology, you move into small, advanced classes that focus on various subtopics in the disciplines, theory and advanced methodology. In addition, because anthropology and sociology are dynamic fields that continually evolve and change, the department offers a number of special-topic seminars for advanced students.
This class provides an essential grounding in sociocultural anthropology, focusing on the analysis of cultural difference and human diversity across the globe. Lectures and readings highlight the emergence of anthropological thought and practice, the legacies of European colonial expansion, and the development of key methods and theories, including culture, fieldwork, and ethnography. The class also covers topics of both classical and contemporary concern: kinship, ritual, language, exchange and economy, gender, race, politics and power, and globalization, among others. Cross-cultural analysis challenges preconceived notions about what is natural, essential, or commonsense, making the strange familiar and the familiar strange. Encountering differences between selves and others, students are encouraged to exercise their skills in critical thinking, writing, and debate, while gaining a stronger sense of the complexities of cultural belief and social action. [SS]
Required for majors.
This course takes a social scientific approach to the study of human social relationships. Its purpose is to introduce the basic concepts, theoretical orientations, and methods of the sociological perspective. Topic areas include the socialization of personality, culture, urbanization, alienation, deviance, inequality, and the rationalization of society. [SS]
Required for majors.
This course focuses on analyzing and conducting empirical research in anthropology and sociology. We cover the logic of research design and applications of quantitative and qualitative methods. Students who complete this course successfully will be prepared to conduct their own research and to evaluate other research in the social sciences.
Required for majors.
We will study how humans have shaped the environment and how the environment has shaped us, utilizing theories from anthropology that provide insight into our relationships and interactions with the worlds around us and help us understand environmental issues. Topics include relationships with “nature”, knowledge about environments and how we use it, interactions with plants and animals, and intersections of the environment with race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Cases from around the world will be examined. [W]
This course focuses on the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and its diasporas. We will explore how earlier colonial conceptualizations of the “Orient” have shifted to modern academic definitions of “area.” We will also cover different themes—both historical and contemporary—in the anthropology of the MENA region and familiarize ourselves with ethnographic accounts and debates about various MENA countries/communities, in order to understand the diversity of cultures, religious, and ethnicities in the region and its diasporas.
Although most people think of Europe in terms of “national” cultures, it is the local community, whether urban or rural, that teaches its members a way of acting in and seeing the world. This course considers some of the general cultural variations that characterize European communities and some possible explanations (historical, ecological) for that variation, and then proceeds to a series of community studies of a small number of cultures. [W]
This course provides a critical engagement with contemporary ethnography in the African context. The class highlights texts that expand our sense of anthropological research while challenging us to conceptualize “Africa” in new ways. We will examine how diverse African social worlds have actively shaped and been altered by the forces and forms of modernity, ranging from colonialism to popular culture, development, the nation-state, and globalization. The class underscores the complexity of everyday life across an astonishingly dynamic and diverse continent. [GM2, V]
This course focuses on ethnography as the key narrative form of anthropological research while foregrounding critical issues in a specific ethnographic area (for example, Africa, South or East Asia, the Middle East). Descriptions of current offerings are available through the departmental office or through the Registrar’s Office.
This course provides a critical understanding and analysis of modern American society, culture, and state. The approach is interpretive and thematic, examining individualism, community, ethnicity, work and leisure, technology, politics, the state, etc. The course builds on introductory level perspectives, applying them in a more detailed and focused manner.
This course provides a critical understanding and analysis of modern American society, mass media, and popular culture. The approach is interpretive and thematic, examining intersectional perspectives of identity and representation in media and popular culture across time. The course builds on introductory-level perspectives, applying them in a more detailed and focused manner.
This course covers sociological perspectives on social psychological issues dealing with emotions, the formation of a self-concept, impression management and conformity. Particular emphasis is paid to understanding the social influences on individual and social behavior through a microsociological perspective.
Students explore the variety of ways that cultures assign roles on the basis of gender by in-depth consideration of several contemporary societies. Students also consider the evolution of gender roles, and the way in which Western perceptions of these roles may have contributed to explanatory models in the social sciences. [W]
This course highlights issues of race and ethnicity in multiple contexts, with a focus on the U.S. It explores the limits of race and ethnicity as scientific categories and their legacy as powerful social constructions, with a special focus on the legacy of slavery. As social constructions, race and ethnicity are often elusive, shifting, and negotiable principles. Students explore how such fluid principles can have such lasting effects and consider their sometimes hidden links to economic status.
This course focuses on the sociological study of occupations and professions in modern societies. Among topics to be discussed are the social meaning of work; the concept of career; and the process of professionalization. Special attention is given to the study of occupational groups as a means of exploring some basic social problems and issues of American society.
This course focuses on the development, application and redefinition of the concept of social class as related to contemporary society. Power and status relations, social mobility, and mass society will be topics of special interest. [W]
This course considers the nature, causes, and consequences of poverty in the United States, primarily from a sociological perspective. It examines the measurement, scope, demographics, and dynamics of poverty in the U.S., as well as factors closely connected to poverty, such as low-wage work, neighborhood, family structure, education, violence, and crime. In this course, the experiences of the urban poor will be of particular interest. [GM1, SS]
Sociological theories of power, authority, and politics will be used to understand political policies and their consequences for democracy. [W]
This course uses sociological perspectives to examine the nature and mechanisms of social inequality, primarily in the United States context. Specific topics may include distributions of income, wealth, and political power; discrimination in the work place and economy; disparities in health and educational outcomes; and systemic inequities in the criminal justice system. Special attention will be paid to race, class, and gender inequality and how systems of power intersect to disadvantage (or privilege) certain groups. [GM1, SS]
This course explores the social dimensions of medicine, the body, sickness, and health, bringing comparative and cross-cultural ethnographic perspectives to bear. If human experiences and understandings of illness, suffering, and healing are not objectively rooted in universal facts of biology or nature, how then are they to be analyzed and understood? If culture and biology intersect and interact in widely diverse ways depending on context, what then is the status of Western biomedicine? Can the biomedical model simply be regarded as one system of belief and practice among others? If so, does this suggest that spirit possession or holistic healing have the same status as science? In class we will pursue these questions in a global framework, moving from the Americas to Africa and Asia and back again, drawing on award-winning ethnographies and critical essays that open up the field of medical anthropology for in-depth exploration. [SS]
What are the principal ways in which the individual is shaped by the surrounding social and cultural world? Each semester we will pose this question in relation to a particular foreign culture in order to: (1) learn how anthropological models and theories interpret and/or explain this relationship and (2) find an anthropological route into that culture.
This course examines social deviancy with a particular focus with competing theoretical explanations of deviant behaviors such as corporate crime, delinquency, sex work, substance abuse and violent crime. Attention will be given to the normative, symbolic processes through which individuals and acts become defined as deviant. [V]
This course explores racial health inequalities in the United States. Despite improvements in overall U.S. health, significant racial health disparities remain. The course will focus on the following five areas: (1) contemporary theories of race and racism, (2) understanding the sources of racial health inequalities, (3) assessing how racism impacts various dimensions of health (4) racial inequalities over the life course, and (5) protective mechanisms and potential policy solutions to address racial health inequalities. [W]
The family is the most universal of all institutionalized human groups and yet, in our own society, seems fragile and unstable. A primary theme throughout the course is in the changing forms and functions of the family with emphasis on contemporary society. Consideration will be given to class, ethnic and life-style variations in family form. [SS]
The last century was a century of “release” from the traditional bonds of community—family, place, class and religion. The paradox of that release (as yet unresolved) is that this new freedom from traditional social forms was accompanied by alienation—the estrangement of individuals from each other, from the world of objects, from the world of thought, and from themselves. [W]
This course examines theoretical and empirical approaches to the sociology of sex and gender, focusing primarily on women’s and men’s experiences in contemporary American society. We will explore the ways that gender intersects with race, ethnicity, social class, and sexuality and pay special attention to how major institutions in society—such as education, the media, the workplace, and the family—are pivotal sites for the maintenance and reproduction of gender roles, differentiation, and inequities. [GM1, SS, W]
The past enters into contemporary social life in multiple ways. This course is concerned with such “social” memories, and has a special focus on silencing and power. We will consider how understandings of the past are stored, shared, and reproduced in different cultural milieus. Because societies are heterogeneous, different views of the past may coexist, and history itself can become a battlefield. We will examine what happens when people clash over interpretations of history, asking which stories are told, which ones are silenced, by whom and with what effects. [W]
As a key site for producing citizens, subjectivity, and identity, education is an important topic for anthropological inquiry. In addition, trends and changes in educational forms and institutions in the US and internationally speak to larger questions about power, justice, and inequality in today’s world. This class examines education, broadly conceived, in various locations around the world. Topics include development, citizenship, classroom power relations, educational planning and administration, globalization, gender and education, and philosophies and theories of education. A major component of this class is looking at education through a transnational lens in order to understand how education is connected to culture and society at a global scale, and how changes here in the US impact other parts of the world, and vice versa. [GM1, GM2, SS]
This course centers on cities as sites and subjects of anthropological inquiry. Across the globe, urbanization has increasingly defined the landscape of modern life. What makes the metropolis meaningful, and how do spatial forms shape social practices? In what sense does the cultural milieu of the city—material and symbolic, dynamic and diverse—challenge us to critically re-imagine anthropology? How are social identities shaped by the everyday experience of urban communities, commodities, and cultural forms? [SS, W]
In contrast to neoclassical economists, sociologists study how economic practices are embedded within and facilitated by social relations and institutions. This seminar-style course uses classical and cutting-edge texts in economic sociology to explore how culture, social networks, and institutions relate to the 21st-century global economy. We will read empirical studies on a wide range of topics to understand these relationships, including: jobseeking, job-quitting, and sense-making on the job; insurance for children and pets; pricing of modern art, body parts, and credit derivatives; financialization, cryptocurrency markets, and cascading crises. For sociology majors, this course will enhance students’ understanding of the role of the economy in the broader social landscape, in everyday life, and in other subfields of sociology; for economics majors or those interested in careers in business, this course will elaborate how rationality is constructed and negotiated in the context of contemporary capitalism.
The central focus of this course will be upon an examination of the social creation of knowledge and the consequences of knowledge for social organization. Definitions of knowledge will be drawn from such sociological theorists as Weber, Marx, Mannheim, Scheler, and Durkheim.
This course will introduce students to sociological perspectives on marketing and examine patterns of consumer behavior. We will analyze how consumers are influenced to buy and societal consequences of contemporary large-scale patterns of consumerism. [V]
This course will focus on theories of change as they illuminate prevalent forms of change in the face of the social and cultural forces of fixity and persistence. We will read and discuss case studies of historical social and cultural structures that have changed over time due to innovations in science and technology, radical rethinking in terms of religion and politics, and natural or man-made disasters that challenged established ways of behaving. [W]
Soccer hooligans in Italy shout racial slurs at players with darker skin tones; thugs attack refugee housing in Sweden; and “suburban” youth of the postcolonial African diaspora riot for days across France. This course explores the contours of contemporary European racial formations, tracing continuities with prior eras as well as zones of rupture. Course materials include a rich suite of ethnographic studies, with an emphasis on French and German examples [W]
This course investigates anthropological research on the transnational movement of people, things, money, and ideas. Examining many different cultural contexts, we explore transnational movement and connections to see how they are facilitated, impeded, and described. Although this course is concerned with global flows, each example is grounded in uniquely local contexts.
This course explores the politics of place and memory through a close look at “Syrian Town,” a once-thriving multi-ethnic neighborhood in Easton, PA, demolished in the 1960s. How have former residents coped with the destruction of their community? What role does recollection play in rebuilding shattered worlds here and elsewhere? Students will consider these questions while developing interview and ethnographic research skills. [SS, W]
This course is designed to give students an overview of mass media theory and research rooted in a number of ideological perspectives of society. Topics include the rise of mass communications, the audience, media effects, news ideologies, the sponsor, mass media politics, and new communications technologies. The goal is to provide detailed understanding of the social, cultural, economic, organizational, and political forces that have shaped our contemporary mass media.
This class introduces students to the emerging concept of the Anthropocene, a geological age marked by human impact on the earth. Focusing on ethnographic case studies in various regions of the world, the class will look at the physical and cultural remnants of nuclear experimentation, industrialization, and man-made climate change. Students will learn about current theories in anthropology, including the emergence of multi-species ethnography and disaster anthropology. The class asks why studying ourselves is important and work to develop an ethics for Anthropocene.
This course examines the place of movies in shaping and changing popular culture in contemporary societies. The films include American- and British-made films, as well as films made in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan. The purpose of the course is to expose students to a variety of cultural responses to similar genres, and to see how one culture influences the cinematic traditions of another culture.
In this course we will grapple with the notion of “violence” as we look not only at its extraordinary manifestations but also the significance of and continuities with its everyday and attenuated expressions. To this end, we will cover topics ranging from the routinized and bureaucratized violence of economic indebtedness and precariousness, of illness and disease in zones of abandonment and pollution, and of gendered forms of social control to the more overt violent ruptures involving urban lynchings, drug-trafficking, policing, and clandestine border crossings. From sprawling urban centers to “remote” communities, our attention will be on the everyday lives of people who are affected by and respond to these violent circumstances.
By mobilizing a bottom-up approach, we will inquire: How is violence differently experienced? How is violence legitimized, misrecognized, enforced, and remembered? How can we, as anthropologists, develop effective theoretical and methodological tools to study a phenomenon that seems elusive and concrete, local yet transnational, intimate yet distant, at times authorized and at others prohibited?
This course examines a variety of disasters from those that are “man-made,” to “natural disasters.” Societal responses to disasters, ranging from moral and political protest movements, on the one hand, to legal actions and legislative efforts on the other, will be examined, along with the scientific and technological responses to these disasters, and the ethical issues that these spawned. [SS, V, W]
Health can be understood only by examining long-term patterns of aging, exposure to risk and protective factors, and individual choices. One’s health at 40 or 70 reflects not only current and recent experiences, but also conditions experienced in childhood. The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to life course theory as it pertains to health and to learn about cutting edge research in this area. [W]
Anthropologists of Latin America have traditionally studied peasant villages. However, with an estimated eighty percent of the region’s population currently residing in cities – a number that is predicted to rise to ninety percent by the year 2050 – urban ethnography has become increasingly important. Despite celebrations of economic growth in the region, the majority of Latin Americans continue to live in poverty and struggle to survive. This course explores the contours of urban inequality in Latin America, and among Latin American migrants, from an anthropological perspective, focusing on the relationship between broader social and political forces and the everyday lives of the most marginalized. We will focus particularly on how race, class, and gender intersect with topics such as public space, violence, labor, informality, and resistance.
This course investigates organized sport as an institution and cultural phenomenon from a sociological perspective. Through such critical study, students will gain a greater understanding of American culture, social inequality, and societal institutions. Much of the course focuses on race, class, and gender and how sports both reflect and perpetuate status inequities. We also explore relationships among sports and education, politics, and adolescent culture and delve into social problems in contemporary sports (e.g., doping). [SS]
This course provides an overview of the social determinants of health and illness. The course primarily focuses on the intersection of society and health in the U.S. One of the main course goals is to understand how social processes influence different aspects of health and shape medical institutions. Although we will cover a variety of topics, there will be a specific focus on health inequalities.
Media are often associated with the West, leaving other sites of visual production out of the picture. Since the early colonial period, African audiences have consumed images, especially cinema, while being largely relegated outside the frame. How have Africans resisted the hegemony of Western images and representations? What differences are involved when Africans seize the camera and turn it on themselves, seeking to tell stories that reflect their own social realities and visions? What different formations of race, gender, and global inequality get reflected on the screen in the process? By linking the study of cinema with interdisciplinary approaches to popular culture in different African cultural worlds, the class foregrounds the diverse roles that media play in sociocultural life. Is popular culture just mere entertainment, or can it be a source of education – shaping counternarratives and serving as a platform for resistance? In readings, screenings, and discussions, we will examine how diverse African social worlds have actively shaped and been altered by the creation and reception of moving images, focusing on documentary, video films, hip-hop, and other domains of popular cultural expression.
This course focuses on gender and sexuality in the Middle East and in Muslim communities around the world. The course materials, from anthropology as well as other disciplines, will challenge you to critically reflect on taken-for-granted categories such as “Muslim,” “Arab,” and “Middle Eastern” by exploring three interrelated themes: 1) the diversity of Muslim women and the heterogeneity of gendered experiences in the Middle East; 2) academic and media representations of Islam and the Middle East; and 3) the complex and complicit relationships between Western feminist movements and other social, political, and military engagements between the “West” and “Islam,” such as the “War on Terror” and the headscarf debates in Europe. The course is organized around weekly key terms that bring together at times seemingly unrelated material in order to think about historical and contemporary circumstances and their linkages in different and more critical ways.
The term “safety net” commonly refers to a range of public and non-governmental programs and policies aimed at alleviating poverty or protecting individuals and families from experiencing distress and hardship. This course uses a sociological perspective to examine the development, nature, and implications of social welfare policies and programs in the United States. [GM1, SS, W]
A 300-350 level elective (excluding A&S 342) is required for all majors in the class of 2022 and later.
Reproductive justice is defined as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children or not have children, and parent our children in safe and sustainable communities.” In this course, we will use feminist intersectional theories and global case studies to explore how social and political structures act upon the reproductive decision-making, governance, experiences of pregnancy or its termination, and outcomes for women of various social locations, races and ethnicities, sexual orientations, and nationalities in order to study social justice. We will develop tools to critically analyze how larger processes like slavery, colonialism, modernization, migration, and social movement shape multiple identities and social inequalities in people’s struggles to maintain a viable environment for human reproduction. [GM2, SS, V, W]
A 300-350 level elective (excluding A&S 342) is required for all majors in the class of 2022 and later.
Colonial conquests have occurred throughout human history. This course will identify two forms, extractive and settler colonialism, as we consider their myriad effects on subject populations. What is the “colonial critique” and how has it shaped contemporary anthropological theory? And isn’t colonialism now “dead”? As we shift our attention to settler colonialism, we will find the answer to this question a resounding ‘no,’ and we will foreground the challenges settler colonialism poses today for both anthropologists and indigenous populations.
A 300-350 level elective (excluding A&S 342) is required for all majors in the class of 2022 and later.
This course will offer an introduction to the social and cultural history and theory of museums. Thinking about the idea of the “modern” museum as an instrument and technology of power, we will first consider how the practices and ideologies of colonialism, looting, and exploitation have shaped the construction of museums and their collections since the cabinets of curiosities of the Enlightenment. Second, we will explore specific collections and exhibits of natural history, anthropology, and art to question whether museums can be transformed into spaces for restitution, repatriation, community building, and the unlearning of the imperial foundations of knowledge. This course will also offer students the opportunity to develop an exhibit on campus, focusing on objectives such as: crafting a narrative around physical objects, writing exhibit text, developing virtual components, and installing and de-installing the exhibit. [GM1, GM2, SS]
The Upper-level course provides an intensive grounding in broad range of anthropological and sociological theory. The course addresses the development of social theory since the 19th century. Over the course of the semester, students will explore the limitations and uses of different social theories, applying what they are learning as they pursue an extended research project in consultation with the instructor/s. The course serves as a capstone and is required of all majors. [W]
Required for the majors.
Note: This course does not count towards fulfilling the 300-level elective requirement for majors.
This capstone course is designed to allow you to apply and improve your training in anthropology and sociology by focusing on Asian American Studies, an exciting and rapidly changing interdisciplinary field that draws heavily from these disciplines. In this course, we will explore the diversity of Asian/Pacific groups in the Americas; their trajectories of migration, racialization, and community formation; and the history and debates surrounding the study of Asian Americans. In addition to focusing on people’s everyday lived experiences, we will also discuss multiple approaches to “Asian America” as a topic of scholarship and activism. We will be paying close attention to the ways that Asian American identities are not only about race and ethnicity, but also gender, generation, sexuality, and class. [GM1, GM2, W]
A seminar devoted to a subject to be selected by the instructor. Announcement of the proposed subject will be made in advance of each seminar. The course will place a responsibility upon the student for independent study, research, and reporting.
Note: These courses do not count towards fulfilling the 300-level elective requirement for majors.
Individual investigation of a topic under the supervision of an adviser.
Note: Independent Reading and Research courses do not count towards fulfilling the 300-level elective requirement for majors.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Under the guidance of a staff member, the student writes a thesis based on an approved project in a specialized field of anthropology or sociology. If at the first semester’s end the project has honors potential the student applies to continue toward graduation with honors. After completing the thesis the student takes an oral examination on it and its field. [W]
Note: Thesis does not count towards fulfilling the 300-level elective requirement for majors.