Sociology

Kenneth Tucker, Chair (Fall 2021)

Patricia Banks, Chair (Spring 2022)

Michelle Pietras, Academic Department Coordinator


102 Porter Hall
413-538-2283
https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/sociology

Overview and Contact Information

Sociology is the systematic study of society and social relations. Sociology majors develop the critical tools to theoretically and comparatively understand social trends and problems, grasp the intersection of self and society, and analyze empirical data. They read the works of major sociological thinkers, from the classical figures who founded the discipline to contemporary theorists of society. The major requires courses in research methods and sociological theory. The faculty also offers classes in criminology, collective behavior and social movements, the sociology of gender, the sociology of media, the sociology of education, and the sociology of development and globalization.

Learning Goals

By participating in coursework and experiences constituting a major in Sociology:

  • Students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the field of sociology, the intersections among sub-fields, and the connections among theory, research, and practice.

  • Students will gain skills and knowledge about research methods and understand the ethical issues involved in sociological research.

  • Students will learn how to critically analyze texts and develop skills as writers, speakers, and researchers.

Faculty

This area of study is administered by the Sociology faculty:

Patricia Banks, Professor of Sociology

Eleanor Townsley, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Sociology; Director of Nexus, Teaching Fall Only

Kenneth Tucker, Helen P. Bibbero Professor of Sociology

Benjamin Gebre-Medhin, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Ayca Zayim, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Victoria Nguyen, Mount Holyoke Fellow and Visiting Lecturer in Sociology & Anthropology

Cassandra Sever, Visiting Instructor in Sociology

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 36 credits:

SOCI-123Introduction to Sociology4
SOCI-223Development of Social Thought 14
SOCI-225Social Science Research and Data Analysis 14
12 credits at the 300 level, including:12
Contemporary Social Theory
12 additional credits beyond the 100 level12
Total Credits36

Additional Specifications

  • Please note: Proposal deadlines are strictly enforced for independent study at the SOCI-295 and SOCI-395 levels.

Requirements for the Minor

A minimum of 20 credits:

SOCI-123Introduction to Sociology4
4 credits at the 300 level4
12 additional credits above the 100 level12
Total Credits20

Course Offerings

SOCI-123 Introduction to Sociology

Fall and Spring. Credits: 4

This course uses a sociological framework to examine the nature and structure of modern industrial societies. To identify central trends in society and culture, this course covers several basic themes, such as social inequality and social interaction, that have appeared repeatedly in the works of major social thinkers.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
C. Sever, E. Townsley, The department
Restrictions: This course is limited to first-years, sophomores, and juniors

SOCI-214 Race in America: Inequality, Immigration, and Other Issues

Spring. Credits: 4

From the Black Lives Matter movement to debates about immigration and a color-blind America, race and ethnicity are at the forefront of contemporary public discourse. In this course students will be introduced to the various sociological perspectives and theoretical frameworks used to understand racial and ethnic relations in the United States. We will discuss the dynamics of individual racial and ethnic groups including African Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and White Americans. We will also examine what the concepts of race and ethnicity mean and how they affect various aspects of American society.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences; Multicultural Perspectives
P. Banks
Restrictions: Course limited to sophomores, juniors and seniors

SOCI-216 Special Topics in Sociology

SOCI-216DU Special Topics in Sociology: 'Schooling in American Society'

Spring. Credits: 4

COVID-19 has upended schooling in the United States. Assumptions about physical co-presence, standardized testing, the rights of students, and the responsibilities of schools have all been transformed at warp speed. The pandemic also exposed durable fault lines in American education and society. This course provides an opportunity to evaluate our present moment using classical and contemporary sociological perspectives on mass schooling. It highlights issues facing the future of education, the role of schooling in struggles for economic and racial justice, and how the aspirations of individuals and families interact with state institutions to shape the American social and economic order.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
B. Gebre-Medhin
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-216MD Special Topics in Sociology: 'Sociology of Media'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course explores the social organization of mass media systems as well as the various factors -- cultural, economic and political -- that have influenced their development. It asks: what is the connection between mass media and the large modern, democratic societies we inhabit? The first part of the course examines the historical development of mass media and the social theories that sought to interpret and explain its social impact. The second part considers the political and economic factors that structure contemporary mass media, paying particular attention to media deregulation and conglomeration. In the third part of the course, we explore the emergence of newer media forms such as the internet and digital/satellite television.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
E. Townsley
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-216MK Special Topics in Sociology: 'Marketing and Society'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Marketing penetrates every domain of society. While perusing the Internet, watching television, attending sports and cultural events, we are being marketed to by businesses. This course offers students insight on the fundamentals of marketing through a critical lens. Readings and assignments will give students an understanding of the theories and concepts that underlie marketing, along with its practical elements. We will be especially attentive to the ways that marketing influences social inequality. An ongoing question that we will explore over the term is what is the potential for, and what are the limits of, marketing as a force for reducing gender, class, racial, and other forms of inequality. Among assignments will be exercises where students critically examine marketing campaigns, such as inclusive beauty campaigns, and a project where students develop a marketing campaign that is attentive to social purpose.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
P. Banks
Restrictions: Course limited to sophomores, juniors and seniors
Notes: With the permission of the instructor, a select number of students can elect to take this course at the 300 level. If you are interested in doing so, please email the instructor to discuss this prior to registering for the course.

SOCI-216PT Special Topics in Sociology: 'Political Sociology'

Fall. Credits: 4

This course focuses on political processes and power -- in particular, which groups have the ability to implement their political, social, and economic agendas, which ones do not, and why. We will explore the means by which certain groups affect political outcomes that shape society and social- political reality. In particular, we will concentrate on the interrelationship between the state, the market, and civil society, and investigate how this intersection has informed the politics of our time. By the end of this course, students are expected to have achieved an understanding of the major theoretical perspectives and debates in political sociology, and a sense of the historical and contemporary organizations, parties, classes, and other groups that influence social change. We will focus mostly on western democracies, especially the U.S., but other countries and political arrangements will also be included. Globalization as an on-going social, political, and economic system will be discussed throughout the semester.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
K. Tucker
Prereq: 4 credits in sociology.

SOCI-216QD Special Topics in Sociology: 'Qualitative Research and Data Analysis'

Fall. Credits: 4

This course introduces students to qualitative research methods. In the course students will get basic training in the collection and analysis of qualitative research data, develop experience writing and presenting qualitative data, gain exposure to the theoretical assumptions underlying qualitative inquiry, and learn insights about the ethical responsibilities surrounding qualitative social analysis. We will focus on methods such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, and close observations. This course will provide students with the skills and knowledge to pursue qualitative data analysis in future projects such as for an independent study, senior thesis, or internship. In addition, since cases will focus on consumer research, this class is also well-suited for students who want to learn qualitative research techniques that are used in marketing.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
P. Banks

SOCI-216TX Special Topics in Sociology: 'Text as Data I: From Qualitative to Quantitative Text Analysis'

Fall. Credits: 4

Characterizing, categorizing, and counting text documents is at the heart of research and knowledge development in the social sciences and humanities. New digital technologies have introduced new methods for analyzing text documents on a massive scale. These computational approaches have also provoked important debates about the role of meaning, context, and reproducibility in social science research. This course considers the affordances of new digital methods for text analysis in relation to established practices of qualitative coding. Students will explore this new frontier in a hands-on manner using Python to count and compare relevant features of text documents in large data sets.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
B. Gebre-Medhin
Prereq: SOCI-123 or COMSC-151.

SOCI-223 Development of Social Thought

Fall. Credits: 4

This course examines the origins and development of sociological theory in the nineteenth century. Focusing on the three most important representatives of the classical tradition in sociology - Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim - we consider in detail the ideas of each, compare their perspectives on emerging industrial society, and assess their contemporary significance.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
K. Tucker
Prereq: SOCI-123 or ANTHR-105.

SOCI-224 Practicing Sociology: Archival Field Methods in Sociology

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This class in applied data analysis explores questions about social relationships, organizations and community at Mount Holyoke College. Students use archival, observational and interview techniques to collect data, and they explore basic questions about research design, data analysis and visualization for making sense of their materials. The class works with the Mount Holyoke College Archives and an organizational partner on campus to define research questions.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
E. Townsley
Prereq: 4 credits in Sociology.
Advisory: Preference given to Sociology majors.

SOCI-225 Social Science Research and Data Analysis

Spring. Credits: 4

This course is an introduction to the use of quantitative data in sociology. It focuses on the ways in which data is collected, analyzed, and presented to make sociological arguments. It introduces various tools to describe data for single variables, explore relationships between pairs of variables, and make statistical inferences. Students will learn basic skills to conduct their own social science research and analyze data using statistical software. The aim of the course is to allow students to conduct elementary statistical analyses on their own and become critical readers of statistical evidence.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
A. Zayim
Restrictions: This course is offered to Sociology majors only.

SOCI-231 Criminology

Fall. Credits: 4

This course focuses on the historical and theoretical development of the major approaches to crime and criminality in the 20th and 21st centuries. Material discussed will include crime patterns, the formation of criminalized subgroups and how criminology relates to criminal justice policy. While focusing on social aspects of crime, we will ask: what makes people commit crimes? How do social policies impact criminal activity? How has our social construction of punishment changed over time?

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
C. Sever
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-234 Social Problems

Fall. Credits: 4

This is a course on the social construction of social problems. It devotes almost exclusive attention to how a 'problem' becomes a social problem; examining how atypical cases become regarded as typical; how definitions are expanded to inflate statistics; and how claim makers and advocacy groups manipulate the media to market social problems and solutions to the public.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
C. Sever
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-239 How Capitalism Works: Social Class, Power, and Ideology

Fall. Credits: 4

The Occupy movement protests and recent popular uprisings across developing countries draw attention to rising global economic inequality. This course asks, "How does capitalism produce and reproduce economic inequality both within and across nations?" Drawing on theoretical and empirical research, we will examine class relations as a way to explain the unequal distribution of wealth and power. We will also discuss the role of the state and ideology in perpetuating the gap between the rich and poor. Students will learn the social dynamics underlying a range of contemporary issues in advanced and developing economies, ranging from labor exploitation to unemployment and financial crises.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
A. Zayim
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-240 Collective Behavior and Social Movements

Spring. Credits: 4

This course examines instances of organized collective action in social, historical, and empirical contexts, from the labor movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the new social movements of today. We also explore various forms of unstructured protest, such as riots and demonstrations.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
K. Tucker
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-295 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 4

The department
Instructor permission required.

SOCI-316 Special Topics in Sociology

SOCI-316DG Special Topics in Sociology: 'Sociology of Development and Globalization'

Fall. Credits: 4

This course investigates economic development and globalization through a sociological lens. What is development? Why and how has the idea of development changed over time? Which development policies has this promoted, and with what consequences on people's lives in developing countries? Based on case studies across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, the course examines economic, political, and institutional factors that inform global development processes from post-WWII to the present. As we discuss challenges to the neoliberal development paradigm, students will gain a critical perspective on contemporary issues such as environmental damage, global inequality, and poverty.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences; Multicultural Perspectives
A. Zayim
Prereq: 4 credits in sociology.

SOCI-316EC Special Topics in Sociology: 'Ethnography of Crime'

Spring. Credits: 4

What can ethnography reveal about the nature of crime and the functioning of criminal justice institutions? What contributions has ethnography made to the study of crime? What place does ethnography occupy within the contemporary landscape of criminology? These questions serve as the point of departure for this reading-intensive seminar investigating classic and contemporary ethnographic texts addressing crime and criminal justice institutions.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
C. Sever
Restrictions: This course is open to juniors and seniors
Prereq: 8 credits in the department.

SOCI-316FN Special Topics in Sociology: 'Finance, Globalization, and Inequality'

Spring. Credits: 4

We live in a financialized world dominated by financial actors, markets and institutions. From the Occupy Wall Street movement to ongoing debates about the power of big banks, finance has been seen as the culprit for the 2008 financial crisis, U.S. income and wealth inequality, and global instability. But what explains the rise of finance and how has finance gone global? How does global finance contribute to inequality within and across nations? We will tackle these questions by covering some of the recent sociological research on finance and financial globalization. Students will examine the political and institutional roots of financialization and its consequences in advanced and developing economies.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
A. Zayim
Prereq: 8 credits in sociology.

SOCI-316LT Special Topics in Sociology: 'The New American Elite'

Fall. Credits: 4

Inequality in the United States is at levels not seen since the 1920s, yet we know relatively little about those at the top who've accumulated enormous wealth and power. This course is a critical study of American Elites. Who are they? How did they amass such staggering resources? How are these resources used in the political, economic, and social spheres to reproduce/enhance their privilege? We put contemporary American elites into historical perspective, interrogate their origins, and evaluate the networks and practices that distinguish them from everyone else. We also analyze the narratives used to justify their privilege and consider their potential for group solidarity and collective action

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive
B. Gebre-Medhin
Prereq: 8 credits in the department.

SOCI-316MK Special Topics in Sociology: 'Marketing and Society'

Spring. Credits: 4

Marketing penetrates every domain of society. While perusing the Internet, watching television, attending sports and cultural events, we are being marketed to by organizations. This course offers students insight on the fundamentals of marketing through a critical lens. Readings and assignments will give students an understanding of the theories and concepts that underlie marketing, along with its practical elements. We will be especially attentive to the ways that marketing influences social inequality. An ongoing question that we will explore over the term is what is the potential for, and what are the limits of, marketing to be a force for reducing gender, racial, class, and other forms of inequality.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
P. Banks
Restrictions: Course limited to sophomores, juniors and seniors
Prereq: 8 credits in Sociology, Economics, or Entrepreneurship, Organizations, and Society.

SOCI-316NQ Special Topics in Sociology: 'Organizations and Inequality'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

In Organizations and Inequality, we analyze how organizations create, reproduce, and also potentially challenge social inequalities. Drawing on different organizational perspectives, students will engage the challenges of ethical action in a complex world marked by competing rationalities and deep inequalities. Students will also research an organization of which they are a member and develop their own case study.

Crosslisted as: EOS-349NQ
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
E. Townsley
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-316PS Special Topics in Sociology: 'Digital Media and the Public Sphere'

Fall. Credits: 4

How do different kinds of stories unfold in contemporary public spheres? How do we make sense of pressing matters of common concern as members of publics? This research seminar asks: what are the effects of a pervasive cultural distrust in social institutions, the widespread mediatization of everyday life, and the intercultural and intertextual nature of media texts themselves? Drawing from foundational texts about media, the role of intellectuals, and the public sphere, students will be asked to develop an empirical case study to explore these questions and test their ideas.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
E. Townsley
Prereq: 8 credits in Sociology.

SOCI-316RM Special Topics in Sociology: 'Consumer Culture: Race in the Marketplace'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course looks at the central concerns of consumer culture through the lens of race and ethnicity. Through exploring issues such as multicultural marketing and advertising, discrimination in e-commerce, consumer boycotts, and urban food deserts, students will gain theoretical and empirical insight on the ways that racial and ethnic boundaries shape, and are shaped by, consumption.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences; Multicultural Perspectives
P. Banks
Restrictions: Course limited to sophomores, juniors and seniors

SOCI-316SY Special Topics in Sociology: 'The Business of Culture: Marketing & Selling Symbolic Goods'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course investigates the creative economy through a sociological lens. Through case studies of various creative industries, as well as examination of the creative sector as a whole, we will examine how the cultural economy influences, and is influenced by, social phenomena. We will explore issues such as how value is produced in the field of fashion modeling, how music and other creative industries drive urban economies, how local crafts enter global markets, and how norms and values influence the adoption of e-commerce in the market for fine art.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
P. Banks
Restrictions: Course limited to sophomores, juniors and seniors

SOCI-316TX Special Topics in Sociology: 'Text as Data II: Computational Text Analysis for the Social Sciences'

Spring. Credits: 4

How can the social sciences benefit from remarkable advances in hardware and software that have unlocked new approaches to using text-as-data? This course interrogates the use of text-as-data from both social scientific and computational perspectives. Students will consider how meaning and context are theorized and how scale is achieved in the analysis of text by social scientists and computational experts. This new frontier will be explored in a hands-on manner; by the end of the course, students will deploy machine learning models to gain insights from large bodies of text such that we may evaluate the utility of these approaches in our quest for insight into the social world.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
B. Gebre-Medhin
Prereq: 8 credits in Sociology including SOCI-216TX.

SOCI-327 Social Inequality

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course is a critical survey of theoretical and empirical research on social inequality, stratification, and mobility. The central focus is class, race, and gender inequalities as they have changed during the post-World War II period in the United States (although we will look briefly at stratification regimes in other cultures and time periods). The concepts and methods of social stratification have wide application in sociology, economics, public policy, and administration contexts. As the course progresses, we will explore some of these applications as we wrestle with several policy issues currently confronting U.S. society.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
K. Tucker
Prereq: SOCI-123 and 4 credits in the department.

SOCI-333 Contemporary Social Theory

Spring. Credits: 4

In this critical survey of the main theoretical perspectives in contemporary sociology, we focus specifically on structural functionalism, symbolic interactionism, critical theory, feminism, and postmodernism. Besides gaining familiarity with these alternative perspectives, we try to identify the main axes of theoretical dispute in sociology and discuss the problems of evaluating and resolving conflict between theories.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
K. Tucker
Prereq: SOCI-223, 8 credits in sociology.

SOCI-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.