Sociology

Lynn Morgan, Chair

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, social inequality, political sociology, race and ethnic relations, and the sociology of media.

Faculty

This area of study is administered by the Sociology faculty:

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

Kenneth Tucker, Helen P. Bibbero Professor of Sociology

Patricia Banks, Associate Professor of Sociology

Ayca Zayim, Assistant Professor of Sociology 

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, A. Zayim, The department
Restrictions: This course is limited to first-years, sophomores, and juniors

SOCI-131 The Numbers Game: How Data Shapes and Explains Our Social World

Spring. Credits: 4

This course gives students a basic introduction to sociological concepts and the way in which they can be studied using data analytic methods. It introduces students to basic data analytic coding. This will focus on one form of analysis (most likely text analysis), but the course aims to give students a reading familiarity with other forms of data analysis. Along with traditional sociological concepts like structure vs. agency and stratification, this course will introduce students to the idea that numbers, data, statistics, and their graphical representations are not necessarily neutral arbiters of truth, but rather important parts of the social construction of how we understand the world.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
T. Malacarne

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. Racial and ethnic identities remain an important aspect of how people view themselves and others. In this course, 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-216CC Special Topics in Sociology: 'Cults, Conspiracies, and Moral Panics'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Using case studies such as the Eugenics Movement, Jonestown, and the Kennedy Assassination, this course will examine how distrust of the government, originally motivated by logical concerns, has transformed the way people think about power in the postmodern era. The class will explore the difference between rational questioning of authority and blind distrust that leads to questionable claims. Through topics such as the War on Drugs, this class shows how the powerful are able to use biases and public fears to carry out their own, often counterproductive, measures. These case studies have issues like race and class at their core. We will examine how certain social issues have managed to endure.

Crosslisted as: CST-249CC
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
N. Michaud Wild
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-216MC Special Topics in Sociology: 'Sociology of Medicine'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course provides a philosophical and sociological interpretation of various aspects of the field of medicine. Topics include measurement of variations in rates of disease and their relationship to social characteristics and social structure, systems of care and hospitalization, and ethical concerns. Topics include death, abortion, human genome sequencing, and assisted suicide.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
R. Moran
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-216SN Special Topics in Sociology: 'Social Networks: Who You Know, How You Know Them, and Why It Matters'

Fall. Credits: 4

Social networks are much more than the people you know on Facebook and Twitter. They affect everything from political beliefs to health outcomes to professional success. This course asks, "What are social networks?" and examines their impact on contemporary life. Students will develop the analytical skills to understand the formation, evolution, and significance of different relationship structures and the way they shape individuals' lives.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
T. Malacarne
Prereq: 4 credits in Sociology.

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

Spring. 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

Spring. 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-316BL Special Topics in Sociology: 'Black Cultural Production and Consumption'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course explores black cultural production and consumption in the United States using a sociological lens. The central focus is how the production and consumption of cultural objects such as visual art, music, and television reproduce and erode racial boundaries. Topics include the construction of racial identity through consumption; representations of blacks in the media; and the impact of cultural tastes and preferences on black achievement.

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

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

Spring. 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: 8 credits in sociology.

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

Fall. 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-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-316NT Special Topics in Sociology: 'Social Network Analysis: Analyzing Who You Know and How It Matters'

Spring. Credits: 4

Social networks analysis investigates social structures by looking at the actors in a system and the relationships between them. Its techniques can be used to map everything from Facebook friendship networks to the connections between corporate boards to status hierarchies in monkeys. In this class, students will learn the practical skills needed to do their own network analysis. The course uses R, but no prior programming experience is required.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
T. Malacarne
Prereq: Any 200- or 300-level Sociology course or ECON-220.

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

Fall. Credits: 4

This research seminar investigates how different kinds of stories unfold in contemporary public spheres. How do we make sense of pressing matters of common concern? It 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 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: 4 credits in Sociology.

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

Spring. 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-316SC Special Topics in Sociology: 'Sociology of Culture'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

What is "culture"? How has it changed over time? This course examines the definition (including religion, language, food, etc.), the social settings in which culture is produced, and the products of culture we consume (literature, film, music, painting, theatre, fashion, popular magazines, graffiti, and television, etc.). Course topics include: how to analyze culture and who produces it, the forces shaping markets for artistic objects and performances, politics and culture, the effects of censorship, globalization, and class differences.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
N. Michaud Wild
Prereq: SOCI-123.

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

Fall. 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-316UC Special Topics in Sociology: 'Wrongful and Unlawful Convictions in Capital Cases'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

The Death Penalty in America: Unjustly Convicted Death Row Inmates. This course will examine in detail the cases of all 130 death row inmates exonerated in the post-Furman era (1976-2009). It will focus on how the 130 men ended up on death row, as well as the process by which they gained their freedom. In addition, the course will spotlight the many proposals, videotaped police interrogations, eyewitness identifications, forensic science procedures, etc., designed to correct sources of mistakes; and assess their likelihood of successfully preventing both unjust and wrongful convictions in capital cases.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
R. Moran
Prereq: SOCI-123.

SOCI-316WT Special Topics in Sociology: 'Sociology of 9/11 and the War on Terror'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

We will explore the cultural and political impact of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The media's role in constructing meanings will be a main organizing focus of the course. Using readings, discussions, assignments, and films, the course will allow students to form a picture of how 9/11 changed America and beyond. Course topics include: the way the mainstream media constructed 9/11 and alternate ways they could have; how popular culture and the Public Sphere responded; complex historical factors leading up to 9/11; reasons the attackers say they committed the attacks; ways the event changed culture and politics in the world; conspiracy theories.

Crosslisted as: CST-349WT
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
N. Michaud Wild
Prereq: 8 Credits in Sociology.

SOCI-324 Class in the Black Community

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course explores class in the black community from a sociological perspective. It focuses on how race fosters commonalities and how class fuels differences among blacks. We will examine the nature of these commonalities and differences within several contexts, such as neighborhoods, politics, work, and culture.

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

SOCI-327 Social Inequality

Fall. 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-350 Sociology of Punishment

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This seminar covers the social history of punishment, beginning with the birth of the prison in the late eighteenth century and continuing to the present. Emphasis on the shift in philosophy from public to private punishment, prison reform movements, and the death penalty.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
R. Moran
Prereq: 8 credits in Sociology.

SOCI-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.