Sociology 101 uses exemplary case studies to explore how sociologists investigate social life.  We’ll begin by seeking insight into our recent experience of September 11th and consider the national response to New Orleans through the sociological study of disaster.  In rural West Virginia, a mining community seeks to comprehend a disaster that washes away life and community as they know it.  We’ll then turn from the destruction of community to its collective construction, by examining how gossip between girls and boys in middle school creates shared systems of meaning that both challenge and reproduce gender differences between women and men.  We’ll investigate how the “American Dream” shapes behavior in the United States through the study of a group of teenage cocaine dealers, and consider the social consequences of economic globalization by exploring how the worldwide spread of capitalism brings about new forms of slavery in some societies.  We’ll conclude by turning our sights back home, exploring ways in which the rationalization of society, such as the fast food industry, is in fact irrational, and how information technology is transforming society.  Will we use this period of opportunity to create a more democratic and equal society, or will we deepen existing forms of inequality through a new form of discrimination… a digital divide? 


Sociology 362 is an intensive introduction to theoretical criminology, and a core course of the Department of Sociology’s Sociology-Criminology track.  Its aim is to introduce you to a wide variety of scientific perspectives into the complex phenomenon of crime, deviance, and criminality, and to give you theoretical tools you can employ in your advanced studies.  The course is organized historically, as an exploration of how criminal and deviant behavior has been understood and acted upon in Europe and the United States from the eighteenth century to the present.  We shall survey explanations of many different kinds of crimes, with an emphasis on theories of juvenile delinquency and gangs.  The course is divided into three periods: the debates about crime and human nature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the role of deviance and normality in sociological thought of the twentieth century; and the emerging understanding of the role of culture and social control in our own day.


In Sociology 464 we will embark on a journey to explore law’s presence in modern life.  Our adventure will take us through a world of contradictions that lies in the gap between law’s rational procedures and ideals of equality, on the one hand, and how law is lived, applied, and functions in social contexts of inequality, on the other hand. Though our point of departure will at first seem familiar--the formal organizations, actors, practices, and ideologies which we typically associate with law--our sociological vantage point will lead us to look at these anew. How does the social organization of law ensure that the ‘haves’ will come out ahead, yet law manage to retain its public legitimacy as a practice of equality and justice? In the second half of our expedition, we shall walk through the looking glass to reflect on the ways in which the proliferation of law shapes everyday life, often in ways that are at first invisible.  We shall adopt as our motto "The Law is All Over" as we explore the presence, politics, cultural power, and limitations of law.


Soc 406A

Wanted for GenocideIn Sociology 406A, we study genocide as an emerging area of concern for criminologists and sociologists of law.  In Part One, we shall ask what resources criminologists have to make sense of genocide and mass violence, and consider what we can learn from studies outside of our field.  Over several weeks, we will explore the context and experience of victims, structural conditions that provide conditions of gencode, vocabularies and ideologies that isolate and dehumanize victims and normalize killing for the perpetrators, and theories about bystanders, who know about atrocity but fail to prevent it from occurring.

In Part Two, we’ll turn our attention to organized responses to mass violence, asking what these activities teach us about the power and limits of law, the meaning of justice, approaches and strategies of social control, and the possibilities for the healing and prevention of future occurrences.  Starting with the trials of the Holocaust, we’ll study how intellectuals confronted the logic of the Nazi death camps and their implications for our understanding of humanity, considerations of German guilt and world complicity, the limitations of law as a vehicle for dispensing justice and reconstructing meaning, and the development of the legal category of “crimes against humanity.”  We'll then turn to consider the development of the International Criminal Tribunal as a social movement.  Finally, we’ll consider responses that attempt to transform or replace traditional legal approaches, such as truth commissions and grassroots transnational women’s movements that attempt to transform conflict based on national identity with gendered solidarity.  The course will conclude by our reading a major new study on how criminology can be used to understand the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The events we shall be discussing are chilling, horrific, and difficult to confront, but our consistent emphasis will be on the ways in which those who lived them have passed through, attempting to rebuild their lives and reconstruct meaning without forgetting, or repeating, the past.


Sociology 603

Know CrimeSociology 603 is the core graduate level seminar in criminology and deviance.  Using a sociological perspective, we will explore the varied ways in which Western scientists approach crime, law, and deviance, and how their theories and findings are influenced and employed by other actors.  The course is designed to give you a rich understanding of criminology and to provide a solid foundation for your M.A. comprehensive examinations or thesis work in the areas of crime, law, and justice.  By the quarter’s end, we will have explored:

  • The central theories scientists have developed to understand criminal and deviant behaviors and the social response to crime;
  • What different methodological approaches and data sources tell us about the distribution of crime and deviance in the U.S., and how to use and evaluate these different sources;
  • How scientific understandings about crime and deviance are inherently bound up with other cultural, organizational, social, and political practices;
  • The significant ethical challenges and responsibilities of engaging in a science whose products have such weighty implications for the lives of real individuals.

The course is organized chronologically, tracing the historical development of scientific ideas about crime, law, and deviance since the eighteenth century, but our feet will always be in the present: exploring how these theories continue to inspire and animate contemporary discussions and investigations, and ways in which cutting-edge theoretical approaches to gender, race, class, and culture might add to and enrich these understandings.