Courses and Requirements
The goal of Hamilton’s Sociology Department is to introduce students to classic and contemporary theoretical approaches in sociology as they pursue data collection and analysis methods with opportunities to apply theory to explain empirical phenomena.
Sociological perspective on human behavior. Classic and contemporary sociological concepts that further an understanding of the structure, process, stability and change of social life. Not open to students who have taken 110. Zylan, Chambliss.
An introduction to sociological concepts and methods of analysis through the study of selected aspects of American society. Topics include social class, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, sports, medicine, crime and deviance, and popular culture. Not open to students who have taken 101.
Social Class in American Society.
Consequences of inequalities in wealth, income, power and prestige. Social mobility, poverty, class differences in values and lifestyles, social class and politics.
Culture and Society.
What is culture and why is it important in contemporary American society? What makes different types of culture — film noir or contemporary art — popular or powerful? How are cultural works produced and distributed? We will explore different empirical and theoretical approaches that attempt to answer such questions.Students will engage in a semester-long analysis of a specific cultural object (e.g., American Idol or 20th-century French literature) to assess the power of existing explanations and develop their own explanation for the success or legitimacy of their object. Prerequisite, one course in sociology or permission of instructor.
Sociology of Aging.
The proportion of individuals who are aged in a population has significant consequences for the structure and functioning of a nation. This class will draw on classic and contemporary conceptual and empirical material from sociology in order to explore aging. What is aging, and who are the aged? How do social factors like race, class, and gender influence the experiences and outcomes of aging? How should we prepare for the aging of many nations in the coming decades? This course, which is designed to help students to think conceptually about the major themes that animate aging. Prerequisite, 1 sociology course or consent of instructor.
Law and Society.
Examines law as a social institution, examining how the law constructs, and is constructed by, social mores, cultural objects and themes, social structures, and individual and collective actors. A critical perspective toward the idea that law exists apart from the social world in which it exists and operates. Consideration of the importance of race, class and gender in shaping legal discourses and the operation of the civil and criminal justice systems. Prerequisite, 101 or 110, or consent of instructor. Zylan.
The Sociology of Health and Illness.
This course will give students an introduction to the sociological study of health and illness. While sociologists have taken the study of medicine seriously since at least the 1950s, health and illness are phenomena whose relationship to human society and experience are long and complex. In order to explore this reality, this class will draw on the empirical work of historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and even fiction writers to explore the personal and social elements of sickness and health. Matt Grace.
This course surveys contemporary theory and research in political sociology. We begin with a discussion of conceptual and theoretical approaches to the sociological study of power, authority, politics, and policy. We then apply these approaches to a number of topics in the field, including electoral behavior, collective action and social movements, political leadership, and the formation and development of states and social policies. Prerequisite, One course in Sociology or consent of the instructor. Yvonne Zylan.
Self in Society.
An intermediate-level course in phenomenological social psychology. Emphasis on the nature of the self, the life world as experienced, the taken-for-granted nature of social life, roles and bad faith, and the routinization of everyday life. Chambliss.
Race, Class, Gender.
Although we often take race, class, and gender for granted in our daily lives, they are central to how we think of ourselves and how we perceive our experiences. In this class we will analyze race, class, and gender from a sociological perspective, in which we examine how society affects individuals’ experiences in the world, as well as the impact individuals can have on society. Learning to critically analyze these patterns in our society will help us to better understand the ways in which race, class, and gender continue to shape our lives. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
Sociology of Religion.
Introduces the primary theories and concepts of the sociology of religion. In particular the course will emphasize how sociologists explain the organization and experience of lived religion largely in the context of North America. Topics include secularization and sacralization; the restructuring of American religion; religion and popular culture; gender, sexuality and power; race; ethnicity and immigration; and religion in the public sphere. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
Classics of Modern Social Thought.
Reading and discussion of major thinkers in the development of modern Western social thought. Authors include Machiavelli, Rousseau, Burke, Marx, Darwin, Weber, Freud, Mannheim and de Beauvoir. Emphasis on class presentations, debates, book notes and class protocols. Works examined from historical, sociological, psychological and philosophical perspectives. Prerequisite, one course in history or sociology. May count toward a concentration in either history or sociology. (Same as History 290.) Maximum enrollment, 24. Kelly and Chambliss.
Examination of classic and contemporary sociological concepts and perspectives. The theorists covered include Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Freud, Mead, Berger and Luckmann, and Foucault. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, two sociology courses. Maximum enrollment, 20. Chambliss.
Formulation of a research problem, choice of an appropriate research strategy, execution of that strategy and interpretation of the results. Both qualitative and quantitative methods presented. (Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.) Prerequisite, two sociology courses or consent of instructor. Grace.
Issues in Higher Education.
An exploration of major issues facing higher education today, especially as applied to liberal arts colleges, including admissions practices; financing and student debt; challenges of social class, diversity and the integration of first-generation students; sexual relations and assault; the role of digital technology; and the meaning and relevance of liberal arts. Prerequisite, 1 sociology course or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Chambliss.
Seminar: Globalization and Its Discontents.
Globalization has been taking place for centuries, but its impact has accelerated over the last hundred years. The effects of globalization are widely debated among passionate supporters and critics. This class aims to explore different facets of the complex, evolving phenomenon of globalization. The course introduces the main debates about the global economy. We will discuss what globalization is. Then we will develop an historical perspective on the roots of globalization. Lastly, we will investigate primary dimensions of globalization such as trade, finance, aid, and migration. Prerequisite, One social science course. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar: Advanced Topics in Contemporary Sociology.
Critical examination of key works of contemporary sociological theory and research. Topics include current issues in sociological theory as well as new directions in principal substantive areas of the discipline. Prerequisite, Consent of Instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar on Sexuality and Social Theory.
A critical investigation of the place sexuality occupies in social theory. Texts by social theorists will illustrate a variety of intellectual affiliations, including Marxist political economy, feminism, Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalytic frameworks, and post-structuralist and post-modern perspectives. Examines how conceptions of sexuality figure in theories of social life, including theories of collective action, social organization, the origins and mechanisms of inequality and social identity. Prerequisite, two social science courses or consent of instructor. Some background in reading and analyzing difficult theoretical works (in sociology, political science, philosophy or a similar discipline) is helpful. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar on the Social Production of Food.
Examines the production and consumption of food in contemporary societies from a sociological perspective. We will study how food shapes personal identity and communal life; the organizational and institutional contexts food production from farm to table; the role food plays in popular culture and the rise of alternative food movements. Covers such topics as food, communal identity and family; the culture and practices of “Foodies”; the world of the restaurant kitchen; globalization and changes in farming and food consumption. Prerequisite, one sociology course. Maximum enrollment, 12. Ellingson.
Seminar on Social Movements.
This course examines the origins, actions, and effects of social movements from a sociological perspective. We begin by examining a variety of theoretical perspectives that explain when social movements arise and when and how they can produce social, political, cultural, and/or institutional change. We will then read case studies of specific movements, including movements for civil rights, environmental protection, social security, religious conservatism, and gay rights (among others), to explore mobilization, the culture of activism, tactics and strategy, and movement effectiveness. Prerequisite, a 100- or 200-level sociology course. Maximum enrollment, 12. Yvonne Zylan.
Seminar in Sociological Analysis.
An examination, through the study of a wide variety of contemporary research works, of the modes of sociological explanation; geared to students curious about how social scientists analyze and describe the world. Authors include Massey, Hochschild, Desmond, Zelizer, Collins, Lieberson, Abbott, and others. Prerequisite, 2 courses in Sociology or consent of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar: Politics and Culture.
Examines the ways that culture — ideologies, symbols, rituals, art, music, film — influences the political sphere and becomes an arena for contentious politics. Special attention will be given to the fall Presidential election campaigns. Topics include revolutions and state-formation, electoral politics, the politicization of social problems, national identity and collective memory, and conflicts over contemporary art, television and popular culture. Prerequisite, one social science course or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar: Organizations and Culture.
Organizations are among the most pervasive features of modern society and culture lies at the foundation of organizational life. This course is intended to help students acquire a set of tools for understanding organizations, and in particular for understanding the role culture plays in how organizations operate. It is organized around a set of questions including: how is culture used to organize work, exercise power, and shape individuals’ actions? What role does culture play in establishing or changing an organization? How is culture activated to gain financial, human, or symbolic resources? How does culture facilitate or constrain inter-organizational relationships? We will examine both for-profit and non-profit organizations in a wide variety of fields (high-tech, health care, law, religion, the service industry, and the arts) and conduct a series of analyses about the culture of Hamilton College. Prerequisite, One sociology course or consent of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Sociology of Disability.
Drawing on scholarship from sociology, anthropology, history and philosophy, this course will explore disability as a deeply embodied experience and at the same time one shaped in the context of families, communities, and societies. Questions the course will explore include: What are the costs and benefits of medical and social models of disability? What is the relationship between the individual experience of disability and social structures? How are factors like sexuality and class—modified by the challenges and opportunities associated with having a disability? Prerequisite, 1 sociology course or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar on the Constitution and Social Policy.
The United States Constitution is frequently invoked in public and institutional debates over social policy. For example, constitutional arguments have been raised in recent and ongoing policy debates concerning gun violence, marriage recognition, corporate personhood, and education. This course examines the relationship between the Constitution and social policy in American society, considering the ways in which broad social problems and conflicts (and their proposed resolutions) are shaped by American legal discourse. Prerequisite, One social science course or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Zylan.
For concentrators preparing to write a thesis. Includes exploration of the range of sociological topics, lectures by departmental faculty on research areas and techniques and workshops on bibliographic methods, site selection and access, and writing of research results. Culminates in presentation of a detailed thesis proposal. (Writing-intensive.) Open to senior concentrators only. Maximum enrollment, 20. Ellingson.
Investigation, through original research, of a sociological topic resulting in a thesis. Open to seniors only. The Department.
(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)