Academic Courses & Programs

Social Inequalities

Forget the Alamo, The Sociology of Race in America

The objective of this course is to understand how race is a social thing something that happens in the world, as well as a sociological thing, something that happens in the world, which sociologists write about. To do this we will examine the most mundane of social activities, for example, what is eaten for breakfast or how people greet each other on the street, alongside the largest of social statements and events - for example, the Rodney King Verdict, the O.J. Simpson Trial, The Trayvon Martin case - so we can grapple with the way that race is informed and transformed in the United States whether through the experiential activity of people's everyday lives or the specific ideas of sociologists and sociological thinkers. Focus will be placed on the practical methodological conflicts within sociologies of race, namely tensions between assimilation/order perspectives; ethnogenesis and ethnic pluralism; biosocial perspectives; migration and competition theories; power-conflict theories, for example, theories of internal colonialism; new-Marxism, oppositional cultures, split labour markets, middleman minorities, ethnic enclaves and urban ethnography; feminist and post-colonial analyses; and the sociology of place. See also First Year Students Page • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Platter Licked Clean, Social Inequalities in America
This course explores how body weight is an indicator of social status in the United States. It is divided into four parts starving, eating, binging and purging. We will start by considering how the body is used as a vehicle for performance and parody. This analysis will allow us to see how the body is both a social invention, as well as a living organism that can't survive without food. We will then examine contemporary ideas about the relationship between people and food by studying the social foundations of eating and eating strategies, like anorexia nervosa, bulimia and over-eating. This will shift our analysis away from social bodies to social structures, so we can consider how food, namely, breakfast cereal, salt, chocolate and beef is not simply a fuel, but a commodity and cultural symbol, something that is bought and sold on the global market. Finally, once we have laid bare some of the literal and figurative meanings of food, we will return to our discussion of the American body, and how it works to both idealize and revile gluttony. • University of Denver • State University of New York-College at Potsdam

Race, Gender and Society
In this course students will learn about the social power of sex and romance; how gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity are officially constructed, institutionalized, performed, subverted and changed; and, perhaps most importantly how a person's physical body (i.e., their skin color, hair texture, eye shape, memories, feelings, imaginations, emotions, secrets, lies and dreams) dramatically effects the ways they live and love. They will learn about the life and times of boxer Jack Johnson and baseball player Hank Greenberg, as well as aviators Amelia Earhart & Bessie Coleman, (among other iconic figures), who, since the early 1900s, have come to represent the modern American woman and man; as well as how these representations have been used by different communities and organizations to challenge specific laws and policies, which restrict people to earn an income, become educated, vote, raise a family or marry. And finally, they will learn how to document and tell their own sociological stories about how race and gender shapes and effects their own everyday life and time. • College of Mount Saint Mary-Newburgh, NY • Available as an On-Line Course

Social Class, Power and Inequality

This course is all about why workers and the poor have never been able to completely overturn the social power of the wealth in the United States. Students will read Mark Twain's The Prince and The Pauper, as well as contemporary versions of this story set in Japan and along the Gaza Strip, as a way to understand Twain's distinctly American perspective on social class, power and inequality in the United States.  They will then learn about European Royalty and how it is understood in the American imagination and in many ways replicated in the American class system, particularly when it intersects with the fashion industry, celebrity and stardom. They will study workers efforts to organize for change and how their struggles often get cast as anti-American, comparing the American workers movements and heroes to those of Latin America. And then finally, take a good hard look at the American Dream and how promises of personal freedom and individuality get all tangled up with promises of wealth through the ownership of property and notions of literal and figurative debt. • College of Mount Saint Mary-Newburgh, NY • Available as an On-Line Course