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        Rachel Sherman

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        Kirti Varma

        Sociology Student Handbook

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    • Courses in the Department of Sociology explore how societies work, why societies change, and where societies will go next. These courses cover the theory behind societal transformation through rigorous research, critical thinking, and spirited debate.

      Please consult the New School Course Catalog for a full list of courses. Spring 2021 courses include:

      • Contemporary Sociological Theory, GSOC 5061
        Benoit Challand, Associate Professor of Sociology

        This course offers an introduction to influential ways of thinking sociologically that emerged in the 20th and 21st centuries, and which develop on, and transform, original themes of the foundational period of “classical sociology”. Away from positivism and holism, interpretivist contemporary theories shed new light on the micro-foundations of “society” and of the self, with a growing attention to gender, race, fluid identity, questions of social reproduction and ecology. The course covers American and Continental sociological theory, as well as critical race and postcolonial theory. Overall, the course equips students with the ability to critically analyze contemporary sociological texts with a particular focus on how these texts apply theoretical frameworks to pressing issues of our time.

      • Historical Sociology, GSOC 5102
        Eiko Ikegami, Walter A. Eberstadt Professor of Sociology

        Studying history and thinking historically have been sources of inspirations for sociologists of theory building and theory elaboration, since the days of Max Weber. Great thinkers in sociology have always combined their analysis of contemporary societies with that of history. This course gives an introduction to historical approaches in contemporary sociology. Students are encouraged to read the assigned readings, not simply to analyze them as completed works, but to find inspirations for developing their own future research projects. In other words, this introductory seminar intends to help students not to become “consumers of theories,” but to develop the abilities to make their own theoretical elaboration through engaging original historically-informed research projects. For this purpose, these reading materials include diverse approaches to history.

      • Romancing Violence, GSOC 6164
        Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies

        Given the relatively recent success in the building of both a political culture and political mechanisms to bring about the end of military dictatorships and a peaceful dismantling of oppressive regimes, how is it that the original sin of politics, namely the use of force and violence, capable of assuming many forms, seems to be enjoying a spectacular rebound? How to read the newly bourgeoning sources, forms, and targets of violence? To what extent are they transforming the world as we know it? While exploring classical propositions concerning the role of violence in bringing about social and political change – from Marx, through Weber, Lenin, Gramsci, Arendt, and Benjamin, to more recent thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida, Butler, Zizek, and Michnik – we will look at different types of political violence and its specific instances, and revisit Arendt’s well-known distinction between the justifiability and the legitimacy of violence. Conscious of the traditional forms of political violence – wars, revolutions, and armed-struggle movements – we will pay particular attention to the forms and consequences of structural/ systemic violence, while also examining its cultural and symbolic forms that routinely serve to legitimize violence. We will discuss the paradoxes and ironies of armed resistance. Using historical, but also hermeneutical and phenomenological approaches, we will explore ideas, practices, and events generated in different parts of the world, with an emphasis on Europe, Latin America, Southern Africa, and more recently the United States.

      • The Living Book: From Research to Manuscript, GSOC 6186
        Terry Williams, Professor of Sociology

        “A book has its absolute truths in its own time. It is lived like a riot or a famine, with much less intensity, of course, and by fewer people, but in the same way. It is an emanation of intersubjectivity, a living bond or rage, hatred, or love between those who have produced it and those who receive it”. -Jean Paul Sartre This course will examine the social construction of narrative embracing a multi-purpose perspective on writing as this relates to the process of becoming a manuscript. We will explore ways to see how the monographic infrastructure (sentence, paragraph, chapter, blurb), is woven together by linking the unity of science and art through various linguistic architectures. The course will examine the social function of the storyteller, the nature of anecdotes and the making of field notes from concept to the finely textured structured book-in -text. We use current manuscripts (in production) as the skeletal text paradigm which sets the foundation structure for the book and discuss scenes, characters, analysis, cover design and document the inner workings as they evolve in the making of the book.

      • Historical Methods and Sources, GSOC 6209
        Jeremy Varon, Professor of History

        Historical Methods and Sources offers theoretical perspectives on and practical training in historical research, writing, and representation. We begin by exploring debates surrounding what history is: as mode of narrative, form of textuality, and as a set of relationships to the past. The remainder of the course provides hands-on training in what historians do: identify archives; locate, choose, and interpret primary sources; place research in its relevant intellectual and scholarly contexts; assess the existing literature; review books; design research; and intervene in historiographic debates by crafting original arguments. Individual projects will be tailored toward students' research interests, building toward (or enhancing) work on their MA theses.

      • The Social Life of Stuff, GSOC 6220
        Catherine Murphy, Senior Research Associate, and Terry Williams, Professor of Sociology

        This course looks at the social world of objects, products, and people. We will engage critical thinking as it relates to ethics, aesthetics and the public good as we think through questions connecting various transactions intersecting these phenomena. Some key questions: What discoveries do we make when we trace the life of the objects that surround us? How do we understand craft? What does the spirit of capital mean in present-day life and the act of making and re-making? What responsibility do we have in addressing the impact products have on the worlds we live in? As we think about examining unusual materials and items of the sacred what remains sacred today? Where does the moral compass stand as it connects to the Internet and places like Silicon Valley? These and other questions will be examined as we establish a logical and causal connection between technology and responsibility to consider the socializing effects of things by examining the various impacts of objects on everyday life.

      • Foundations of Urban Sociology, GSOC 6226
        Virag Molnar, Associate Professor of Sociology

        The course offers a survey of the central themes in urban sociology. It examines the distinctiveness of the city as a form of social organization, highlighting how urban space shapes and is simultaneously shaped by social processes. It emphasizes the significance of the city as a strategic research site for sociology, showing how the study of the modern city offers a lens into key social processes such as social inequality, racial segregation, migration, globalization, collective memory and social conflict. It covers a broad range of topics including street life, crime and the informal economy, the relationship between spatial and social segregation, urban riots and mass protests, the place of consumption in urban life, the importance of public space, changes brought about by globalization, and challenges facing cities in the wake of terrorism, natural disasters and epidemics. The course will equip students to reflect critically on everyday urban life while encouraging them to think about the social relevance of urbanity in a comparative and international context.

      • Public Sociology, GSOC 6232
        Jeffrey Goldfarb, Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology

      • Populism: In History and Theory, GSOC 6234
        Andrew Arato, Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor of Political and Social Theory

        In the most general sense populism, critical claim-making on behalf of the norm of popular sovereignty, is as old as liberal or representative democracy. It is fueled by what has been rightly called the democracy deficits of existing political regimes. Yet the consequences of populist politics have been not only anti liberal, but repeatedly, if not invariably, authoritarian and anti-democratic. Populism has existed in the form of intellectual critique, movements, governments and, more controversially, regimes. Each phase has had a different relationship to democratic norms, representative as well as participatory. The course will first attempt to define populism, using the method of the “immanent critique” of its best theoretical representatives, e.g. Ernesto Laclau. We will examine the relationship of each component of the definition to democratic norms. Next, we will go on to compare the earliest historical cases, notably the Russian Narodnichestvo, American populisms, East European agrarian populisms, and Argentine Peronism. We will consider the types of “host ideologies” that could serve populist protest and government, specifically nationalism, socialism and participatory democracy, and examine the differences between left and right populisms. Concurrently with the 14 sessions of regular classes, we will have several outside lectures by scholars expert in the subject, who will help reconstruct either contemporary country cases, or examine and critique recent important theoretical and comparative assessments. Each student in the course will be responsible for a developed paper either on a case, or on a scholarly reconstruction.

      • Discourse Analysis 2, GSOC 6235
        Robin Wagner-Pacifici, University Professor

        Responding to contemporary events, this course will focus on the texts, images, and symbols that bring such events to our attention and map their paths. The course will seek to address issues of the moment, with impeachment, elections, and the pandemic likely candidates for analysis. Tools of discourse and visual analysis will be introduced and utilized to analyze the materials identified by the class participants. Materials can include official reports, epidemiological maps, twitter feed, newspaper articles, and political campaign videos.

      • Cultural Sociology, GSOC 6238
        Julia Sonnevend, Associate Professor of Sociology and Communications

        This graduate seminar will focus on contemporary writings in the field of cultural sociology. The aim of the course is to help graduate students define their research areas and topics in relation to existing debates in the field. We will analyze recent, widely reviewed books for instance on the US student debt crisis, racial discrimination in the technology sector, the challenges of balancing motherhood and work, social performance and charismatic leadership in global politics, and contemporary forms of cultural memory. While examining best practices in researching the cultural dimensions of contemporary social life, we will also spend time on the practical side of publishing, like communicating with book editors and finding the right venues for scholarly publications.

      • Critical Histories of the Past and Present, GSOC 6239
        Carlos Forment, Associate Professor of Sociology

        Critical Histories of the Past and Present explores the theoretical foundations and political manifestations of radical democratic and anticolonial traditions. The program focuses on various struggles of peripheral peoples, past and present, in countries of the central core and peripheral fringe. The aim is to make sense of the changing meanings and practices of plebeian forms of dissent, resistance, and self-rule that have surfaced in the modern and contemporary world. Students from all disciplines will learn to critically examine the dominant socio-institutional structures, power relations, and regimes of knowledge and how plebeian groups reformulate, subvert, and generate emancipatory and heterodox alternatives. Class and seminar discussions will combine theoretical and empirical readings to highlight the continuities and discontinuities that are constitutive of the radical democratic and anti-colonial traditions. This will be accomplished by gaining familiarity with the writings of influential thinkers from core and peripheral countries, such as K. Marx and V. Zasulich; W.E.B. Dubois, A. Gramsci and J.C. Mariategui; H. Arendt, F. Fanon, and L. Ta Chao; Silvia Rivera Cusiqanqui, Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyèwùmí, and Maria Lugones; the Latin American Dependency and Indian Subaltern Schools among others. The readings will review some of the most significant past and current debates: uneven and combined development, the boomerang effect of colonialism, indigenous anti- imperialism, third-worldism, world-systems and unequal exchange, critical race theory, decolonial feminism, and heterodox democratic and council formations. Discussions will also examine recent ‘post-positivist’ approaches and alternative epistemologies to the human sciences that grant primacy and centrality to inter- subjectivity, interpretation, and performativity.

      • Dissertation Pro-Seminar, GSOC 7005
        Rachel Sherman, Professor and Chair of Sociology

        In this seminar advanced students work together, and with the faculty member leading the seminar, in developing field statements and dissertation topics, with specific focus on the development of dissertation proposals and advancing dissertation research. Sociological questions, themes, interests and sub-fields are articulated and reconfigured as research questions and scholarly projects. Strategies for investigating and carrying out these projects are developed. Exemplary field statements and dissertation proposals are examined as structural models. The seminar proceeds as a workshop with students first presenting short research questions and plans, leading to more developed research proposals. The final requirement of the seminar is the submission of drafts of field statements and/or a dissertation proposal.
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