Introduction to Sociology

Sociology studies how forces beyond our control and outside the realm of nature shape what we feel, perceive, want and get. Behaviors that may at first seem like deeply personal choices or determined by nature -suicide, academic achievement, college major- are shown by sociologist to be clearly affected by how we are raised and who we interact with. Sociologist apply this distinct approach to three interrelated sets of questions:

Identity:  To which groups do we belong and how does this affect our behavior?

Inequality:  Which group gets what, when and most importantly why?

Integration:  How do groups produce social order and solidarity?

Sociologists believe that answering these questions lies at the hard of understanding both the history of mankind and the world we live in today. In this class you will learn how to answer these questions yourself by investigating differences within and across societies, studying how sociologists have made sense of these differences and exploring how all of this matters for you and your surroundings. In turn, this will help students to see society more clearly and, hopefully, with greater empathy for those who are different.


Understanding Genocide (Undergraduate)

In this course we will examine one of the most destructive, evil and perplexing phenomena haunting society: genocide – i.e. , the on a large scale organized exclusion and killing of populations defined by race, ethnicity, nationality, political affiliation or religion. In the first section of this course students will be introduced to ideational, rational and psychological explanations of genocide. Causes of genocide can be found at different levels of analysis. We will focus on theories at three different levels. First, we will look at how national and international processes such as modernization and political leadership cause genocide (macro-level). Second, we will look at why individuals, both victims and non-victims, accept or even participate in mass killings (micro level). Third, we will look at what role subnational groups such as religious congregations, organizations, local communities and militias play in linking micro and macro forces (meso-level). In the second part of this course, we will assess the validity of different explanations through the comparative study of four particular cases: the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, Bosnia and Rwanda. Students will explore and present a fifth case on their own. We will end the course with a discussion on resistance and foreign intervention. Students will improve their analytical skills by drawing connections between social science theory, historical monographs, journalistic accounts and policy documents. In turn, this should help students to develop and evaluate proposals to end and prevent mass killing and recognize opportunities for resistance against mass-killing.