Sociology | Social Problems and Policies (Topic: Violence in America)
S101 | 3656 | Sue Goodney


A baby left to die in a dumpster during the middle of prom.  A
massacre during the noon rush at McDonald's.  Jeffrey Dahmer's "house
of horrors" discovered in the city of Happy Days.  The United States
is renowned worldwide as a place of widespread and extreme violence.
Is ours really more violent than other societies? How- and why?  Is
our society more violent than it was twenty-five years ago?  Or, is
the current "epidemic" largely a function of technological
advancements in media?  Why do many Americans think of themselves as
more at risk of violent attack than they really are?  Is there a
thrill in embracing such a construction of ourselves?  Consider: if we
perceive ourselves to be so at risk to violence, why do we demand its
realistic portrayal within our entertainment?

We will examine attempts to clarify and model the core components of
violence from biological, psychological, and sociological perspectives
in an effort to discover how these views compliment and contradict one
another.  The course will employ a social constructionist lens, which
provides us a tool for examining how we actively create "truths" and
"realities" and how we learn to view social issues, so that we might
better understand the real and imagined trends in American violence.
We will consider how gender, race, and class correlate with violence.
We will incorporate a range of topics, including: child abuse and
domestic violence, sado-masochism, adolescent and gang violence,
sociopathy/psychopathology, serial murder (sexualized) violence, mass
murder, and religious and politically-driven violence (cults,
terrorism).