Sociology | Social Theory
S340 | 0584 | Gieryn


What would you expect from a course on “social theory”?  Nobody
really knows for sure exactly what should be included…so let’s try
this:  we’ll begin with a week of doing theory on a variety of
social objects:  texts, images, statistics, household appliances,
buildings, phantasms,etc.  Just what is it to be theoretical in
sociology?  Why is social theory good for you?

Then we’ll start reading stuff from Charles Lemert (editor), Social
Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings.  We’ll map out
the “theoryscape” of sociology by identifying the main orientations
or perspectives…like Marxism, functionalism, interactionism,
feminism, constructivism, ethnomethodology, postmodernism and
several other - ism’s.   How does each perspective define the
social?  How does each explain it?  Where do these schools of
thought converge—and diverge?  It will probably take three weeks…

…which leaves us two weeks to read some examples of theorizing that
simply do not fit anywhere in the theoryscape we just mapped out.
These are “the margins”.  What should we think about writers like
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote (80 years ago!) a fictional
account of a society made up only of females—that gets invaded by
several male explorers  who do not believe that women could have
done all this by themselves?  Or what about Molefi Kete Asante’s
version of afrocentrism?  These readings will remind us that social
theory cannot fit timidly into tiny boxes of ism’s--really, it’s

You will write a little something for each class, maybe just a page--
sometimes we’ll discuss what you’ve read, sometimes another student
will read it and provide comments, sometimes you’ll just hand it in
for me to comment upon, and sometimes you’ll rewrite it all over

This class demands perfect attendance, patient engagement with
assigned readings, a willingness to speak your opinions in class, a
desire to learn.  Obviously, this is not a course for those who want
to sit there dumb and listen to a talking head go on and on and on.

If this course description does not sound like what you want to do
with your summer vacation, don’t sign up.  We’ll meet outside