Reed College Catalog

Alexandra Hrycak

Social movements, political sociology.

Yaejoon Kwon

Sociologies of race, gender, state, empires, and knowledge.

Yalçin Özkan

Law and society, culture, political sociology, economic sociology, qualitative methods.

Marc Schneiberg

Economic sociology, organizations, institutional analysis. On sabbatical 2022–23.

Kjersten Bunker Whittington

Science and technology, gender, work and organizations, social networks.

Sociology is the study of human conduct from the perspective of the history and the “anatomy” or structure of the group. The focus is on how people coordinate their activities to reach individual and collective goals in a wide range of institutional settings. Sociological analysis explores social situations from the standpoint of the social statuses, roles, meanings, and norms that make behavior reciprocally predictable and organized. Sociology investigates how such patterns of interdependent activity originate and what sustains them, why they take one shape instead of another, how some types of patterned behavior change more rapidly than others, how such patterns or institutional forms are related to one another, and how people justify and explain what they see themselves doing.

Sociology regards patterns of social relations as embedded in the historical process and learned as customary behavior—as institutional practices. Therefore, the sociological perspective is closely linked to comparative historical and cross-cultural studies of social institutions and to psychological studies of human learning.

Sociological study is motivated by skepticism toward commonsense explanations of social behavior. The sociologist transforms conventional wisdom into questions that can be examined in a disciplined, systematic way by asking: what is the evidence for these propositions, under what conditions might they be confirmed, and how might they be disconfirmed with contrary evidence?

The department strives to introduce students to alternative ways of thinking and asking questions about sociocultural and interpersonal phenomena. Those who are curious and puzzled about why and how things in the social universe work as they do, who are willing to be skeptical about the self-evident, obvious, and taken-for-granted truths of common sense, and who have a high tolerance for ambiguity usually find our courses more interesting and challenging than those searching for ultimate meanings or looking for the final, absolute answers.

The department’s program contributes to a general education in the arts and sciences by surveying sociology’s basic modes of thought and strategies of inquiry. A vast amount of public and private decision making in contemporary society is based on social research such as public policy evaluation; media, opinion, and marketing surveys; census studies; and population analyses. To cope with life in a modern society and to make independent judgments, educated citizens should have a critical understanding of what social science research does to, for, and about them. Toward that end, many sociology courses provide hands-on experience with modern social research procedures.

To fulfill college or divisional distribution requirements, students should enroll in Sociology 211, Introduction to Sociology, followed by another course in the department. Upper-division courses introduce students to the core fields and paradigmatic issues of sociological theory and research.

Requirements for the Major

  1. Sociology 211.
  2. Sociology 311.
  3. Sociology 470.
  4. Any five additional units of sociology.
  5. Junior qualifying examination. This requirement is satisfied by submitting a paper analyzing two research articles in an area of substantive interest, preparatory to senior thesis work. Instructions are available on request.

Recommended: Mathematics 141 is recommended and will apply to the Group III requirement. Further work in mathematics and in other fields in the Division of History and Social Sciences is strongly recommended for students planning to continue their studies at the graduate level or in professional schools.

A Minor in Sociology
The goal of the sociology minor is to acquaint students with the primary analytical frameworks and methods of the discipline to develop advanced proficiency in topics of their choice.

Requirements for the Minor
All sociology minors must successfully complete five units in sociology, including Introduction to Sociology (211) and any additional four units in sociology. These four additional units may include Research Methods (311) and may not include any one-half-unit courses.

Sociology 201 - Postcommunist Cultures: Identity, Power, Resistance

One-unit semester course. Cotaught by a sociologist and a literature scholar, this interdisciplinary course examines how different communities and actors in postcommunist societies (largely in Ukraine and Russia) experienced and responded to the dramatic institutional dislocations that followed the fall of communism. We will study and discuss sociological as well as literary works (highbrow and mass culture), cultural criticism, journalism, electronic media products, films, and historical and ethnographic accounts. Our topics include techniques of state domination; post-Soviet nostalgia; historical memory and its manipulations; colonialism, imperialism, genocide, and the legacies of mass state violence; strategies of resistance to state domination; the gendering of new currents of national identity and nationalism; and the refashioning of political identities around contemporary Western discourses. Finally, we will explore the phenomenon of “postmodernism” in Ukrainian and Russian arts and politics. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Previously cross-listed as Russian and Literature 391.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 211 - Introduction to Sociology

One-unit semester course. An introduction to sociological perspectives on patterns of human conduct ranging from fleeting encounters in informal gatherings to historical processes of institutional persistence and change. Topics of discussion and research include the stratification of life chances, social honor and power in human populations, and the differentiation of these populations by gender, race, age, ethnicity, and other characteristics both achieved and ascribed; the integration of differentiated roles and statuses into systems capable of maintaining their structure beyond the life span of living individuals, and capable as well of revolutionary and evolutionary social change; and the interrelationships of familial, economic, political, educational, and religious institutions in the emerging world system of late modernity. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of the instructor. In 2022–23, first-year students may register on a space-available basis in designated sections. Lecture-conference and computer lab.

Sociology 280 - Social Movements

One-unit semester course. Why do some social movements fail, while others succeed? The goal of this course is to introduce students to sociological theories of social movement success and failure. Through a review of classical and contemporary theories and case studies of women’s liberation, gay liberation, abortion, civil rights, environmentalism, and the peace and disarmament movements, we will identify key analytical questions and research strategies for studying contemporary social movements in depth. Among the perspectives reviewed will be classical approaches (de Tocqueville, “mass society,” and “relative deprivation”), as well as more recent perspectives that focus on rational choice, resource mobilization, political process, and new social movements. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Sociology 311 - Research Methods

One-unit semester course. The primary objective is to provide background for empirical research in the social sciences. Specific objectives include deepening understanding of the logic of inference by exploring the relationship between empirical observations and causal models and introducing basic research techniques. Topics include the logic of inference, the nature of evidence, and a nonmathematical introduction to quantitative social analysis, emphasizing regression. Prerequisites: Sociology 211 and one additional unit in sociology. Conference.

Sociology 322 - Gender and Work

One-unit semester course. Gender is a central organizing principle in social relations and is deeply embedded in how work is organized, rewarded, and experienced. This course provides an overview of the theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions of scholarship in the area of gender, work, and organizations. Emphasis on the intersection of gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, and class. Topics include inequalities in the labor force, low wage and informal work and poverty, sex/sexuality in the workplace, masculinity/femininity at work, work/family conflict and the division of labor in the home, and how the institution of family, gender, and work culture are integrated into work practices, policies, and programs. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Sociology 326 - Science and Social Difference

One-unit semester course. Is race biological? Do men and women have different brains? Categories such as race and gender are often presumed to be socially constructed classifications linked to difference. At the same time, references to scientific claims that prioritize the biological underpinnings of behavior and outcomes are common. This raises questions about the role of biology in determining differences between men and women, among racial/ethnic groups, and regarding sexuality, and how these ideas relate to the design of science policy and practice. Considering a series of contemporary cases, students in this course will examine the reciprocal relationships between scientific inquiry, science politics, social identity, and belonging. The course does not attempt to resolve these often contentious topics, but rather focuses on the processes by which ideas about difference are transmitted to students of science and the public; how social groups and identities are taken into account in science research, technological design, and clinical studies; who gets to “do science”; and the people and groups invested in the outcomes. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 331 - Topics in Organizational Analysis

One-unit semester course. Variable topics. Omnipresent in “modern” settings, organizations are a potent structuring force in social, economic, and political life, and provide a wealth of possibilities for sustained inquiry in a topics course. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. May be repeated for credit. 

Organizations: Cooperatives and Nonprofits
One-unit semester course. Organizations are central to our daily lives. They reflect and shape opportunity; create or contest status hierarchies of gender, race, and privilege; generate and alter power relations; and are products and producers of social capital. This course examines in depth two kinds of organizations—cooperatives and nonprofits. Despite the emphasis in our capitalist society on corporate hierarchies, individual profit seeking, and the market, we rely to a striking extent on cooperatives, nonprofits, and kindred forms to organize our efforts and get work done. This course will explore these organizing strategies, critically addressing 1) their history, evolution, and prospects; 2) their important role in public policy and everyday economic life; and 3) their service as platforms for broader projects, including contesting corporate capitalism, promoting workplace democracy, fostering community and economic development, overcoming dependency, empowering poor or marginalized groups, and achieving social justice. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 337 - The Collapse of Communism

One-unit semester course. This conference focuses on selected research areas that span between the sociology of capitalism and sociology more broadly. We will broaden our understanding of the cultural and social processes involved in the production of social inequality and identity in contemporary societies that were ruled by communist states throughout the twentieth century and have been deeply affected by the return to capitalism. We explore contemporary sociological and anthropological studies examining the production of new social identities and symbolic boundaries, with a focus on how preexisting gender, ethno-racial, and institutional cultures and subcultures created during communist rule are being changed and challenged by contemporary economic restructuring, in tandem with the rise of new capitalist economic relations. The role of gender in the refashioning of collective identities will be highlighted through the readings. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Sociology 340 - American Capitalism

One-unit semester course. This is a comparative historical course on the development of American capitalism, focusing on the rise of mass markets and giant corporations as its dominant organizing principles. We survey theoretical approaches used to explain American capitalism and engage historical analyses of the key turning points in the development of our economy. A central objective is to document the existence of more efficient, democratic, and decentralized alternatives to the type of capitalism that came to prevail in the United States. Topics include the role of culture, politics, and finance capital in the development of the corporation; the rise and fall of cooperative, regionally based systems; mass production; populist responses to economic centralization; American labor; and state regulation. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 342 - Sociology of Asian America

One-unit semester course. Who are Asian/Americans and where is Asian America? This seminar examines the historical and contemporary formations of Asian populations in the United States. Centering sociological and interdisciplinary research, we will examine the sociohistorical relational constructions of “Asians” and “Asian Americans.” The course is organized around four themes: (1) disciplinary constructions of Asians in the United States from sociology and Asian American studies; (2) citizenship, rights, and policy; (3) identity and community formation; and (4) emerging directions in research. Students will learn key theoretical frameworks and how significant historical moments such as the Chinese exclusion acts, World War II, the Third World Liberation Front, the rise of the model minority myth, and 9/11 shaped and reshaped the racial formation of Asians in the United States. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 342.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 343 - Sociology of Race and Racism

One-unit semester course. What is race? Race is a social construction. But what does it actually mean for race to be a social construction? In this seminar, we will examine how sociologists, social scientists, and legal scholars in the United States have theorized, debated, and researched the constructions of race and the practices and consequences of racism. Struggles over the meaning of race are entanglements over assertions of power so we will engage with scholars who demonstrate the coconstitution of race with other structures of power such as class, gender, sexuality, law, and colonialism. Students will gain an understanding of key paradigms that explicitly center or decenter race, including internal colonialism, the “underclass,” racial formation theory, and women of color feminisms. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 343.

Sociology 346 - Race, Violence, and Power

See Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 300 for course descriptions.

Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 300 Description

Sociology 348 - Race, Economy, Public Policy

One-unit semester course. This course examines the social and institutional structures of economic life, economic policy, and their effects on race, stratification, and the system of ethnic relations in the contemporary United States. It examines those dynamics through the lenses of economic and organizational sociology, which view economic activities and outcomes as socially structured via networks, corporate and state hierarchies, systems of association and interpersonal exchange, and ecologies of public, private, and nonprofit organizations. Topics include the rise and fall of the mass production corporation; the role of unions, ethnic enclaves, and employment networks in allocating resources; the effects of civil rights law on corporate practices; how the state, the law, and neighborhood associations shape segregation, housing market dynamics, and the differential accumulation of wealth; the nature of and transformations in the welfare state; and the role of nonprofit enterprise and small-business formation in shaping the fates of African Americans and other groups. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 348.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 352 - Sociology of Money

One-unit semester course. Is money a self-propelling medium of exchange, solely about mundane financial calculations, transactions, and interests? Do we only use it to quantify various qualities into a standard metric to exchange them? What happens when money penetrates what is typically considered priceless, such as our norms, emotions, intimate relations, bodies, or nature? In today’s world, it is common for various economic, legal, and social institutions to place financial values on things as profound as human life, death, blood, organs, justice, sexual or romantic partnerships, and wildlife. Does this exercise flatten, commodify, corrode, and corrupt, as many scholars, legalists, activists think it does? Or, does it operate interdependently with our moral principles, cultural practices, interpersonal relationships? Then, how can those supposed corrosive commodification practices, in reality, turn into meaningful relations within which our lives, values, and ties are construed, maintained, and shaped? This conference invites its participants to grapple with these fundamental problems and more. Drawing on neoclassic economic theory to its Marxist critics, critical socio-legal scholarship to moral philosophy, cultural studies to economic sociology, we’ll delve deep into the social life of money. Thus, we’ll examine money not merely as a financial instrument but with the social and cultural processes mediating its significance from within. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Sociology 361 - Power, Hegemony, Resistance

One-unit semester course. This course invites its participants to treat politics as grounded in everyday life, as arising from power and agency, and as a medium of domination and change. It introduces key sociological debates on relations of power in which, as Karl Marx famously suggests, individuals generate their thinking and acting not as they please but under the restrictions of structural contexts and social inequalities. Those social forces, however, do not divest individuals from becoming agents. People almost always have potentials for resisting and changing. When, why, and how people realize these possibilities are undoubtedly central concerns of this class. But, why people are resigned to and how they participate in their own domination are equally crucial. This course thus calls as much attention to those individualistic and collective forms of resistance as it does to their absence. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Sociology 362 - Culture and Inequality in Contemporary Communities

One-unit semester course. How do cultural processes reinforce social inequality? What meanings and practices serve to hide, normalize, or validate stratifications between individuals and social groups? What makes subordinate groups create subversive cultures in the struggle for community, dignity, and equity? This conference draws on cultural sociology to address all these questions and more. We start with classical texts, establishing key concepts (such as symbolic boundaries and intersectionality) in the field of study. We then focus on case studies tackling issues as diverse as elite education and privilege, poverty and social aids, economic restructuring and gentrification, sexual minorities and the city. Throughout these studies, we pay attention to the cultural processes within which class, gender, and race inequalities are rendered invisible or unproblematic and thus socially normalized. Further, we look at the process of contestation through which communities use social relations and cultural frames to defend themselves against top-down economic, social, and political changes. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 363 - Sociology of Culture

One-unit semester course. The course surveys recent sociological studies of cultural production. It surveys how cultural materials are used to establish and maintain boundaries that differentiate among middle-class status groups in contemporary America and how diverse organizations such as museums, art galleries, and record companies manage the production and distribution of cultural symbols for a diversified market. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Sociology 364 - Law and Society

One-unit semester course. This course is intended as an introduction to law and society scholarship. Drawing on interdisciplinary debates over legality and illegality, legal pluralism, human rights, access to justice, legal consciousness, law and social inequality, law and social control, and legal mobilization, we focus on social and cultural dimensions of the law through varied historical and geographical contexts. Among the specific problems we cover are: With what concepts and methods can we explain the affinities between law and society? What are the sources, workings, and consequences of the law’s legitimacy? How does the law reinforce or mitigate class, gender, and race-based inequalities? Who mobilizes the law—how and with what results? In grappling with these questions, we examine the law as constitutive of the status quo and social change. Prerequisites: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Sociology 371 - Military and Society

One-unit semester course. What is the relationship between the military, military service, and society? How does the military as a coercive and ideological state institution shape practices of nationalism, security, and citizenship? This course will address national security, war, military occupation, and overseas bases to examine the ways in which the military shapes and is shaped by local contexts. It will emphasize the relationship between the military and social formations such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Students will read work from military sociology that examines the relationship between the military as an organization in society, as well as interdisciplinary work from critical military studies, gender studies, and ethnic studies that engages with questions about the impacts of military-based power on marginalized communities. Through the course, students will examine how the military shapes everyday lives as well as broader social relations, structures, and communities. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 380 - Networks and Social Structure

One-unit semester course. Social network dynamics influence phenomena within communities, neighborhoods, families, work life, scientific and technical innovation, terrorism, trade, alliances, and wars. Network theories of social structure view actors as inherently interdependent, and examine how social structure emerges from regularities in this interdependence. This course focuses on the theoretical foundations of structural network dynamics and identifies key analytical questions and research strategies for studying network formation, organization, and development. Attention is paid to both interactionist and structuralist traditions in network analysis, and includes a focus on the core principles of balance and centrality, connectivity and clustering, power and hierarchy, and social structure writ large. Substantive topics include social mobility and stratification, group organization and mobilization, patterns of creativity and innovation, resource distributions, decision making, the organization of movement and belief systems, conflict and cooperation, and strategic interaction. This course couples theoretical and substantive themes with methodological applications. Approximately one-third of course time is spent on the methodology of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting social network data. Prerequisites for sociology credit: Sociology 211; for political science credit: Political Science 240 and one upper-level international relations course. Conference. Cross-listed as Political Science 350.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 390 - Junior Research Colloquium

One-half-unit semester course. This course prepares students for conducting sociological research in the junior qualifying exam, senior thesis and beyond. Concepts and practices addressed include surveying research in an area, reconstructing the core debates, and constructing literature reviews; using citation analyses to evaluate the impact of scholarly work; formulating research questions; assessing and developing research designs; using multiple methods; formulating measurement strategies; presenting results from qualitative and quantitative research; and crafting new research projects to address unresolved issues in prior research. This course is directed mainly toward students writing their junior qualifying examination in sociology and allied fields (American Studies–Sociology, ICPS–Sociology, Sociology–CRES), but may be helpful for students in the first semester of thesis research. Prerequisites: Sociology 211, two upper-division sociology courses, and completed or having taken Sociology 311, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Sociology 391 - Seminar in Sociology: Contemporary Topics

One-half-unit semester course. An examination and exploration of current topics and areas in sociology with an emphasis on surveying contemporary published research. Participants will review recent publications in core sociology journals, collectively design a semester reading syllabus, and help lead group discussions of this work. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing, Sociology 211, and two additional units of sociology (one of the additional units may be taken concurrently with consent of the instructor). Conference. May be repeated for credit.

Sociology 401 - Institutional Analysis

One-unit semester course. This is an advanced treatment of the theory and empirical practices of institutional analysis in sociology and related fields. The course focuses first on structure, treating institutions and fields as contextual determinants of action and identifying the different mechanisms by which institutions promote order, stability, and distinctive patterns of organization, behavior, economic development, and public policy. Topics covered include path dependence and “lock in,” isomorphism, structure-induced equilibrium, institutional logics and contingency, diffusion, and institutionalization. The course then focuses on agency and action, tackling the thorny issue of how to explain change without abandoning the contextual insights of earlier formulations. Topics covered include punctuated equilibria vs. evolutionary change, deinstitutionalization, processes of transposition, theorization and recombination, endogenous change dynamics, institutional entrepreneurship, and the relationships between social movements and institutional fields. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 and one upper-division course in sociology. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 469 - Research Practicum

One-half-unit semester course. This course is designed to prepare students to conduct independent sociological research, mainly in senior thesis, and will be based heavily on workshops organized around students’ specific research projects. Topics and issues covered will depend partly on the nature of students’ projects and will include formulating research questions and working though dead ends, effective literature reviews, developing research designs for comparative and case study analysis, case selection, gaining access to the field, applying for IRB approval, conducting field work and interviews, locating quantitative data sets, modeling strategies and table building, collecting and coding qualitative data, writing up and presenting results from qualitative and quantitative analyses, and time management and writing strategies. This course is geared heavily toward sociology majors beginning thesis work, but is open to second-semester junior majors preparing for such research, and sociology seniors in the second semester of their thesis. The course may also be taken by first-semester thesis students in other social science majors with consent of the instructor. Prerequisites: Concurrent enrollment in Sociology, American Studies–Sociology, ICPS–Sociology, or Sociology–CRES 470, or completion of or concurrent enrollment in Sociology 311, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 470 - Thesis

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester.

Sociology 481 - Special Topics

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Work is restricted to special fields in sociology—demography, communication analysis, and community surveys. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing and approval of instructor and division.