Course Descriptions

Workshop Requirement

All incoming MA, PhD and advancing MA to PhD students are required to meet the program Workshop requirement. The Workshop will not count as a course which can meet any of the course requirements. In order to meet the Workshop requirement, students must attend a minimum of twelve workshop sessions over the course of their degree program. Of these twelve, a minimum of two must be from the professional orientation sessions. PhD students who advance from the Graduate Program in Sociology at York and who have already completed the MA Workshop requirement, will be expected to attend two of the designated PhD sessions in order to fulfil this requirement at the PhD level.

Sessions will be held weekly. In order to maximize their usefulness and to allow for flexibly coordinating relevant topics with the rhythms of the academic term, the intellectual and professional orientation sessions will be interspersed over the course of the year. It is anticipated that the sessions will be divided into about one–third professional and two–thirds intellectual orientation.

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SOCI 5901 3.0A Key Debates in Sociological Theory
*this course is open only to MA sociology students

This course, designed for M.A. students in the Graduate Program in Sociology, consists of a survey of some of key questions, paradigms, and concepts in sociological theory, with a specific emphasis on critical modes of theorizing. Rather than adopting a conventionally chronological structure in the mold of a history of ideas (from classical to contemporary theory), the course is designed thematically around a series of core debates and oppositions that have defined—and continue to define—the field of critical sociological theory. As such, the course is organized around three central themes:

a) meta-theoretical debates, about the character of theory, how to understand theoretical knowledge, and the constitution of a field or object of study known as ‘sociological theory’;

b) paradigmatic debates, about the various theoretical paradigms, intellectual currents or schools of thought that have formed through relations of conflict and complementarity amongst each other within critical sociology;

c) conceptual debates, about which sociological concepts and notions are suited to describe, analyze, and produce a critique of the various dimensions of the social.

At the conclusion of the course, students should be conversant with these three dimensions of sociological theory and, therefore, be able to locate and map out a variety of positions within the theoretical field.

 


SOCI 5995 3.0A M.A. Seminar
*this course is open only to MA sociology students

This seminar is a “hands-on” workshop for MA students in Sociology. Based on a cohort model, it provides a supportive peer environment that is designed to help students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to successfully negotiate the transition from undergraduate to graduate education.
The major task of this course is the development of the MA Thesis or Research Review Paper (RRP) proposal.  Through a series of small assignments and opportunities for presentation and discussion, students will work to develop a clear, feasible, and intellectually engaging proposal.  The objective is to focus on the process of scholarly inquiry and acquiring the necessary skills to effectively facilitate that process. Formulating a question, situating research in the literature, finding, using and evaluating sources, and presenting coherent arguments--such are the issues to be covered.

Writing a thesis or Research Review Paper (RRP) can be an isolating experience; comparing approaches, exchanging advice, and learning about the work of your peers helps to reduce the confusion and anxiety often encountered by writers at any level. Indeed, collegiality and intellectual exchange are at the heart of any academic seminar, and those can be the most rewarding aspects of this course.

In the final weeks of the course, the emphasis will be on oral presentation skills and understanding the conventions through which scholarly work is presented.  Students will present their research proposals in a simulated conference setting and will prepare a formal commentary on the work of their colleagues.

Format

This course is organized as a graduate seminar; students are expected to attend all classes. Given the process-based and collaborative focus, active and engaged participation is central to its success.

We will have some formal lecture time but the emphasis will be on interaction, discussion, and presentation.  The purpose here is to provide students with ample opportunities to discuss the progress and problems they are encountering in their MA projects.  In this way, the seminar encourages students to think about what it means to write for others, whether for a class, for a discipline, or for a much broader community.

Readings

Empirical examples and exemplars, "how to" articles--as well scholarship relevant to student's research interests and their own "works-in-progress"--will be used to highlight substantive and practical matters related to the research and writing process.
The readings will be in the form of books, chapters from books, handouts, and journal articles. They will either be distributed in class or made available for download from Moodle or the library.

Specific Objectives

· assist students in the selection of a research topic; the formulation of specific research questions; and the development of a conceptual framework;
· facilitate the development of the major MA project, with a focus on preparation of the MA thesis or RRP proposal;
· encourage the development of oral presentation and commentary skills for   appropriate academic presentations (conferences and seminars)
· develop awareness of the academic research and writing process and of the nature of sociological scholarship;
· strengthen academic skills, including the ability to review and synthesize relevant theory and research findings

 


SOCI 6060 6.0A Qualitative Methods of Research
Critical qualitative inquiry comes together with various analytical perspectives in order to facilitate a research environment that supports and represents diverse research voices and perspectives. While maintaining a focus on equity and social justice, critical inquiry crosses epistemological and methodological boundaries in order to address the intersectional nature of everyday life. This course is designed to prepare students to understand, evaluate and employ qualitative methods in Sociology. Beginning with an overview of the deep history of qualitative research, we examine questions of epistemology, diverse theories and methodological alternatives. As well, we undertake specific practices, techniques and procedures in order to gain research experience. By undertaking a small research study, students gain practical experience and an opportunity to work through methodological issues of design, implementation, coding and analysis.


SOCI 6090 3.0M Selected Topics in Empirical Methods:  Community-Based Research Practicum

Community-based research--variously called action research, participatory action research, and organic public sociology--has a long history in Sociology.  Our concern will be with the ways that community-based research is conducted, with how Sociology is (re) presented to the worlds we study, and with how sociological knowledge becomes part of other people’s worlds.
The purpose of this course is to engage students in the praxis of public Sociology; to provide them with knowledge of both the theories behind community-based approaches and their actual practice. Fieldwork experiences will provide students with opportunities to grapple with some of the decisions, issues, and practices involved in community research and to apply the readings to their own concrete experiences.

 


SOCI 6112 6.0A Quantitative Analysis

This course is designed to develop the student’s understanding of quantitative methods in sociology and cognate social sciences. The application of statistical techniques to micro data will be emphasized. In addition, students will develop a critical understanding of the strengths and limitations in epistemology and methodological practice as it pertains to quantification in measurement, probability in sampling and inferential statistics, deduction in hypothesis testing, and causality in research design and analysis. The first term of the course deals with basic descriptive and inferential statistics, significance tests, measures of association, and covers univariate and bivariate analyses with an introduction to ordinary least squares regression (OLS). The second term focuses on the extension of regression models to different types of measured outcomes, including whether one has voted or not, an individual’s perceived distrust of political elites measured in ordered categories, and choice of household childcare strategies among couples. Students will increase their quantitative literacy and ability to consume findings in the literature, gain experience developing statistical models of theoretical interest, and express quantitative relationships and ideas in written work and through the presentation of findings.

The course will be taught using the R Environment and Language for Statistical Computing, a freely available open source platform widely and increasingly used in statistical analyses throughout the social sciences. The course is designed to accommodate students with no existing foundation and assumes little prior knowledge.

 


SOCI 6130 3.0M The Critique of Everyday  Culture

Many accounts of new capitalism and its culture abound. Industrial capitalism demanded the separation of public and private, engendering the ideology of a split self capable of moving swiftly between the productive, rational, and Machiavellian interaction to domestic and emotional interaction. In contradistinction, contemporary neoliberal capitalism brings the logic of the market and its fantasy of hyperrationality into the realm of emotion. This course aims to investigate everyday life that has emerged once again as a redemptive space of resistance today in the neoliberal turn. From the vantage point of this neoliberal present, we read canonical theories of everyday life and develop comparative accounts of everyday life and culture under industrialism, fascism, post/socialism, and financialization. We also investigate latest theoretical and ethnographic works on everyday life in reference to biopolitics and affective politics.

 


SOCI 6180 3.0A Sex and Gender in Social Theory

In this course, we will critically and analytically engage with the sociology of gender. The perspective of gender as a social structure will be the underlying framework from which we take up this engagement. As discussed in Raewyn Connell’s (1987, 2005) theory of ‘gender order’ and Barbara Risman’s (1998, 2004) theory of ‘gender as a social structure,’ this perspective theorizes gender as socially constructed and embedded in the individual, interactions, institutions, and ideologies. We will read key, older works and newer scholarship that implicitly or explicitly engages with this perspective, or work against it. Among other things, we will discuss theorizing on the relationship between sex and gender; analyze and deconstruct the gender binary; engage with queer theory on gender; discuss insights from masculinity studies; study gendered relations, organizations, and systems; and deconstruct intersections among gender and sexuality, race, class, ability, and citizenship. Our main purpose in reading in this way will be to validate the strengths or decry the weaknesses – or perhaps a mix of both – of the perspective of gender as a social structure in the new millennium.

 


SOCI 6190 3.0A Selected Topics in Classical and Contemporary Theory:  Modernity and the Paradox of Race

The contradiction between the Enlightenment promise of equality and the continuation of patterns of racial oppression is, arguably, one of the central paradoxes of concern to anti-racist scholars and activists who seek solutions. From the post-war politics of race to the “culture wars”, the implication of western enlightenment, and by extension, modernity, in the historical and contemporary generation and reproduction of racism, has infused debates within the sociology of race. Yet, the search for antiracist theory and praxis that can move beyond the paradox is an unresolved task. This course will re-visit key ideas in sociology and engage with a wide range of theoretical positions ranging from the post-Holocaust interventions of the Frankfurt School to those most recently advocated by Critical Race scholars. Our aim is to develop a deep critical understanding of positions which have been advanced in response to the modern paradox of race.

 


SOCI 6200 3.0A Contemporary Topics in Social Theory: Postcolonial and Third World Feminisms
This course will provide a platform for exploring postcolonial and third world feminisms in their varied iterations. Mindful of the tenuous reception of feminism in the third world, the course aims to examine its contributions to understanding paradoxes in the postcolonial world and how these inform social justice activism for women’s rights and empowerment. Postcolonial feminists, and theory, engage with issues of inequality at multiple levels; through historical analyses of colonialism and the international political economy and a critical engagement with local/national patriarchal oppressions. Thus, participants in the course will examine the ways in which postcolonial feminisms engage orthodox discourses on globalization, development and gender. Some themes to be explored are: tensions in the constructions of gender and identity in the postcolonial nation state; religious and cultural ideologies on gender inequality, global rights and women’s individual rights discourses and culture in ‘developing countries’.

SOCI 6535 3.0A Critical Sexuality

This course is designed to introduce graduate students to the critical study of gender and sexuality. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, we focus on queer theory and transgender studies. The seminal works by Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler will be a central focus coupled with trans and postcolonial writings on gender and sexuality in the latter part of the course. Students entirely unfamiliar with queer theory are advised to read Nikki Sullivan’s (2003) A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory (especially chapters 1, 3 and 4). We begin with an over-view of queer theory. What is queer theory and how does it depart from normative scholarly traditions?

The range and sequence of readings is designed to first orient students to the emergence of sexology in the late nineteenth century and to the writings of Sigmund Freud in particular. We will then read Michel Foucault’s (1978) History of Sexuality: Volume One. This work challenges Freud’s repressive hypothesis as it pertains to human sexuality in eighteenth century Victorian culture. We then consider how the history of sexuality in the west is, also, a history of empire and colonization and, finally, a history of the modern bi-gendered body. Feminist psychoanalytic theories will also be used to critique foundational ideas about sex and gender in psychoanalysis and in modern histories of sexuality. Using the example of childhood sexuality, and its queer manifestations, we consider how ideas about childhood sexual innocence have been productive and instrumental to the policing of families, citizens and nations in western, industrialized advanced capitalist nations.

We then read key works by Judith Butler to orient ourselves to her theory of gender performativity. Special attention will be devoted to her theory of gender melancholia, to her discussion of ‘excitable speech acts,’ and to her conception of the ‘lesbian phallus.’ Following this, we will read selections from Transgender Studies Reader 2 edited by Susan Stryker and Aren Aizura (2014). Consideration will be given to how trans studies reorients sexuality studies, urging us to revisit questions about sex corporeality and embodiment. Special attention will be devoted to the psychoanalytic work of Oren Gozlen and Patricia Gherovici in trans studies. We will also focus on the case study of intersexuality and the bio-medical politics of naming intersex conditions.

The final section of the course will focus on critical race theory and postcolonial critiques of queer theory in the West. Sexuality figures prominently in the building of empires, in histories of colonization, in globalization, migration, militarism and sex tourism. Focusing on a range of postcolonial writings, we will consider how what Edward Said (1978) calls Orientalism operates in contemporary cultures. Mel Chen’s (2012) work on race and bio-politics in Animacies will be read along with Jasbir Puar’s (2007) work in Terrorist Assemblages.
We conclude the course with psychoanalytic reflections on the psychic life of race in white, western imperial fantasy-formations and with what Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks calls the conceit of whiteness. Lee Edelman’s (2004) analytic of white reproductive futurism will also be used to understand the deployment of race, gender and sexuality in heteronormative and imperial projects.


SOCI 6614 3.0M Migration and Transnationalisms
Contemporary migration in an era of globalization, neoliberalism, and transnationalism has undergone dynamic transformations. The emergence of transnational communities whereby transmigrants maintain their everyday activities, relationships, networks, and identities in their home countries as well as engaging in their places of settlement has transformed the meaning of migration, citizenship, families, national borders, and international politics. It has also spawned theoretical and methodological questions, as well as policy challenges at the local, national, and transnational levels.

This course provides a forum for seminar participants to critically examine and analyze theoretical and empirical research studies employing macro and micro approaches, with attention to the dynamics between structure and agency. Recent debates and literature on theories and methodologies, policies, and practices of contemporary migration and the concomitant forms of transnationalisms will be examined, with a focus on how institutionalized policies and practices based on gender, race, class, and citizenship impact differently located members of society, in particular, women and children. How transmigrants as actors utilize their agencies will also be explored.

Assigned readings and seminar discussions will focus around some core topics, and will entail interrogating theoretical perspectives on transnational migration. Social, cultural, economic, and political processes of transnational migration will be examined by exploring such topics as transnational networks and diasporic capital; political participation; transnational families; criminalization of undocumented refugees and refugee advocacy;  social reproduction; gendered transnational labour; transnational lives of the second generation; and gender and transnational mobility.


SOCI 6667 3.0A Capitalism and Social Provisioning

Please contact the course director for a description of this course.


SOCI 6675 3.0M Political Sociology

This seminar will provide a forum for reviewing and discussing approaches to non-citizenship.  This necessarily includes a review of approaches to citizenship and im/migration. We start from the premise that contemporary mobilities raise questions about membership, community, social protection, participation, organizing and mobilization, place and space, governance, the production of legality and illegality, securitization, bordering and boundaries, and social inequalities.  We will focus on theorizing non-citizenship in the context of contested mobilities and in relation to these questions.  Attention to intersectional social locations, social relations, scale, spatiality and temporality will cross-cut our discussions.

 


SOCI 6711 3.0M Social Movements

This course deals with the developments of some of the most significant international social movements from the end of Ancien Régime to the fall of Berlin Wall (1789-1989). These include social movements that were formed around the French Revolution, the Revolutions of 1848, the Paris Commune of 1871, the birth of Soviet Union, the anticolonialist process in Africa and Asia, the Chinese Revolution, the protests of 1968, as well as other relevant political events of 19th and 20th centuries. These movements will be critically analysed, both in terms of history of ideas and of their major socio-political characteristics.

 


SOCI 6745 3.0M Asian Studies:  Critical Perspectives

Please contact the course director for a description of this course.

 


SOCI 6831 3.0M Health and Illness

This course offers students an opportunity to critically explore novel trajectories of theoretico-empirical inquiry in the sociology of health, illness and biomedicine.  Our focus will be to examine how arcs of investigation are established around key concepts, approaches to problem formation, styles of critique, and strategies for empirical research.   We will pay careful attention to how established traditions of inquiry have served as a basis for critical engagement and response by sociologists and related scholars in the formation of emerging areas of inquiry.  We will begin by examining the generative capacity of early sociological work on medicalization by Conrad and colleagues.  We will explore an important critical response to that work in the form of an emerging body of research on biomedicalization developed by Adele Clarke and colleagues.   Other foci of concern for the course may include: work on risk, health and responsibility by Foucauldian scholars and its significance for formulating a critique of health promotion; emerging work in the sociology of public health, including research on the “medico-legal” borderland; research on biological and therapeutic citizenship; and critical work on biotechnology and commodification.

The course will be designed to cover a broad range of substantive areas in the sociology of health and illness.  Students will be required to give at least one class presentation and to complete written assignments, including a major paper.

 


SOCI 6886 Social Dimensions of Legal Discourse: Empirical Research on Racial Profiling and Access to Justice

Please contact the course director for a description of this course.