Social movements, political sociology.
Sociologies of race, gender, state, empires, and knowledge.
Law and society, culture, political sociology, economic sociology, qualitative methods.
Economic sociology, organizations, institutional analysis.
Kjersten Bunker Whittington
Science and technology, gender, work and organizations, social networks. On sabbatical 2023-24.
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 SOC 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.