Sociology

Overview | Requirements | Courses | Faculty

Overview

Sociology is concerned primarily with the scientific study of social groups and social relations. Sociologists seek to understand how societies, institutions, organizations and other social forces shape and are shaped by individuals. One of the department's primary aims is to provide students with the analytical critical skills needed to understand and evaluate social institutions and social change more effectively.

The Sociology faculty complement one another in a way that allows them to offer a varied range of courses. Courses reflect a growing interest and focus in the discipline on disadvantaged groups and classes of people and the ways they interact with social institutions. Occidental's proximity to Los Angeles, one of the most ethnically and economically diverse cities in the world, makes this focus all the more appropriate and provides students with the opportunity to observe many of these social phenomena firsthand.

Sociology majors will receive excellent preparation for graduate and professional study in sociology, law, social work, journalism, public health, business management, teaching, public administration, and other fields that require the ability to think critically, analytically, and ethically about a wide range of social issues in the search for viable solutions. While the department is committed to providing majors with the best possible preparation for careers in sociology and related fields, it is equally committed to providing non-majors with knowledge of social life as well as evaluative and analytical skills from which they will benefit in their chosen field of study and their careers in an increasingly diverse and complex world.

Requirements

MAJOR:

Eleven courses (44 units) in Sociology which must include:

  • Sociology 101;
  • a theory course (200 or 205);
  • Sociological Inquiry (304);
  • a research methods course (305, or 310);
  • Senior Seminar (490);
  • and six electives chosen from within the sociology department.

The Sociology Department encourages students to declare the major by the end of their first year. 

If you declare at the end of your first year, you should:

  1. take Classic or Contemporary Sociological Theory (200 or 205) in your sophomore year.
  2. take Sociological Inquiry (304) in your sophomore year.
  3. take a research methods course (305, 306 or 310) in your junior year.
  4. enroll in Senior Seminar (490) in the fall of your senior year.

If you declare during your sophomore year, you should:

  1. take Classic or Contemporary Sociological Theory (200 or 205) as soon as possible.
  2. take Sociological Inquiry (304) as soon as possible.
  3. take a research methods course (305, 306 or 310) in your junior year.
  4. enroll in Senior Seminar (490) in the fall of your senior year.

Students who plan to study abroad should work with their advisor on a plan to complete their major requirements.  Classes taken in sociology departments while abroad count towards the major electives.

Eleven courses (44 units) in Sociology which must include 101, a theory course (200 or 205, Social Inquiry (304), a methods course (305. 306 or 310), and senior seminar (490). The remaining six courses are electives that students may select from all the other courses offered by the department. One non-Sociology course cross-listed with Sociology can count towards the major.

305 meets the College Core math requirement. For sociology majors, 304 is a precursor to 305, 306 or 310.

The Sociology Department strongly encourages students to take 101 in their first or second year, 200 or 205 in their second year and a methods course before the senior seminar.

MINOR: Five courses (20 units) in Sociology which must include 101. The remaining four courses are electives that students may select from all the other courses offered by the department.

WRITING REQUIREMENT: Students majoring in Sociology will satisfy the final component of Occidental College's college-wide writing requirement by completing any 300 level Sociology course by the end of the fall semester of the junior year with a grade of B- or higher (or appropriate course work). Students should familiarize themselves with the departmental requirement at the time of declaring the major. See the Writing Program and consult the department chair for additional information.

COMPREHENSIVE REQUIREMENT: Students will engage in a major research project that will culminate in a written senior thesis.

DEPARTMENTAL HONORS: A distinctive ("PD") comprehensive senior thesis based on primary research along with a 3.5 grade point average in the department and 3.25 overall.

INTERNSHIPS: The department, in concert with the Career Development Center, keeps files on available internships in law, criminal justice, and various social and community agencies.
 

Courses

101 - Introduction to Sociology

This course introduces students to the "sociological imagination"-a way of viewing events, relationships and social phenomena which form the fabric of our lives and much of our history. We will examine the ways in which people are shaped, influenced, and controlled by their society and vice versa. In addition, students will be encouraged to think about how sociology helps us understand and interpret the nature of social order and disorder. Open only to freshmen and sophomores or by permission of instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: UNITED STATES and U.S. DIVERSITY

105 - Immigrant Youth & Youth Cultures

This course examines the role of youth cultures in the identity formation of immigrant adolescent youth residing in the Southwest region of the United States. Particular attention is paid to: (1) theories of acculturation and assimilation used to analyze the experiences of immigrant youth; (2) the impact of geographical location, social class, gender, race, sexuality, popular culture, mass media, and technology; and (3) the intersection of youth cultures, home cultures, and mainstream society.  Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

197 - Independent Study in Sociology

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
2 or 4 units

200 - Classical Sociological Theory

This course introduces the discipline's formative schools of thought. The course is structured according to sociology's classic paradigms. Marxist, Weberian, and Durkheimian theories are the classical models. They founded the field of Sociology and continue to influence contemporary thought about social relations. In the course we first examine the fundamental presuppositions of their grand theories. Then we critically evaluate the particularities of their more concrete propositions about capitalist development or modernization, the state and social change. A special emphasis of the course is on critical analysis. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.

205 - Contemporary Sociological Theory

This course introduces the most influential paradigms of the 20th century. These include the American structural-functionalist paradigm, the rational choice model, the elite school, various neo-Marxist arguments (including the theory of the world system as well as the culturalist Frankfurt school), and the symbolic interactionist paradigm. We conclude the course with an introduction to postmodernist theory. The course emphasizes critical analysis. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: INTERCULTURAL

210 - The Struggle for Human Rights in Mexico

After Mexico’s transition to electoral democracy in 2000, two alternative party (PAN) Presidents either failed to act in accordance with the transitional justice movements sweeping Latin America, or actually returned to mano dura (heavy-handed) military practices to deal with the drug cartels. Consequently, as compared to South American countries, human rights violations in Mexico have increased rather than decreased since its transition to democracy. This class will document why this is the case as well as look into the various movements that have mobilized since the 1970s to the present to demand human rights in Mexico. Prerequisite: Soc. 101 OR Politics 101 OR DWA 101
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: LATIN-AMERICA and REGIONAL FOCUS

225 - Masculinities

This course examines the construction and reproduction of masculinities, primarily in the United States. We explore the impact these gendered identities have on individual’s lives and social interactions. Consideration will be given to the intersection of ethnicity, race, class, age, sexual orientation, and gender, and the role of social institutions and inequities in the social construction of masculinities. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: UNITED STATES and U.S. DIVERSITY

230 - Marriage and Family

This course examines the family as a social institution in the United States. The course emphasizes sociological and demographic perspectives on the family, family change historically and contemporarily, and the intersection of the family with social categories such as race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and class. The course will highlight contemporary changes in marriage, divorce, and non-marital cohabitation in the United States but will also expose students to sociological thinking about family systems around the world. Prerequisite: SOC 101
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

240 - Sociology of Food

This course examines the social relations surrounding the production, distribution, preparation, and consumption of food. In doing so, we will try to understand how the issues and problems of daily life reflect larger social forces, and how our understanding and actions shape the social world. This means that we will treat several major questions facing sociology today, including inequalities and identities based on national, racial/ethnic, class, and gender positions; work and family; the environment; globalization; and, cultural change. By the end of the course, you will be able to critically examine and evaluate the connections between food, culture, and society. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY and UNITED STATES

245 - Social Class and Inequality in the United States

This course examines the individual, cultural, and structural explanations for the presence and persistence of income and wealth inequality in the U.S. The impact of inequality on social groups and the social policies developed to curtail poverty are also considered. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

250 - Race and Ethnicity in American Society

This course provides a basic sociological understanding of relations among racial and ethnic groups in the United States. A sociological approach includes considering race and ethnicity as social constructs that permeate all social life, are entrenched in social structures and institutions, and shift and mutate over time and place. Such a perspective suggests that (1) race and racism are not merely the 'problems' of/for subordinate racial and ethnic groups, but are reflective of society-wide power relationships that deeply affect all of us on a daily basis, (2) that racial and ethnic categories - including 'white' - can be viewed usefully as the result of historical struggles over economic resources, political access, and cultural identity, rather than as objective measures of biological difference, and (3) the institutional forms of racism, indelibly etched into this nation's past, did not end with civil rights legislation of the 1960s but continue to shape social institutions today.  Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: UNITED STATES and U.S. DIVERSITY

255 - Youth Cultures in United States Society

This course examines the role of youth cultures in the identity formation of adolescents residing throughout the United States. Particular attention is paid to 1) the impact of geographical location, social class, gender, race, sexuality, popular culture, mass media, and technology; (2) the intersection of youth cultures and mainstream society; and (3) the contention that some youth cultures are "deviant". Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

260 - Deviance

In this course, we will focus on sociological theories of deviance, with an emphasis on how behaviors and identities are socially constructed as deviant (both today and historically). We will then turn our attention to major forms of deviance as typically defined in Western societies: criminal deviance, "victimless crimes," and individuals with stigmatized identities. Throughout the course, we will work to understand the complex relationship between social actors and audiences in defining deviance; the nature of social control in responding to deviance; and the experiences of "deviant" individuals. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

265 - Gender and Society

In this course we will critically examine the ways gender informs the social world in which we live. Our goals for this course will be 1) to reveal the "common-sense" world of gender around you; 2) to consider how we learn to "do" gender; 3) to expose the workings of the institutions that shape our gendered lives; and 4) to come to an understanding of the relationship between gender and the social structure. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: UNITED STATES and U.S. DIVERSITY

280 - Punishment

Why does the United States incarcerate more of its population than any other nation in the world? Why does death by injection seem kinder and gentler-and thus, more acceptable-than public hangings of the past? What are the consequences for justice and democracy in an era of unprecedented confinement and correctional supervision? Using various historical, legal, and sociological perspectives, we will focus on questions such as these with an emphasis on: the cultural life of punishment, crime control as a political issue, the racial and class dynamics of punishment and inequality, and contemporary issues surrounding modern penal sanctioning (e.g., mass incarceration) and its consequences. This course is repeatable one time. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

285 - Environmental Sociology

The relationship between humans and the non-human environment is complex and problematic. We are part of and dependent upon the natural environment, even while altering that environment for our own needs and purposes. As a way of broadly thinking about these interactions, we will address the social causes, consequences, and responses to environmental disruption. By the end of the course, you will be more adept at understanding how societal characteristics -- including cultures, traditions, beliefs, values, institutions, and the like -- combine with environmental conditions to shape the impact that people have on their environments. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

304 - Sociological Inquiry

This course looks at the ways sociologists collect information about social phenomena with a special emphasis on what can be done to yield information that is trustworthy and useful for our theoretical understanding of social life. It assumes no background in research methods or statistics. We will talk about the scientific method, the complexities of applying methods to social research, ethics and bias, and research design. You will be given an overview of major "quantitative" and "qualitative" methodologies, including surveys, interviews, ethnography, experiments, participant observation, or content analysis. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.

305 - Quantitative Research Methods

This course introduces quantitative research methods and statistical analysis from a social science perspective. We will address the major components of the research process and will stress the importance of critical thinking in all matters numerical. We will cover measures of central tendency, the normal curve, probability, frequency distributions, correlation, and regression. We will also talk about statistics and statistical reasoning in the media. By the end of the course, you will have mastered basic statistical concepts and techniques, and will be able to critically examine and evaluate the (mis)use of these concepts. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: MATH/SCI

306 - Qualitative Research Methods

This course introduces qualitative research methods from a social science perspective. We will cover systematic qualitative research design, data collection, and analysis. Techniques will include interviewing, focus groups, ethnography, and/or qualitative content analysis. By the end of the course, you will have mastered basic concepts and techniques and be able to carry out basic qualitative research. Prerequisite: SOC 101

310 - Sociological Field Methods

This course introduces the theory and methods of sociological and urban field research. We consider positivist, interpretive and critical paradigms. We compare the traditions of anthropological as well as sociological ethnography. We explore the ethics of participant observation, with respect to issues such as role, authority, and power. We learn interview protocols, how to write field notes, how to analyze data, and techniques of storytelling in ethnographic writing. We explore principles of participatory action research and oral history. We will also learn quantitative methods through the analysis of local statistical data from the U.S. Census of Population and Housing. Students will conduct their own ethnographic or field-based study. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor

315 - Sociology of Education

This course uses different sociological perspectives to examine social aspects of schooling and educational institutions in the U.S. Specifically, the course focuses on factors that may impede and/or facilitate learning such as social class, gender, race and ethnicity, teacher and parental expectations, and peers. Additionally, the role of education in the acculturation and assimilation process is considered, as are the ways in which schools ameliorate and/or replicate social inequalities. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

320 - Health and Illness

This course surveys sociological theories of health, illness, and medicine. Rather than focusing on the individual body as the site of disease, the course examines the role of social context in shaping health and access to the healthcare system across population groups. The course focuses especially on medical intervention and the medicalization of disease, social disparities in health, and contemporary healthcare changes and challenges in the United States. Prerequisite: SOC 101
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: UNITED STATES and U.S. DIVERSITY

325 - Criminology

This course introduces the field of criminology. The course is designed to provide a broad understanding of the etiology of crime (i.e., what causes crime?), the measurement of crime, and theories of criminal punishment. We will also discuss a wide range of criminal behaviors, with a focus on violent crime and property crime (e.g., homicide, sexual assault, shoplifting, white collar crime, etc.). The final component of the course focuses on the American criminal justice system. This course emphasizes a sociological approach to understanding crime, criminal behavior, and criminal justice. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

330 - Political Sociology

This course will focus on classical and contemporary theories of power and authority; theories of the state and various forms of state power, the state and government, the nature of democracy and political elites in modern society (especially the United States) as well as the social bases of political parties and voting behavior. Prerequisite: Sociology 101,  Politics 101, or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: INTERCULTURAL

335 - Democratizing Latin America

This course will focus on the changing dynamics of state power in Latin America from the 1960s through the present. We will compare Latin America's hard-dictatorships (dictaduras) to various versions of soft(er)-authoritarianisms (dictablandas) before such states transitioned to electoral democracy. Beyond looking at the changing dynamics between states and their civil societies over time, we will explore legacies of civil wars, revolution, military coups and dirty wars. We will not only look at how ordinary people fought back by struggling for political, human and cultural rights, but how their movements contributed to the recent democratic transitions characterized as "third-wave" democratization". Prerequisite: SOC 101, POLS 101, DWA 101 or HIST 258 or permission of instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: GLOBAL CONNECTION

350 - Social Movements and Revolutions

This course examines why people protest for social change. We will examine the theoretical debates about the determinants of insurgency by focusing on the following models: the collective behavior, the resource mobilization, the political process, as well as the cultural approach. We will also examine the theoretical debates on the extent to which social movements can be credited with political change. Your study of these theories will expose you to several case studies of real social movements in the United States, Europe and Latin America. This is, however, a theory (not a history) course. Prerequisite: Sociology 101, Politics 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: INTERCULTURAL

355 - Power and Sexuality

This course will consider the role that sexuality plays in the American imagination, especially the way that sexuality is constructed and serves as a mechanism of social control. In doing so, special attention will be paid to the ways in which human sexuality intertwines with axes of power in contemporary America such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual orientation. Prerequisite: Sociology 101.

360 - Urban Sociology

What are the effects of urbanism on human psychology and civic life? How does urbanization structure social and economic relations as well as signifying identities and cultural meanings? Is there a common "human ecology" of cities in "natural areas" such as the CBD, skid row, the "Tenderloin" or the "zone-in-transition"? We examine the urban underclass, through case studies of the African American ghetto and Spanish Harlem, with attention to public policy perspectives on urban poverty. Urban futures are considered through gentrification, growth machine boosterism (sports and convention centers), and urban theme parking. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or Politics 101or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

365 - Mass Media and Consumer Society

The course will examine how mass communication systems such as radio, television, cinema and the Internet are produced and what they signify and represent of the social world and public life. We consider the relationship of the mass media to big business and the structure of capitalism. The ideological influences of the mass media are interrogated through concepts such as "mass culture" and "subculture". We examine how contemporary culture and everyday life are increasingly commodified through the systems and spectacles of consumption capitalism. How has globalization affected consumerism and the social construction of the contemporary self? Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: U.S. DIVERSITY

370 - Sociology of (Non)Violence

This course examines the social phenomenon of human violence. We first consider classical and contemporary sociological theories on violence and violent conflicts, and the main sociological definitions of violence used over the last century. We then turn to empirical studies that explore the social processes and societal structures that give rise to the various forms of violence—intrapersonal, interpersonal, familial, collective, and political—and nonviolent movements presently observed throughout the world. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: INTERCULTURAL and GLOBAL CONNECTIONS

375 - Globalization

This course examines the political, economic, and cultural changes that occur as societies shift from the traditional to the modern. Why are some nations mired in debt and dependency while others have become successful "newly-industrializing countries?" We consider leading intergovernmental organizations of the global economy such as the IMF, World Bank, and WTO. We investigate scenarios in cultural globalization, including Americanization, hybridization, and fundamentalism. We consider intersectional social dynamics that disenfranchise the most powerless including women, children, indigenous and stateless peoples. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or Politics 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: INTERCULTURAL

395 - Special Topics in Sociology

This course will function as an advanced seminar focusing on the research interests of the Sociology Department's faculty. The seminar is research and writing intensive.

Los Angeles Field Research - KCET. This course investigates the theory and methods of sociological field research in the setting of Los Angeles. We consider positivist, interpretive and critical research paradigms. We explore the ethics of field research, with respect to issues such as role, authority, and power. We learn interview protocols, how to write field notes, how to analyze data, and techniques of storytelling in ethnographic writing. We explore classic field-based studies of Los Angeles communities. Students will do field interviews with members of artistic, cultural, community, environmental, or social movement organizations based in Los Angeles. Transcribed interviews and photographs will be published in online features by KCET-Departures, the Internet media unit of the public television station.

397 - Independent Study in Sociology

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
2 or 4 units

420 - Immigration to the United States From Mexico and Central America

This course will survey the major analytic approaches concerning Mexican immigration to the United States. We will look at the causes and consequences of such immigration from the standpoint of binational economic integration. To a lesser degree we will also examine Central American immigration from an international relations perspective. Prerequisite: Sociology 101 or permission of Instructor.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: INTERCULTURAL

490 - Senior Seminar in Sociology

Seminar is offered in conjunction with sociology majors' ongoing library research for the senior thesis. Seminar meetings will be devoted to discussion and critique of work in progress. Prerequisite: senior Sociology majors only. We strongly encourage students to have taken Classic or Contemporary Theory, Sociological Inquiry and Qualitative, Quantitative, or Field Methods before taking the senior seminar (always taught in the Fall).

499 - Honors in Sociology

Prerequisite: permission of department.

Faculty

Regular Faculty

Richard Mora, chair

Associate Professor, Sociology; Affiliated Faculty, Latino/a & Latin American Studies

B.A., Harvard College (Sociology); M.A., University of Michigan (Education); M.A., Harvard University (Sociology); Ph.D., Harvard University (Sociology & Social Policy)

Danielle Dirks

Assistant Professor, Sociology

B.S. Psychology, B.A. Sociology, M.A. Sociology, University of Florida; Ph.D. The University of Texas at Austin

John T. Lang

Assistant Professor, Sociology

B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Rutgers University

Jan Lin

Professor, Sociology; Advisory Committee, Urban and Environmental Policy

B.A., Williams College; M.S., London School of Economics and Political Science; Ph.D., New School for Social Research

Krystale E. Littlejohn

Assistant Professor of Sociology

A.B, Occidental College; M.A., Ph.D., Stanford University

Dolores Trevizo

Professor, Sociology; Advisory Committee, Latino/a and Latin American Studies

A.B., Occidental College; M.A., Ph.D., UCLA

Lisa Wade

Associate Professor, Sociology

B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara; M.A., New York University; M.S., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison

On Special Appointment

Terri Anderson

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Sociology

B.A. U.C. Irvine, M.A. U.C.L.A., Ph.D U.C.L.A.