Courses | St. Lawrence University Sociology



In addition to the regularly taught courses listed below, Special Topics courses are often offered.

101. IntroSoc: Principles of Sociology.

The goal of this course is to introduce students to theories and concepts of sociology, as well as to facilitate the development of each student's "sociological imagination." Members of the class will critically examine how social institutions and social structures operate, and to what ends. After introducing the sociological perspective and the research methods used to study society, we will examine what sociologists have come to know about various social structures and institutions (i.e., class, crime and deviance, the economy, education, gender, family, media, race, sexuality, etc.) as well as forms of social inequality (stratification and social class, race and ethnicity, and gender inequality). By discussing and applying theories and concepts central to the discipline, we will begin to deconstruct and understand how these social structures and institutions shape individuals' ideas about, and experiences in, the social world. Fulfills SS Distribution (2013 curriculum). 

110.  IntroSoc: Global Problems.

This course introduces students to the sociological perspective through examination of global actors, processes and problems. The course focuses on the process of the consolidation of the world into a single economy. While some people and some regions have benefited greatly, others have suffered tremendously. We look at how social disparities take shape and figure out the reasons they are justified. Also offered through Peace Studies.

112.  IntroSoc: Inequality.

An introductory course that examines forces behind the unequal distribution of economic, political, social, cultural and psychological rewards in contemporary U.S. society and globally. The course also examines the consequences of this distribution for both individuals and societies. Students are encouraged to take a closer look at social inequality through fieldwork projects and autobiographical reflections. Also offered through Peace Studies.

161.  IntroSoc: Social Problems and Policy.

This course explores the causes of and responses to the phenomena labeled “social problems.” The course examines how social phenomena are defined as problems and developed into issues. We investigate the role of the media, social movements, government and private capital in identifying problems and placing them on the public agenda. We also focus on a variety of policies proposed (and/or implemented) in response to specific social problems and the political conflicts that result from competing policy alternatives. The social impacts of various policy options associated with these issues are explored. Also offered through Peace Studies.

169.  IntroSoc: Media and Society.

This 100-level course is designed to explore the complex and often contradictory relationship between media, culture and society. We will culivate sociological perspectives to analyze and explain how various forms of media--from traditional to digital--can spread their influence across society. On what terms is media content produced and consumed, and what "effects" are likely to follow? What is the "new media environment," and what significance does it hold for media professionals and citizens? How do culture, technology, and political economy factor in? Throughout the semester, we will address each of these questions (and many more!) as we embark on an engaging, eye-opening journey through the realities of life in the increasingly mediated world. Also offered through Peace Studies. 

187.  IntroSoc: Environment and Society.

This course explores the complex interrelations between human societies and the environment via the sociological perspective, a means of making the familiar aspects of our lives, and our understandings of the world, seem strange and new. In doing so we can better analyze our world and our place in that world especially with regard to human and natural interactions. In this course we will learn about the concepts, theories, and methods that sociologists use to understand critical issues of environmental degradation and ecological crises and how these problems are experienced differently depending on one’s location in global society. By the end of the course students will become familiar with analytical tools that enable an understanding of some underlying drivers of environmental degradation and ideas of what can be done to chart a better future. Also offered as ENVS 187.


The content of each course or section of these 100-level or 200-level special topics courses varies and will be announced each semester. Some of these courses that will be taught regularly are listed below. 

203.  Foundations of Social Theory.

This course brings under scrutiny the false dichotomies crowding the sociological imagination: structure/agency, history/theory, macro/micro, global/local. The broad-based analytical perspective enables students to appreciate theory in the context of historical relations and processes, and to approach history from a coherent theoretical angle of vision. Students are encouraged and expected to reflect on hegemonic rationales and conventional structures of knowledge. Students are assisted in perceiving the absurd fixation of mainstream knowledge on simplification and the axiomatic authority of disjunction, reduction, reification and abstraction.  They are encouraged to see the virtue of complexity as an alternative form of knowledge of ecological/historical relations and processes. The objective of the course is to empower students by allowing them to discard simplification, and to embark on complexity as the intellectual path suitable to their reality.   Prerequisite: any 100-level or 200-level sociology course.

219: Power, Politics and Society. 

In this course, we will examine the relationship between power and politics (broadly defined), and how this relationship shapes our societies. In doing so, we will start by asking some general questions about power: How can we define it? Where can we locate its sources? How is authority exerted in society? Who has it and why? Can the holders of power be challenged, and if so, how? Tackling these questions will lead us to trace the development of the modern state, nations and nationalisms, democracy, and citizenship. As we delve into these complex topics, our class discussions will include empirical cases from different parts of the world. 

221.  Sociology of Sex and Gender.

This introduction to social science ways of thinking about sex and gender provides an overview of contributions from a variety of disciplines and considers both theoretical and historical materials. We examine the social construction of gender and sexuality and the ways gender and sexuality and society interact with and affect each other, and how change takes place. The social developments and history of gender and sexualities are explored, and contemporary issues studied. In particular, how and why gender and sex became politicized, and continue to be so, is explored.

224. Family, Community and Globalization. (with Community-Based Learning component)

The process of globalization no longer requires a workforce rooted in place. Rather, the need of this new, "flexible capitalism" is for a workforce that is mobile, unencumbered by connections to family, place and community. These larger structural changes do not operate as abstractions. They affect the lives of people at all levels. This course examines the influence of globalization on families and communities. To facilitate an understanding of these processes and their consequences, integrated into this course is a required experiential component through Community-Based Learning. Students develop reciprocity between their classroom experience and work within the local community. This course fulfills the Experiential Component requirement for majors. 

225. Women's Health and Aging.

This course will examine current issues related to the health and aging experiences of women in the U.S. and around the world.  Special emphasis will be placed on the challenges women face as they experience various life transitions.  The social, historical, cultural, economic, political factors related to women’s health and aging will be examined.  Topics include puberty, menstruation and PMS, childbirth, infertility, menopause, body image and ageism, employment and retirement, caretaking and social support, widowhood, and dying.  The implications of changing demographic characteristics of the aging population in the United States and worldwide will be considered especially with regard to the consequences for women.

228.  Race and Ethnicity.

This course introduces students to race and ethnicity from a social-historical perspective. It provides a conceptual background for understanding race and ethnicity.   We do not treat race or ethnicity as “natural” or “obvious” identities, but study the sociological and historical emergence of race as an idea: as an effective way to categorize people and as a legitimate basis for social and structural hierarchies.  We focus on how socio-historical relations and processes led to current conceptions and patterns of race and ethnic categories in the U.S., and consider possibilities challenging the nature of racial/ethnic identities by examining changes in political economy and anti-racist social movements.

233. Consuming Food.

Food is often seen as human beings’ biological needs. However, food is also how we relate to others as social beings.  How we eat, cook, and share food and what we consider to be food are bound with social and cultural meanings, as tastes and preferences are socially constructed and often related to class, gender, age, and ethnicity. This course will explore how industrialized agriculture and the food processing industry has changed our relationship to food and the various controversies over alternative food systems like organic food, local food, vegetarian and vegan food, and techno-food.  It will also look at how the global capitalist food system has commoditized food and transformed food provision and consumption in developing countries, creating the concurrent existence of epidemic hunger and obesity in the world today. It will discuss the impacts of such a system on farmers and land use in both developed and developing countries.

235.  Earning a Living: Work and Occupations in a Global Economy.

Much of the construction of our self-identity is concerned with preparation for and taking up a place in the occupational structure. Our occupations and the “social value” of the work we do contribute to definitions of our social worth.  This course is about the complex of social, economic, political, cultural and psychological processes that contribute to what we want to “be” when we “grow up” and what then becomes possible in a global economy. It examines what happens when there is no place for us.

238. Social Services, Agencies and Advocacy. (with Community-Based Learning component)

An examination of the structure, processes and outcomes of human service organizations. We consider their promises and limitations, including the political, economic, legal and cultural climate in which they operate as well as the point where policy is translated into practice. We also explore issues and strategies related to "client" advocacy and empowerment. Integral to this course is participation in a placement with a local human service agency through partnership with Community-Based Learning. Possible placements may include the Department of Social Services, Citizens against Violent Acts, Renewal house, police agencies and courts. This course fulfills the Experiential Component requirement for majors. 

239. Culture & Identity in the Digital Age.

In this 200-level course, we ask: what does it mean to live in a networked world, where our offline lives are increasingly and irrevocably tied to digital spaces? The popularity of phrases  like "in real life" represent a common view of the physical world as something wholly distinct from and superior to the digital realm. Still, the digital realm has proven to have very real consequences, which increasingly structure individuals' opportunities and experiences in everyday life. Beyond the vast array of viral posts and status-seeking influencers, the networked world provides seemingly endless opportunities for social interaction, identity construction, community building, and indeed, the (reproduction of systemic inequalities and political polarization). With these concerns in mind, this course will examine the role digital media and communication technologies play in the shaping of culture as well as the organization and maintenance of contemporary social life. (Dual-listed as FILM 240.) Also offered as FILM 240.

240. New Media, Conflict & Control.

The focus of this course is to explore and explain the increasing role of new media tools in conflict and democracy, as well as to take a deeper look at the paradoxical potential for surveillance that these technologies also afford. As seen through the recent examples from the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, social media can serve an integral function in democratic mobilizations. At the same time, digital media have also been effectively employed by governments and cooperating institutions to assert both direct and indirect forms of control. Thus, this course will explore the many ways in which social media afford journalistic, communicative, and controlling functions. How and to what effects new media technologies are leveraged is thus contingent upon many interwoven factors. By applying sociological knowledge about conflict and surveillance to the discussion of emerging media, students will learn new and revealing ways to think about the social and political implications of new media technologies. In addition to learning about emerging forms of media, this course will also require all participants to work with new media in both research and discussion. Also offered as FILM 241.

246. What’s So Bad about Aging? (with Community-Based Learning component)

This course examines the impact of aging on individuals and society, as well as the reactions of individuals and societies to aging. Theories and research on aging will be discussed, as well as the social, demographic, economic, historical, cultural, political, and health factors related to the aging process. Topics include diversity in the aging experience, housing and long term care, health care, social support networks, interpersonal relationships, work and retirement, leisure, and death and dying.  A Community-Based Learning component is integrated with the course material to facilitate a thorough understanding of aging in society. This course fulfills the Experiential Component requirement for majors.

253.  Race, Class, and Environmental Justice.

This course focuses on dynamics of privilege and oppression in relation to the environment in the United States and globally. The social processes that advance racism and class inequality, affecting the distribution of ecological costs and benefits, are explored. Substantive topics include the siting of hazardous facilities and fossil fuel technologies in Indigenous communities, the societal conditions that disproportionately drive water contamination in neighborhoods where marginalized families reside, and (in)equities embedded in institutionalized responses to natural disasters and the climate crisis. Classic sociological theories and contemporary Indigenous resurgence and Black Feminist texts are employed to foster critical insights into the human/nature experience today. Course assessments include both group case studies and individual writing assignments with real world implications. Prior completion of SOC/ENVS 187 suggested but not required. Also offered as Environmental Studies 253.

254. The Social Identity of Policing.

This course is neither about the Police as a specific occupation or profession, nor is it about social Identities as free-standing and eclectic categories. It is, instead, about policing as a relational ground emerging in multiple social identities and singular police vocation. Conventional knowledge wrongly assumes and defines, on the one hand, the police as a professional institution of administrating and enforcing established universal laws. On the other, it assumes that social identity to be peculiar and autonomous categories. The goal of this course is to transcend the incompatible assumptions and establish policing as the basis of the paradox, simultaneously producing 1) multiple identity forms, and 2) single universal law. We will focus on how and why policing has become the underpinning of modern social relations through the conflicting dynamics between many identities and one law. Therefore, social control is not merely a vocation of the police; it is rather the foundation of policing. It is embodied in identity forms instituted in the law. By adopting a long-term, large-scale lens, we will embark on uncovering the identity/law relational processes that transpire in the social identity of policing. 

255. Self and Society.

In this course we will study the relationship between self and society by examining the process of socialization. We will consider both micro and macro social forces that shape this relationship. Everyday interactions but also broader historical forces and processes of social change will be part of our discussion. The first part of the course will focus on some of the main theoretical perspectives on self and society. We are then going to examine how our selves are shaped and reshaped by various institutions such as schools, family and the state. 

266. Criminal (In)Justice. (with Community-Based Learning component)

This 200-level course provides an in-depth look at the American criminal justice system, including long-standing and contemporary challenges as well as opportunities for reform. After laying a foundation of sociological perspectives on crime and punishment as an institution and social problem, we begin envisioning what paths to justice look like for some of the most vulnerable members of our own community. With an emphasis on the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility (SLCCF) in Canton, NY, this class integrates a Community Based Learning component with more traditional academic work. In addition to in-class discussion, reading, writing, and oral presentation assignments, the class will make numerous visits to SLCCF throughout the semester.  By placing a specific emphasis on recidivism and community reintegration, we will work in collaboration with incarcerated individuals and staff at SLCCF on the North Country Resource project, which aims to identify and improve outcomes and access to resources for those reentering the surrounding community.  This course fulfills the Experiential Component requirement for sociology majors.

273. The Hidden Face(s) of Historical Capitalism.

This course is intended to explore the fundamental bases of the capitalist world-economy. The commodification of land, labor, and money and their respective impact upon ecological manipulations, social transformations, and power relations have been the underpinning of capitalist expansion. In taking these three material dimensions as our guide, we will be encouraged to appreciate historical and contemporary challenges regarding environmental sustainability, societal reproduction, and polarization. In similar vein, we will address the problematic in global governance and issues pertaining to the future of the capitalist system. 

275.  Medical Sociology.

In this course we examine a variety of aspects of health, illness, medical systems and institutions from a sociological perspective. We look at the social causes and consequences of illness, the social construction of disease, and roles played by patients, medical personnel, health institutions and society and the ethical questions they present. Attention is paid to health policy development in the United States and that of other countries. Also offered through Peace Studies. 

288. Dilemmas of Development.

What does development mean? Is economic development always at the expense of social integration? By whose standard should we measure development? Is there a single best way of development? Are some cultures more likely to develop than others? Is globalization the remedy for underdevelopment? This course covers the basic sociological theories on development and globalization, and answers the above questions by looking at issues such as gender and class inequality, power of multinational corporations and multilateral agencies, consumerism, environment, and the search for alternative models in Asia and other parts of the world. Also offered as ASIA 288.

290.  Independent Study in Sociology. (0.5 unit)

Open to students who wish to pursue more specialized or advanced sociological study, fieldwork and research with a faculty mentor. Prerequisite: at least one Sociology course. Permission of instructor is required.

3111. Radical Environmental Movements.

Did you know that enhancing youth food access was a central initiative of the Black Power Movement? That Indigenous Ecuadorians' recent fuel-subsidy protests compelled the national government to temporarily relocate its offices? That the first African woman to win a Nobel Prize inspired social action resulting in over 50 million trees being planted? This course explores how mobilizations of the last century have engaged natural resources and the environment, why, and with what impact. Our focus will be on so-called 'radical' movements that tend to garner less popular attention than 'mainstream' environmentalism. Through reading, lecture, case studies, discussion, and launching our own mini-movements, students in this course will learn sociological theories about activism and the ability for social movements to bring about change, as well as why the environment itself remains an enduring locus of action. 

3112. Sociology of Education.

Through this course you will learn how to analyze the American education system in a sociological way. You will examine topics such as the role of family background, school choice, standardized testing, college admissions, and college financial aid in educational outcomes. The course will primarily seek to answer the following question: does the American education system decrease, increase, or maintain the existing inequality in the US?

3113. Green Cafe: Farm to Table. 

Farm to Table is a social movement to connect local food and farmers to communities. Students will explore what food tells us about culture, traditions, and society by participating in every aspect of a 'Farm to Table' enterprise: The Spartacus Green Cafe! The Green Cafe will strive to provide students with local sustainable food options and a platform for building and expressing cultural advocacy on campus. At the Sustainability Farm, students will actively learn by doing, from principles of sustainability and organic agricultural to harvesting and food preservation. A local restaurateur will facilitate restaurant management and culinary skills in the kitchen and cafe service. The class will extend food culture to the SLU community through organizing Pop-Up Cafes in collaboration with campus student groups who would like to share their food traditions. The course seeks a dynamic and fearless interdisciplinary team of students, and welcomes all skill levels. Note: All students must attend weekly Tuesday meetings (1:00-4:00 pm). Students will work in 3 to 5 hour shifts running the cafe on Thursday nights (between 1:00 to 9:00 pm). The total estimated in class/cafe time for this course is (6 to 8 hours/weekly). Students will arrange for two 3-hour harvesting shifts at the farm. This course satisfies the Experiential Learning Component of the Business in Liberal Arts Major and for Sociology Majors, and the NS requirement for Environmental Studies Majors. Fulfills DIV13 Distribution (2013 curriculum). Green cafe is a 1.25 credit course.

300. Qualitative Research Methods.

This writing-intensive course is an introduction to a variety of qualitative social research methods. It includes discussions of the principles of social research, the relationship between theory and method, research design, issues of validity and reliability, and dilemmas and ethical concerns in qualitative research. Students learn qualitative techniques of gathering and interpreting data through a variety of “hands-on” projects in the field and classroom using methods such as participant observation, in-depth interviews, content analysis and other unobtrusive methods. Students engage in an individually designed, ongoing research project throughout the semester. Prerequisite: SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory.

301.  Quantitative Research Methods.

This writing-intensive course is an introduction to quantitative social research methods with an emphasis on survey data.  Students engage in questionnaire and table construction, and data management and analysis using SPSS to complete an individually designed, ongoing research project throughout the semester. The course covers topics such as hypothesis and questionnaire construction, conceptualization and operationalization, sampling, data collection, processing, and analysis, reliability and validity, research ethics, and the presentation of research.  Students learn using a hands-on, computer-based approach to quantitative methods and data analysis.  Prerequisite: SOC 203, Foundations of Social Theory.

308.  Death and Dying.

This course explores social, historical, ethical and cultural aspects of death and dying. We will analyze the social meaning of death from a historical and cross-cultural perspective. Additional topics include the historical evaluation of images and attitudes toward death, ways of dying, the medicalization and consequences of high-tech dying, life extension, the role of palliative care and hospice, euthanasia, body disposal and abuse, and the death industry. The course will offer an opportunity to formulate, analyze and deepen our views on a number of issues related to death and dying. Prerequisites: a 100-level course and a 200-level course. 

309. Internships.

Internship opportunities exist in social welfare, gerontology, health care, social policy, law, criminal justice, the media and college administration. The department also encourages students to be imaginative and innovative in developing internships to meet their own interests. Internships require a commitment of eight hours a week. Students may not enroll in more than one semester of internship credit without petitioning the sociology department for approval. Students interested in exploring internship opportunities must contact the instructor prior to course registration during the preceding semester. Not open to first-year students. Prerequisite: at least two Sociology courses.  This course fulfills the Experiential Component requirement for majors.  Permission of instructor required.

310.  Slavery, Race and Culture.

The purpose of this seminar is to familiarize students with the world of slavery and its relation to the wider world of capitalism. Long a part of the global capitalist economy, slaves and slavery have been critical historical agents in shaping various aspects of social relations. The history of slavery has laid the foundation for race formations. Far from being a peculiar institution, slavery is indeed central to the making of the modern age. Pre-requisite: a 100-level course and a 200-level course.

314.  Nomads in World History.

Throughout history, the terms nomad and barbarian have been used interchangeably, and with negative connotations.  Similarly, the terms settled and civilized have been synonymous, with positive associations. This dichotomy arises out of particular class and power interests and has had, as a consequence, an impact on our understanding of world history and the place of nomads in it. It has resulted in the stigmatization of nomads. In this course, we bring the nomadic factor back to focus and establish a more comprehensive picture and interpretation of world history.  Pre-requisites: a 100-level course and a 200-level course.

377.  Sociology of Consumption.

In this seminar, we explore consumption along a wide range of material dimensions. The sociology of consumption is concerned with the relationships of a) the social to the natural and b) the social to the social and c) their consequences, such as social disruption and environmental destruction; “things” are fetishized and humans are commodified. The sociology of consumption helps us to understand this in the context of both the capitalist world economy and cultural expressions from early modernity to postmodernity. Pre-requisites: a 100-level course and a 200-level course. 

390.  Independent Study in Sociology. (1 unit)

Open to students who wish to pursue more specialized or advanced sociological study and research with a faculty mentor. Prerequisite: at least two sociology courses. Permission of instructor required.

4000-4999. The content of each course or section of these 300-level or 400-level special topics courses varies and will be announced each semester. Some of these courses that will be taught regularly are listed below.

465.  Environmental Sociology.

How can we understand ideas like "nature" and "natural" in a world thoroughly interwoven with human intentions? After all, genetically modified corn is still grown using sun and water. Hurricanes still gather strength according to rules of physics even if the storm is strengthened by human warmed waters and air. In this world, where does the human start and the non-human begin? What are the limits to the sociological insight of the social construction of reality? These are the sorts of questions that environmental sociology has been asking since Dunlap's New Ecological Paradigm challenged sociology (and society to "bring nature back in") to our understanding of ourselves and our work as sociologists. This course will explore efforts by sociology to incorporate nature in sociology and how those efforts can inform our understanding of complex systems. Prerequisites: a 100-level course and a 200-level course. 

4007. Nations and Nationalism.

This course starts off by situating the rise of nations and nationalism in its historical context. It them moves on to engage with contemporary topics including everyday manifestations and reproductions of nationalism, and the relationship between nationalism and conflict. Through our discussions we will explore how and to what effect states employ nationalist policies inside their territories. Our readings will draw from a variety of empirical cases reflecting different forms of nationalism as well as different trajectories of nation-building. 

4008. Media and Power.

Despite its rich history within sociology, the study of media has remained on the margins of the field. Nevertheless, the last few decades have brought radical transformations in media technologies, as well as in society's relationship with them, and consequently, with one another. In addition to having implications for everyday experiences, these shifts have the potential to fundamentally reshape relations of power. What structural and cultural forces drive the media professions? How are media stories framed, and to what effects? What role do citizens and professionals play in the process of creating and critiquing media? How do political figures and perspectives move from the margins to the mainstream? How does "surveillance capitalism" shape the way media technologies and content are produced, shared, received, and regulated? By addressing these questions and more, participants in this seminar will develop an understanding of many enduring issues in media sociology and their implications for relations of power in the 21st century. Prerequisites: a 100-level course and a 200-level course. 

489/490. SYE Independent Study.

This requires completion of an individual research project mentored by one of the sociology faculty. Before registering, students should work with a faculty mentor to prepare a research proposal outlining the intended thesis, theoretical framework, methodology and ethical considerations including the application for human subjects review approval where necessary. This is a one-semester project (Fall or Spring). Prerequisites: SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory, SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods, any 300 or 400-level seminar, and a SYE Application submitted to the Sociology Department for approval during the semester prior to the project's start.  Permission of instructor required.

495/496. SYE Honors in Sociology.

This requires completion of an individual research project mentored by one of the sociology faculty. The project is undertaken over two semesters. Students need to register for both 495 (fall) and 496 (spring). Honors will be granted to students who have completed and defended a thesis before a departmental committee. Prerequisites: 3.5 major GPA, SOC 203 Foundations of Social Theory, SOC 300 Qualitative Research Methods or 301 Quantitative Research Methods, any 300 or 400 level seminar, and an SYE Application submitted to the Sociology Department for approval during the semester prior to the project's start.  Permission of instructor required.