Courses

2020-21
 

For more information, including course locations, please visit the my.harvard Course Search.

Sophomore Tutorial

Social Studies 10a. Introduction to Social Studies
David Armitage and members of the Committee
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 12:45-2:45, and a weekly section TBA. 
This course offers an introduction to the classic texts of social theory of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Our focus will be on the rise of democratic, capitalist societies and the concomitant development of modern moral, political, and economic ideas. Authors we will examine include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx.

Note: This course is limited to sophomores and Social Studies concentrators. This course is a prerequisite for sophomores applying to Social Studies. Students planning to take this class must attend the first lecture to be admitted.


Social Studies 10b. Introduction to Social Studies 
Brandon Terry, Katrina Forrester, and members of the Committee
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 12:45-2:45, and a weekly section TBA. 
This class continues the introduction to the classic texts of social theory begun in Social Studies 10a through the twentieth century. Authors include Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, W.E.B. Du Bois, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, and Michel Foucault.

Note: This course is limited to Social Studies concentrators who have taken Social Studies 10a.

Methods Courses

Social Studies 50. Foundations of Social Science Research 
Adaner Usmani
Half course (spring term). TBA
This course has two goals. First, to introduce students to the diversity of methods that social scientists use to answer questions about the social world. Second, to prepare thesis writers to conduct original research. We will survey both qualitative and quantitative approaches, reading a combination of methodological texts and exemplary empirical work. For their final project, students will write a research proposal that will anchor their future thesis work.

Social Studies 60. Methods Training for Social and Political Theorists
Don Tontiplaphol
Half course (fall term). Tuesday and Thursday 3:00-4:15.

Is social-scientific knowledge possible? How does empirical research depend on conceptual analysis? What is the relationship between normative theory and empirical reality? This course investigates different modes of theorizing and integrates them into the philosophical foundations of the social sciences. Units include “Epistemology and Social Explanation”; “Conceptual Analysis and the Human Sciences”; “Political Theory and Historiography”; “Normativity, Critique, and Political Realism.” Recommended preparation for senior-thesis research in social and political theory, including the epistemology of social science. Continuation of the methodological themes of Social Studies 10b; intended for first-term juniors and first-term seniors.

Note: This course will be lotteried.

Engaged Scholarship Courses

Learn more about Engaged Scholarship courses here.

Social Studies 68pt. Politics: Theory and Practice - NEW
P. MacKenzie Bok
Half course (fall term). Thursday 3:00-5:45.
As both the U.S. presidential election and a national state of emergency cast long shadows over Fall 2020, this course seeks to connect political theory to practice by asking how conceptual arguments about politics are reflected, transformed, or rejected in the experience of political practitioners. The class is structured as a series of two-week modules: one week focused on understanding the arguments of political theorists about a topic, then a second week focused on a relevant case at the state or local level, with political actors participating as guest speakers. Final papers will connect theory to practical politics in which students are engaged.

This is an Engaged Scholarship course, limited to students who volunteer in a PBHA or other community-based program. Open to students in all concentrations. 

Note: This course is lotteried.

Social Studies 68ea. Engaged Philosophy: The Theory and Practice of Altruism
Bonnie Talbert
Half course (spring term). TBA
In the wake of a global pandemic and the George Floyd protests, many are searching for ways to take action, to improve our communities and the world, and to help others. Truly impactful action, however, requires thoughtful planning and reflection. The main question this course will address is “What is altruism?” We will approach this question from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives: biology, psychology, political theory, and moral philosophy. Are we naturally altruistic, or are all actions in some sense selfish? How do we know when we are helping others? What is charity, or philanthropy, and what role does it play in a functioning democracy? We will spend a good portion of the course on the “effective altruism” movement, which aims to maximize the amount of good that each of us can do. Effective altruists have focused on criminal justice reform and pandemic prevention and research as two priority areas for alleviating global suffering; we will examine their claims and prescriptions about how to most effectively tackle these pressing issues. How are calculations about “effectiveness” made? What sorts of problems can be alleviated by giving away money to effective charities? What are some problems with this approach? How does the EA movement relate to activism? What is the best way to end racism and structural inequalities? More importantly, who are effective altruists, and how do they live their lives? We will read stories of anti-racism activists, people who have risked their lives to provide healthcare in the midst of war, people who have donated kidneys to strangers, people who adopted over 20 children, and many other examples that illustrate (or not!) different ways of being altruistic. The ultimate goal of this course is to think about what it means to help not just theoretically, but also in practice

This is an Engaged Scholarship course, limited to students who volunteer in a PBHA or other community-based program. Open to students in all concentrations. 

Note: This course is lotteried.

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Special Seminars

Social Studies 96es. Elections in a Time of Democratic Stress: America's 2020 Choice in Comparative Perspective
E.J. Dionne 
Half course (fall term). Monday 3:00-5:00.

It’s rare to be certain that a given election will be seen as historic. The 2020 contest in the United States is that rare election. This seminar will focus on the choice in 2020, the meaning of the Trump presidency, the nature of polarization in the United States, the proper understanding of populism, and the coronavirus pandemic as a transformative event. It will also place the American election in a comparative context, examining the democratic distemper in other nations. We’ll be discussing politics in Britain, France, Germany, the Iberian Peninsula, and Eastern Europe.

Note: This class is open to all students, but a preference will be given to Social Studies concentrators. This course will be lotteried.

Junior Tutorials - Fall 2020

Note: Admission is based on student preferences and a lottery system. Undergraduate non-concentrators may enroll in these tutorials if space is available.

Social Studies 98ax. Development and Modernization: A Critical Perspective
Stephen Marglin
Half course (fall term). Tuesday and Thursday 10:30-11:45.
What assumptions about human beings underlie the conviction that development and modernization constitute progress, that the developed West points the way for the rest of the world? Does economic growth involve a package that necessarily changes the society, the polity, and the culture along with the economy? This tutorial provides a framework for thinking about these questions, both in the context of the West, and in the context of the Third World.


Social Studies 98eo. Art, Political Culture, and Civic Life
Kiku Adatto 
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 3:45-5:45.

The seminar explores the interplay of the arts, popular culture and civic life. It will draw on studies in art, history, political philosophy, literature, sociology, and photography.  Among the questions we will address are: How is historical memory constructed, and what are the competing forces that shape it?  What is the significance of public apologies, and does solidarity create moral responsibilities for historical injustices?  How is cultural domination exerted, and how is it resisted?  Under what circumstances, if any, should art be repatriated? In what ways does rhetoric shape politics, and what role does it play in national narratives?  Why does the contest to control images loom so large in politics, the media, and in our everyday lives?
 

Social Studies 98lf. Globalization and the Nation State
Nicolas Prevelakis 
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 9:45-11:45.
Despite globalization, the nation is still a major actor in today's world. This course tries to understand why this is so by examining the role that nationalism plays in peoples’ identities and the effects of globalization on nations and nation-states. It includes theoretical texts, but also case studies from the recent rise of populism and authoritarianism, the role of supranational entities such as the European Union, and the urgency of global issues such as climate change, inequality, and migration. Examples from the United States, Europe, Latin America, China, and the Middle East.


Social Studies 98mi. Migration in Theory and Practice
Nicole Newendorp
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 12:00-2:45.
In this course, we will examine how and why people migrate from one location to another, focusing both on the theoretical paradigms scholars use to explain migration processes as well a on the individual experiences of migrants. Topics include transnationalism, diaspora, identity formation, integration and assimilation, citizenship claims, and the feminization of migration. Ethnographic readings focus primarily on migration to the US, but also include cases from other world areas, most notably Asia.


Social Studies 98qd. Media, Power, and Resistance - NEW
Ieva Jusionyte
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 9:00-11:45.
Media and power are inextricably linked. On the one hand, mass forms of communication, such as national television and mainstream dailies, have long been circulating hegemonic discourses and given legitimacy to state projects and official ideologies. On the other hand, nicknamed the “Fourth Estate,” news organizations have also acted as watchdogs, monitoring the performance of the government and holding it accountable to the people. Today’s diversified and loosely regulated media landscape has destabilized and complicated this dual role of news organizations in reproducing existing power relations and providing a forum in which citizens can critically discuss public matters. The course draws on social theory and ethnographic research with various forms of media (from print newspapers to online memes, from public radio to “deep fakes”) to raise questions about political agency and trace its limits as well as possibilities through multiple public spheres that are both more participatory and more fractured than ever before.


Social Studies 98qi. Representing the People: Social Political Thought and Populisms - NEW
Angela Maione
Half course (fall term). Monday 12:45-2:45.
Who represents the people and on what basis? What role do the people play in creating, sustaining, or destroying democracy? Who is the most appropriate agent for democratic change: the masses, the working class, the peasantry, or the citizens of a representative democratic state? These questions are currently vibrantly debated by contemporary scholars who issue warnings that come out of fear of mob rule (ochlocracy), expert rule, or fear of the people themselves. Is some form of populism necessary to democracy or is it always a sign of its demise

This class will first explore different contemporary views, including anti-democratic, democratic, and left populisms. We will give attention to the increasing place of socio-economics in these discussions. In order to deepen our understanding of the questions these current positions raise, we will then return to key texts in the history of social and political thought. Readings include selections from Hannah Arendt, Niccolò Machiavelli, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, and Franz Fanon.


Social Studies 98st. The Many Faces of Tyranny
Rosemarie Wagner
Half course (fall term). Friday 12:00-2:45.
This course explores the way tyranny has been presented in different times and places and the many ways tyranny can create unfreedom. From a wild man out of control, to a carefully orchestrated system of control, tyranny wears many faces. This course begins with Plato's tyrant who rises from the rubble of a failed democracy, through early modern defenses of Regicide, to modern accounts of the tyranny of the majority, empire, and structural oppression. Through this course we will examine what a tyrannical nature is, what makes it rise to power, and what can be done to stop it.
 

Social Studies 98ta. What's the Matter with Inequality? Normative and Empirical Perspectives - NEW
Glory Liu
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 3:45-5:45.
This course investigates the diverse ways in which we theorize, study, and talk about economic inequality today. Is inequality wrong because some people have too much, or because others have too little? Or is it wrong simply because some people have more than others? To answer these questions, this course explores prominent social science explanations of the nature, causes, and consequences of economic inequality in the United States alongside normative theories of equality and inequality. We will also investigate the theory and practice of different “solutions” to inequality such as redistribution and "predistribution", philanthropy, and universal basic income.


Social Studies 98td. The Theory and Practice of Democracy in Developing Countries - NEW
Julie Anne Weaver
Half course (fall term). Thursday 12:45-2:45.
What does the practice of democracy look like in developing countries today? How does that practice map on to democratic ideals like representation, participation and accountability? The course will explore these questions through both theoretical and empirical social science research, with cases drawn primarily from Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Topics will include political accountability, state and institutional strength, corruption and clientelism, participatory democracy, managing diversity, and activism and civil society engagement.


Social Studies 98te. Democracy and Education in America - NEW
Rob Willison
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 3:00-5:00.
This course is organized around three crucial questions: (1) What does a truly democratic society require of its educational institutions? (2) How well do our current educational institutions—especially our K-12 schools—live up to the standard set by question 1? (3) What approaches, at the level of both pedagogy and policy, should we take to make our school system more democratic? We’ll address these questions in conversation with philosophers (like John Dewey, Paolo Freire, and Danielle Allen), cognitive psychologists (like Susan Carey), jurists (like Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall), and social scientists (like Raj Chetty and Daniel Koretz).

Junior Tutorials - Spring 2021

Note: Admission is based on student preferences and a lottery system. Undergraduate non-concentrators may enroll in these tutorials if space is available.

Social Studies 98cl. Law and American Society 
Terry Aladjem 
Half course (spring term). TBA
The course examines law as a defining force in American culture and society in four dimensions: as it establishes individual rights, liberties, and limits of toleration; as it attempts to resolve differences among competing constituencies; as it sets out terms of punishment and social control, and as a source of informing images and ideological consistency.  We will take up issues at the level of jurisprudence or political theory, but also at the level of legal cases and public controversy in which these questions arise—cases in which racial or gender equality are at stake, religious or sexual freedom, cases in which the claims of religious communities seem irreconcilable, cases in which the nature and extent of punishment have been debated and the question of who deserves to be punished decided, and notorious public trials in which the national self-understanding has been shaped. Our aim is to bring theory to bear, and down to earth, in each consideration, (we will read Foucault and also visit a prison) and since this is an inaugural presidential year, the issues being debated publicly concerning the law and U.S. Constitution will be much on our minds.
 

Social Studies 98mf. Liberalism and Its Critics
Ana Keilson
Half course (spring term). TBA

Since the term “liberalism” appeared roughly two hundred years ago, it has meant different things to different people. It can mean that consent forms the basis of a limited government, or that individual rights — instead of notions of virtue or the common good — forms the basis of society; it can mean that an emphasis on individual liberty, or cultural pluralism, or secular reason organizes political life. Depending on your point of view, you can be a a social liberal, a liberal egalitarian, a conservative liberal, or a libertarian liberal. This course in intellectual history and the history of political thought examines the various meanings of liberalism since the seventeenth century as an optic to make sense of the complex world we live in. Our focus will be primarily on the articulation of liberal ideas by intellectuals in the Trans-Atlantic West, though we will attend carefully to the historical entanglements of liberalism with global empire and colonialism. We will examine the political and philosophical claims by intellectuals for and against liberalism in four time periods: the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the early twentieth century; the post-WWII / Cold War period; and the 1990s to the present.  Together, we will grapple with the questions that have concerned liberal intellectuals and their critics. Who is the liberal subject? Can we reconcile individual freedom and collective stability? How should we live together? Who decides, and how?


Social Studies 98nd. Justice and Reconciliation after Mass Violence
Jonathan Hansen
Half course (spring term). TBA.
This seminar examines the problem of justice and reconciliation after mass violence: How does a nation sundered by genocide, civil war, or gross human rights violations reestablish the social trust and civic consciousness required of individual and collective flourishing? What is the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility? What is the role of trials, truth commissions, and apology in civil reconciliation? How do specific types of mass violence influence outcomes? What makes some reconciliations successful, others less so? The course engages these and other questions from historical and contemporary perspectives, exploring the legacy of mass violence going back centuries, while examining reconciliation projects across cultures, countries, and continents.

This course comprises three units: 1) a typology of mass violence (civil war, genocide, state repression, for instance) and historical responses; 2) case studies of the U.S. Civil War (and its continuing legacy), the Spanish Civil War, and the Rwandan genocide; and 3) a research and writing workshop emphasizing students own work. The goal of the course is to introduce students to the literature of mass violence from an interdisciplinary perspective (including but not limited to historical, sociological, and anthropological approaches), ultimately launching students on their own research projects.


Social Studies 98nq. Global East Asia
Nicole Newendorp
Half course (spring term). TBA

In this course, we will explore how social life in contemporary East Asia is both influenced by and contributes to processes of globalization. Ethnographic readings on China, Korea, and Japan focus on migration, gender roles, consumption, media, and markets as we trace the role of the global in everyday life for rural and urban inhabitants of a variety of East Asian locations. For these individuals, engagement with the global structures how they make sense of the world and creates desires for future life change.


Social Studies 98ow. Crime and Security in Latin America 
Ieva Jusionyte
Half course (spring term). TBA

This course examines crime and security in Latin America (and their relation to the United States). We’ll focus on the following questions: What is the logic behind naming some but not other things and practices criminal? How does the act of outlawing stem from and feed into anxieties over safety? To what extent does crime produce insecurity, and how does insecurity create crime? Particular attention will be paid to the power asymmetries that underlie legal and political construction of threats and the significance of an ethnographic approach to understanding these dynamics and their effects


Social Studies 98pv. The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School
Charles Clavey
Half course (spring term). TBA

This course examines the distinctive critical theory created by members of the Institute for Social Research—better known as the Frankfurt School—from its origins in the interwar era to the present day. Over these decades, critical theory has used tools from philosophy, psychology, and sociology to grasp the pathologies of the present and to chart a path towards emancipation in the future. We will reconstruct the Frankfurt School’s evolving theory through its connections to the most important themes of twentieth-century thought: capitalism, authoritarianism, individuality, bureaucracy, and alienation. Our goal is not only to gain a deep understanding of critical theory but also to assess its continued relevance to modern social and political thought.
 

Social Studies 98rc. The Politics of Culture in Europe
Andrew Brandel
Half course (spring term). TBA

With the birth of “modern Europe,” cultural difference emerged at the center of urgent debates about the organization of society. Even our present political moment seems to be defined by migration “crisis” and globalization. Public discourse appears to be structured by questions about how we might make a place for others in our societies, or whether we should. Does welcoming others require more than the tolerance of their differences? How/should migrants “integrate” into host cultures? Does an increasingly connected and mobile world mean that cultural differences will be replaced by a uniform global culture? By the same token, does integration mean the potential loss of European culture? What does it mean to have a culture in the first place, who belongs to it, and what kinds of boundaries do they have, if they have them at all? Scholars and politicians have proposed a variety of concepts to help us describe this social reality - concepts like multiculturalism, interculturalism, diversity, globalization, cosmopolitanism  each of which comes with its own political projects. In this tutorial, we will ask where these concepts come from, how have they changed, and how do they impact people’s lives?

We will trace the history of this network of ideas, from the cosmopolitanism of the 18th century urban elites to the Syrian refugee “crisis” that has defined recent political contests on the continent. Cases will include recent migrations of peoples from former colonies to Europe, forced migrations from the margins to the metropole under the Soviet regime, and internal displacements of groups like Ashkenazi Jews and the Roma. In each case, we will pay close attention to the ways in which social scientific knowledges – and in particular, shifting ideas about “culture” - are implicated in these different political positions.

Students will be introduced to empirical research methods in discourse analysis and ethnographic fieldwork, including how anthropologists and sociologists combine interviews and participant-observation with policy analysis.
 

Social Studies 98sc. Caste, Race, and Democracy
Hari Ramesh
Half course (spring term). TBA

Drawing on the resources of social and intellectual history, political theory, and social science, this tutorial will explore the intimacies and differences between two forms of social differentiation: caste in India and race in the United States. We will focus, in particular, on the relationships between caste, race, and imperial power; the diagnoses of and forms of democratic resistance to caste and race subjugation that were articulated in the 19th and 20th centuries; and the place of contemporary social science in documenting both the persistence of oppression along caste and racial lines and the success of efforts to combat such oppression.


Social Studies 98se. Race and Ethnicity in the United States
Christina Ciocca-Eller
Half course (spring term). TBA

The United States is more racially and ethnically diverse than at any point in its history. Yet racial and ethnic social categories remain persistent sources of inequality in American society. This tutorial will interrogate the relationships between race, ethnicity, and inequality, examining theoretical and empirical approaches across multiple social domains. It particularly will emphasize how race and ethnicity structure experiences, opportunities, and outcomes in important social contexts such as neighborhoods, educational institutions, and the labor market, among others.
 

Social Studies 98sh. Human Rights in History
Justin Reynolds
Half course (spring term). TBA

Human rights have become the dominant moral language of our day. When, and how, did they first emerge as an operative system of moral and political belief, and how can their history inform an understanding of contemporary politics and society? Focusing on European, American, and global contexts, this course explores the history of ideas and practices of human rights from the 18th century to the present.


Social Studies 98sv. Capitalism, Time, and Value 
Tracey Rosen
Half course (spring term). TBA

College students are often counseled to "make the most valuable use of their time." The "budgeting" of hours, days, and weeks of a semester often rests on an evaluation of how much time an activity is worth. In this tutorial we will explore how capitalism might shape the way we perceive, understand, and value time. We start from the premise that economic systems do more than organize the production and distribution of goods; they also help organize how we experience the world as well as the meanings and values that shape our actions within it. In order to ground the dynamics of time and value within capitalism, we begin by drawing from anthropological and historical examples to consider the relationship of time and value in a variety of pre-capitalist contexts. The course then considers the way in which capitalist transformations coordinate new forms of value and perceptions of time. We end with an examination of our everyday, contemporary experience of time against the backdrop of "neoliberal" capitalism and the rise of "futures" markets.


Social Studies 98ti. Innovating Democracy: Designing Public Engagement for the 21st Century - NEW
Sean Gray
Half course (spring term). TBA

This course explores the exciting field of participatory innovations in democratic governance and public policy. Our goal will be to identify proposals that generate effective citizen participation and engagement while addressing pressing public problems. A number of challenges for democracy reform will be considered, including the role of expertise, inattention and misinformation, the tyranny of powerful minorities, political polarization, and rising public distrust and disaffection. Throughout, our discussions will be grounded in an analysis of real-world cases, from elections and criminal justice, to international development and urban planning.

 

Senior Tutorial

Social Studies 99a. Tutorial — Senior Year
Anya Bassett, Nicole Newendorp 
Full course (indivisible). 
Writing of senior honors essay. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit.
Note: Required for concentrators.

Social Studies 99b. Tutorial — Senior Year
Anya Bassett, Nicole Newendorp 
Full course (indivisible). 
Writing of senior honors essay. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit.
Note: Required for concentrators.

Reading and Research

Social Studies 91. Supervised Reading and Research
Anya Bassett and members of the Committee 
Half course (fall term; repeated spring term). Hours to be arranged.
Individual work in Social Studies on a topic not covered by regular courses of instruction. Permission of the Director of Studies required.