Courses

2018-19
 

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

Sophomore Tutorial

Social Studies 10a. Introduction to Social Studies
James Johnson and members of the Committee
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 12-2:45, 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
Katrina Forrester, Brandon Terry, and members of the Committee
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 12-2:45, 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, Sigmund Freud, and Michel Foucault.

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

Methods Course

Social Studies 40. Philosophy and Methods of the Social Sciences (2017-18 course site)
Don Tontiplaphol, Tracey Rosen
Half course (spring term). 
This course integrates research methods with an investigation of the philosophical foundations of the social sciences. Topics covered include causal explanation, interpretation, rational choice and irrationality, relativism, collective action, and social choice. 

Engaged Scholarship Courses

Learn more about Engaged Scholarship courses here.

Social Studies 68ct. The Chinese Immigrant Experience in America
Nicole Newendorp
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 12:00-2:45
Uses the history of Boston’s Chinatown as a case study to examine the experiences of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. from the 1880s until the present. Employs historical, anthropological, and sociological perspectives to examine major themes related to the social and economic development of U.S. Chinatowns and Chinese immigrant communities throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. This course is an Engaged Scholarship course, limited to students who are concurrently participating in a Harvard-affiliated service program in or around Boston’s Chinatown. Class discussions and assignments will make active links with students’ service work. Enrollment capped at 10. Open to students in all concentrations.


Social Studies 68hj. Justice in Housing (2017-18 course site)
P. MacKenzie Bok
Half course (spring term). Monday 3:00-5:45.
How do theories of justice deal with the problem of housing?  What use does American housing policy and politics make of ideas about “fairness” and “justice”?  This course will juxtapose contemporary philosophical debates about distributive justice with current concrete problems in housing policy, using the Boston/Cambridge area as a case study.  Seminars will feature guests from a number of local housing-focused organizations, and students’ final papers will assess real housing policy examples in light of a chosen framework of justice.  As this is an Engaged Scholarship course, preference will be given to students involved in direct service to housing-insecure populations (whether in shelters, the public schools, urban summer camps, etc.). Enrollment capped at 10. Open to students in all concentrations.


Social Studies 68uh: Urban Health and Community Change: Action Planning With Local Stakeholders
Flavia Perea
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 12:00-2:45.
This is a project-based course on urban community health. We will examine urban health topics from a macro level in the classroom, while exploring community health issues at the local level by engaging with community stakeholders on a health promotion project. We will explore the social conditions people need to be healthy, and strategies to advance health equity that put people in diverse communities on pathways to health as opposed to disparities. To understand how health promoting environments can be created and sustained, we will discuss how community engagement, participatory planning, and cross-sector collaboration can advance health improvement efforts at the local level. There are great possibilities as well as challenges to creating and sustaining healthy communities, particularly in rapidly evolving cities in major metropolitan areas. This course will provide a window into how pressing, highly visible and complex national issues are experienced and addressed in real time, and the real-world complexities involved in advancing meaningful community change. Enrollment capped at 10. Open to students in all concentrations.

Special Seminars

Social Studies 96ld. Challenges to Liberal Democracy: Trump, Europe, and the New Ethno-Nationalism
E.J. Dionne
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 3:00-5:45.

Is liberal democracy in crisis? Has it always been in crisis?

Until recently, liberal democracy was largely taken for granted in the West, and many saw it as the wave of the future around the globe. But over the last decade, it has come under challenge in unanticipated ways. Far-right parties gained ground in many countries, although recent elections in Europe suggest that they have plateaued and might even be in retreat. Donald Trump’s election brought this conversation directly to American shores. This class will discuss the challenge to liberal democracy, with special reference to the United States, but also in comparative perspective. There will be particular attention to France, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany and also discussion of the similarities and differences between our time and the 1930s. We will discuss the economic, sociological, and cultural challenges to liberal democracy, and the obligations that fall upon those who would defend it.

Note: This course will be lotteried.

Junior Tutorials - Fall 2018

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 12:00-2:45.
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 3:00-5:45. 

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 98jl. Global Social Movements
Alison Denton Jones 
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 12:00-2:45.
Social movements are often considered a driving force behind political, social, and cultural change. This course explores the major theoretical and empirical approaches used in the social sciences to understand social movements. The course will examine a range of case studies from around the globe, including movements dealing with human rights, economic and environmental justice, and armed revolutions. Particular attention will be paid to transnational activism.


Social Studies 98lf. Globalization and the Nation State
Nicolas Prevelakis 
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 3:00-5:45. 
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 nationalism. Examples from the United States, Western Europe, Latin America, India, 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 as 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 98nb. Inequality and Social Mobility in America
Anya Bassett 
Half course (fall term). Thursday 3:00-5:45.
The United States is currently experiencing high levels of income and wealth inequality and stagnant social mobility. This course will ask why this is and what, if anything, should be done about it. We will consider both social and individual explanations for inequality and social mobility, and we will examine efforts to decrease inequality and increase social mobility through educational and legal means. 


Social Studies 98oc. Humans, Technology, and Biopolitics
Anya Bernstein
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 12:00-2:45.
Recent scientific and technological advances are increasingly questioning what it means to be human. Debates on life extension, gene editing, and artificial intelligence regularly appear in the media, with views ranging from techno-optimism—the idea that such breakthroughs will deliver us from suffering—to the warnings that technoscience is advancing at such a rapid pace, that there is not enough time for ethical guidelines to be developed. Some argue that science is increasingly delivering on the promises traditionally made by Judeo-Christian religions, while others assert that such techno-optimist thinking is a kind of new religion in and of itself. Debates around emerging technologies cut across traditional political lines, making them specifically biopolitical, where such issues as human enhancement, control of reproduction,  genetic engineering, and many others, create new types of political positions and actors. This course will examine these issues, focusing specifically on what concepts of “the human” emerge from these debates, and how certain ideas about the future affect how we live and manage our time now, as futurist discourses are producing affective states of both hope and fear. Among the case studies for this course, we will look at the cultural and philosophical movements of transhumanism and posthumanism, new utopian and eschatological imaginaries, as well as ethical and legal questions of developing and using biomedical technologies, including their non-therapeutic use. As we proceed, we will pay particular attention to the shifting relations between body and person, human and time, transcendence and corporality, and technology and biology, while discussing how they contribute to the rethinking of the human condition in the technological age. Materials for the course will include academic pieces from a range of disciplines: STS, anthropology, philosophy, bioethics, as well as non-academic media sources, documentaries, and science fiction films. 
 

Social Studies 98pv. The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School
David Lebow 
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 3:00-5:45.
This junior tutorial examines the major thinkers and themes associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. From its origins in the interwar crisis, critical theory has sought to diagnose the pathologies of the present in order to chart paths for social and political emancipation in the future. The readings trace the development of the Frankfurt School its various generations, engaging with many of the most important themes of twentieth century continental philosophy, including fascism, democracy, capitalism, bureaucracy, globalization and inequality, to name just a few. The goal of the tutorial is not only to gain a deeper understanding of the Frankfurt School, but also to assess the continued relevance of this distinctive approach to the critical theory of society.


Social Studies 98qb. Democracy and Education in America 
Leslie Finger
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 12:00-2:45.
This course explores the political dimensions of education policy in the United States. It examines the various political factors that have contributed to modern battles over education policy making. The course draws from political science scholarship as well as other disciplines to explore how race, the courts, unequal political participation, interest group advocacy, social movements, as well as local, state, and federal institutions have impacted education in the U.S. The last few weeks are spent applying these ideas to the case of school choice and charters. Throughout, the course considers the normative implications of education policies and battles, asking how particular education proposals and the behavior of the actors pushing them impact the health of democracy.


Social Studies 98ra. Topics in African American Political Thought - NEW
Brandon Terry
Half course (fall term). Monday 3:00-5:45
This tutorial will closely examine influential figures and texts in the history of African-American political thought from the immediate post-emancipation period to the present. We will critically evaluate, assess, and constructively critique a range of African American authors and their interlocutors across genres (e.g., philosophy, literature, music, etc.) to better understand the development of key traditions, themes, and concepts. This year's seminar will focus especially on African American accounts of "nationalism" and "crime" as problems for politics, ethics, and social theory. 


Social Studies 98rb. Theorizing the Postcolony - NEW
Anurag Sinha
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 9:00-11:45.
This course investigates what is distinctive about postcolonial political theory and what lessons it holds for political and social theory in general. We will revisit authors from Social Studies 10a and 10b, reading them alongside recent work in postcolonial thought. In so doing, we will ask: What are the different ways in which the postcolony has been understood? Does postcolonial politics display any particular characteristics? Can the extant idiom of political theory capture the varieties of postcolonial political imaginaries? How does postcolonial thought problematize our reading of the canonical history of political thought? Salient themes of the course include modernity, nationalism, democracy, religion, and questions of authority and freedom. Several weeks will be devoted to understanding the postcolonial experience of South Asia, the Caribbean, North Africa, and Latin America. 

Junior Tutorials - Spring 2019

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 (2017-18 course site)
Terry Aladjem 
Half course (spring term). Thursday 3:00-5:45.
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.
Note: A prison trip is planned, subject to approval. 
 

Social Studies 98nd. Justice and Reconciliation after Mass Violence (2017-18 course site)
Jonathan Hansen
Half course (spring term). Monday 12:00-2:45.
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 apology (or confession) and amnesty 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), Argentina’s Dirty War, the Bosnian 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 98pf. Rethinking Transnational Feminism 
Angela Maione
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 3:00-5:45.

What is transnational feminism? Is it an internationalized identity, a form of solidarity, a political project, a type of activism, a set of practices, a methodology, or something else? Is it a response to political economy, global feminism, differences among women, post-colonialism, or the national limitations of feminist movements and thought?

This course answers these questions in order to offer a broad overview of transnational feminism in light of one genealogy of its appearances in theoretical, social movement, and institutional forms. It begins with questions around conflicts and compatibilities between the politics of home, on the one hand, and solidarity among women, on the other. It tracks the rise of transnational feminist theory and practice, and explores its influence in debates on both globalization and women’s human rights. Using frameworks from recent scholarship, it examines key transnational-oriented texts, documents, and speeches from the 18th to 20th centuries in the history of feminist political thought. Finally, it invites students to rethink 21st century positions using historical and theoretical resources encountered in the course.

This course asks, Can transnational feminism be democratic? How have historical figures attempted to think and act on behalf of women on a world stage? How might aspirations to think across national borders in the name of feminism be understood today? A variety of interpretive and theoretical approaches as employed in course texts will be considered.

 

Social Studies 98pl. Empire and Colonialism in the Modern World (2017-18 course site)
Daragh Grant
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 3:00-5:45.
This tutorial will expose students to the scholarship on modern empire from across the fields of anthropology, history, and political science. Students will explore how relations of empire and colonialism were constituted through structures of law and of economic relations, as well as how notions of race and culture were shaped by imperial encounters. By focusing on island colonies of the Caribbean, students will also be invited to explore the rich seam of anti-colonial and post-colonial theory that developed in that context. Finally, the readings for this tutorial will introduce students to a range of methodological approaches to the study of empire, with an emphasis on historical methods, and will invite them to consider the strengths and weaknesses of these different approaches. 


Social Studies 98qf. Art, Politics, and Society (2017-18 course site)
Ana Keilson
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 12-2:45.

How can we understand modern society through art? How can modern art connect theories of politics and culture to lived experience? How do artworks, artistic communities, and ideas about aesthetic expression serve as the basis to analyze – and in some instances, change – the features of modern life? This tutorial seeks to answer these questions by examining the intellectual history of modern art, including concepts of “modernity” and “modernism" in literature, performance, and the visual arts from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Combined with our own observations of the contemporary art scene, we will examine how the convergence of modern art and politics has historically negotiated boundaries between tradition and avant-gardism, nature and technology, the self and the community, protest and participation, consumption and production, reason and intuition, the body and object. Our focus will be on Europe, Russia/USSR, and the United States. Weekly assignments will combine primary and secondary readings in intellectual history, the arts, social theory, and philosophy with screenings and listening sessions. Together, we will attempt to answer the deceptively simple question: what does it mean to be modern?
 

Social Studies 98qj. Secularism and Its Critics (2017-18 course site)
Justin Reynolds
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 12-2:45.

Often heralded as the antidote to religious conflict, “secularism” has come under attack in recent years by scholars across the political spectrum. This course explores these debates as they have taken shape around reappraisals of the “secularization thesis” – a once-dominant theory asserting the declining importance of religion in the modern world – since the Cold War. Our goal will be to explore the relation of religion to democratic thought and practice by reading both recent critics and defenders of secular modernity in the fields of history, philosophy, anthropology, and political theory. While the course will focus on Europe and the United States, it will also seek to understand how the legacies of colonialism and globalization have shaped the face of religion and the secular today. Two central questions of the course will be: Is secularism dead as a political program? If so, what ought to replace it?


Social Studies 98qk. The Ideal of the Open Mind (2017-18 course site)
Adam Sandel
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 3:00-5:45.

We commonly consider an open mind as essential to fair-minded moral, political, and legal judgment.  If you are called for jury duty, for example, you will likely be asked whether you are confident you can judge the case with an open mind. If you answer “no,” you will be dismissed from the jury. To have a closed mind is to resist the possibility of persuasion, to be dogmatic, recalcitrant, even bigoted.  But what exactly is an open mind? 

This course will examine and assess the ideal of the open mind as it has emerged in the Western philosophical tradition.  In the first half of the course, we will consider the ideal of detachment and impartiality that emerged during the Enlightenment and remains influential today. In the second half of the course, we will examine various attempts to recast and revive the case for tradition, partial association, and interpretive pre-judgments that emerged in reaction to the Enlightenment, some of which harken back to ancient political thought.

Throughout the course, we will address questions of contemporary relevance, drawn from the realms of law, politics, culture, history, and philosophy.  For example: Is an impartial jury the same as a fair jury?  Is political rhetoric invariably a form of manipulation and deceit, or is it a way of persuading people by appealing to them from within their own perspectives? Is one’s own upbringing and linguistic background a regrettable limitation to the understanding of other cultures, or a resource for mutual understanding? Should we try to understand the past by setting aside our contemporary views and assumptions, or by drawing upon them? In what sense should a liberal arts education aim at cultivating an open mind?


Social Studies 98rc. The Politics of Culture in Europe - NEW
Andrew Brandel
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 3:00-5:45.

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 98rd. The Problem of Work - NEW
Katrina Forrester
Half course (spring term). Monday 12:00-2:45.

We are often told that the nature of work is changing. But how should we think about it? From the work ethic to emotional labor, housework to service work, welfare to the strike, this tutorial will explore the history of political ideas about work in the twentieth century. We will combine readings in classic texts in the history of social and political theory, intellectual history and feminism to provide students with the major conceptual tools for understanding the transformation of work in the twentieth century, and in our own.


Social Studies 98re. Patriotism, Nationalism, and Identity - NEW
Rebecca Ploof
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 3:00-5:45.

Embraced by some and rejected by others, identity politics permeates the contemporary political landscape. Among many markers of identity, nationality and nationalism have seen a remarkable recent resurgence. How, though, are national identities formed and constructed? How are they expressed and mythologized? Can identifying with nation be separated from nationalism? And can nationalism, for that matter, be meaningfully disentangled from patriotism? 

Given nationality’s multidimensional nature, the course will examine these and related questions through works of history, oratory, epic poetry, political theory, dramatic tragedy, comparative politics, and film. In keeping with this interdisciplinary approach, the class will also address interpretive methods across an array of mediums including text, image, and video.

 

Social Studies 98rf. Neoliberalism and Its Discontents in the Middle East and North Africa - NEW
Jeremy Siegman
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 12:00-2:45.
This course exposes students to theoretical, political-economic, historical and anthropological perspectives on neoliberalism in the Middle East and North Africa and more generally. Raising broad humanistic social-science questions about the relations among states, markets and the social, the course explores neoliberalism beyond economic policy as a set of transformations in class relations, everyday life, nationalist politics, and regional politics. Readings range from key exposition and critiques of neoliberal thought to a geographic focus on Egypt, the Levant, and the Gulf states. The course concludes by considering the fraught legacy of neoliberalism today, in the region, and beyond.

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.