Courses

2021-22
 

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 foundations of modern social theory from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Our focus will be on the rise of democratic, capitalist societies and the concomitant development of modern moral, political, and economic ideas, with special emphasis on empire, race, and inequality. Authors we will examine include among others, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Alexis de Tocqueville, Frederick Douglass, Charles Darwin, 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 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 
Andrew Brandel
Half course (spring term). 
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 10:30-11:45.

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 68rj. Restorative and Transformative Justice - NEW
Bonnie Talbert
Half course (fall term). Friday 12:45-2:45.
Restorative justice (RJ) is a quickly growing field, and has become central to discussions of harm, crime, punishment, and power. Yet it is not obvious what the core ideas and practices of RJ are. This class will center on an examination of the rich diversity of understandings, practices, histories, and activist causes that are part of the multiplicity of RJ movements. Are there foundational ideas and practices that unite RJ programs? What inspires people to turn to RJ? What is the nature of the disagreements and conflicts that have emerged within the movement? How are we to understand the overlap and tensions between the agendas of restorative and transformative justice (TJ)?

One thing that has become clear is that RJ is not merely about a set of circle or conference practices. It is also a set of beliefs and teachings concerning how we relate to ourselves and our communities. These teachings do not merely lie behind the practices of RJ and TJ, they are an integral part of those practices. In trying to transform our patterns of responding to harm, these movements also seek to transform our ideas about how to conduct our daily lives. Just as we will critically assess the conferencing and circle practices of RJ and TJ we will likewise examine the everyday teachings of restorative living that are central to these movements.

This is an engaged scholarship course, and a guiding assumption is that students will be interested in applying RJ practices in a particular setting, organization, or group they are involved in. Resources and opportunities to practice RJ skills will be provided for students who want assistance in finding a context to practice RJ outside of class. In addition to discussing academic literature, case studies, interviews, etc., each class meeting will devote time to RJ practice. The first half of the course will focus our practice time on building circle fluency, while the later weeks will be focused on providing support as students take their practices to their communities.

 

Special Seminars

Social Studies 96ap. The Future of American Political Parties in Historical and Comparative Perspective
E.J. Dionne and Theda Skocpol
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 3:00-5:00.

What is the state of the American political party system? Is it working? Is it in crisis? Are those even the right questions? This class will examine the current state of American political parties in historical and comparative perspective. It will deal with issues such as representation, organization, the role of parties in governance, and polarization around race, class, ethnicity, and immigration. We will examine stability, fragmentation, and realignment by bringing in lessons from party systems in other democratic nations.

Note:  This course is also offered through the Government Department as GOV 1316. Credit may be earned for either SOC-STD 96AP or GOV 1316.

 

Junior Tutorials - Fall 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 98ax. Development and Modernization: A Critical Perspective
Stephen Marglin
Half course (fall term). Thursday 12:15-2:15.
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 non-Western contexts. 


Social Studies 98dx. Topics in Feminist Political Thought - NEW
Katrina Forrester
Half course (fall term). Monday 3:00-5:00.

This course examines key currents in feminist political thought. It introduces students to classic texts of late twentieth-century feminist theory, explores the key arguments that have preoccupied radical, socialist, liberal, Black, postcolonial and queer feminists, and examines how these arguments have changed over time. We will critically evaluate, assess, and critique a range of feminist authors and explore key feminist approaches to a range of problems in politics and social theory, including the nature of capitalism, sexuality, work, gender, race, class, technology, and decolonization.


Social Studies 98lf. Globalization and the Nation State
Nicolas Prevelakis 
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 3:00-5:00.
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 pandemic, the rise of populism and authoritarianism, the challenges 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 98nb. Inequality and Social Mobility in America
Anya Bassett
Half course (fall term). Thursday 3:00-5:00.
Income and wealth inequality in America are at their highest levels in a century. Historically, one reason Americans have been thought to tolerate inequality is that we tend to believe that our society is a mobile one, where people can easily move from one social class to another. But in recent years, inequality and stagnant social mobility have been associated with increasing social and political distrust and unrest. In this course, we will examine the factors that have led to this historical moment, learn about how Americans experience living in an unequal society, and consider the future of equality and mobility in the United States. How should our society be shaped, and what are our own roles as members of that society?


Social Studies 98nq. Global East Asia
Nicole Newendorp
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 12:45-2:45.
In this course, we will consider the everyday effects of globalization on contemporary East Asia as well as topics related to cultural exchange and interaction more broadly around the globe. Ethnographic readings focus on cultural production, migration, consumption, media, and scientific knowledge as we trace the role of the global in everyday life and how anthropologists study and write about the social and cultural transformations that accompany individuals’ engagement with global processes in both East Asia and other world areas. We will examine market structures and actors that connect vastly divergent regions in particular ways; investigate how East Asia contributes to global movements of people, ideas, and goods; question how specific pathways of movement matter for the cultural interactions that result; and consider the complexities involved with documenting and studying these contemporary global processes that affect us all.


Social Studies 98pv. The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School
Charles Clavey
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 3:00-5:00.
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 98sm. Identity and Protest in Modern America - NEW
Abigail Modaff
Half course (fall term). Monday 3:00-5:00.
What kind of politics does identity create? How can protest define who we are? Is all politics identity politics, or can—should?—our differences be overcome? This course will explore how identity and American belonging fuel protest and shape the realm of political possibility. Using historical study, theory, and analysis of present-day events, we will investigate how different ways of understanding ourselves and our communities have shaped the past century. The first half of the course considers the “Progressive Era,” a time of continent-wide activism and reform at the turn of the twentieth century. Between Reconstruction and the Great Depression, democratic dreams clashed with suspicion and fear: of labor revolution, of racial degeneration, of unwomanly women and incendiary ideas. The first half of the course traces different identities that emerged during the Progressive Era, such as class, sexuality, ability status, race, and gender. The course’s second half will trace the themes we identify in the Progressive Era forward into the twenty-first century. Which assumptions about identity do we want to keep? What new ways of thinking about identity and politics might emerge from the past? And what can studying identity before identity politics tell us about the future of protest? This is a junior tutorial.


Social Studies 98st. The Many Faces of Tyranny
Rosemarie Wagner
Half course (fall term). Friday 12:00-2:00.
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 98td. The Theory and Practice of Democracy in Developing Countries
Julie Anne Weaver
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 9:45-11:45.
What does the practice of democracy look like in low- and middle-income countries today? How does that practice map on to democratic ideals like representation, participation and accountability? What are developing countries’ major democratic challenges and successes? The course will explore these questions through both theoretical and empirical social science research, with cases drawn primarily from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. 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
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).


Social Studies 98ua. Race and Ethnicity in Comparative Perspective - NEW
Amy Alemu
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 12:00-2:00.

This course examines constructions of race, ethnicity, class, and caste in historical and global comparison, with attention to contexts outside of the United States. We will read historical works investigating racialization from as early as the 11th century, as well as more contemporary ethnography and sociology from African, South Asian, Native, and Pacific studies, among others. Our goal is both to nuance our understanding of the material, social, and political conditions that have linked identity with inequality, and to gain a comparative perspective toward researching race and ethnicity from and beyond the United States.


Social Studies 98ub. Terror and Terrorism in Global History - NEW
William Whitham
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 3:00-5:00.
Violence to achieve political goals, whether used by state or non-state actors, is ancient, universal, and consequential. This course analyzes political violence by drawing on ethics, psychology, political science, sociology, and communications. We will study terrorist regimes, organizations, and networks across five continents, from the Jacobins to today’s jihadis and white supremacists. Rather than pathologize terrorists, we will place political violence at the center of a modern story about agency, structure, and power. 

 

Junior Tutorials - Spring 2022

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). 
The course examines law as a vehicle of political conflict and a defining force in American society in four dimensions: 1.) as it establishes individual rights, liberties, and limits of toleration; 2.) as it attempts to resolve differences among competing constituencies; 3.) as it sets out terms of punishment and social control having effects on race and class, and 4.) as a source of informing images and ideological meaning. We will examine these themes from their historical roots and their constitutional and theoretical origins, to their manifestations in our current political debates. We will take up issues at the level of jurisprudence or political theory, but also as they arise or are settled in legal cases by the courts—cases in which racial or gender equality are at stake, religious or sexual freedom, cases in which the nature and content of political speech are questioned, 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 examine prisons and mass incarceration) and since this is an inaugural presidential year in which the constitutional framework for our democracy has been tested, the issues being raised accordingly will be much on our minds. 


Social Studies 98eo. Art, Political Culture, and Civic Life
Kiku Adatto
Half course (spring term).

The seminar explores the interplay of the arts, political 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? 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 98mi. Migration in Theory and Practice
Nicole Newendorp
Half course (spring term).

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 98nd. Justice and Reconciliation after Mass Violence
Jonathan Hansen
Half course (spring term). 
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 98rc. Language, Culture, Power and the Making of Europe
Andrew Brandel
Half course (spring term).

How do the languages we use shape our thinking? And how do our ideas about how language works intersect with issues of race, gender, and class? This course is an introduction to key debates in the social scientific study of language as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon.

Our readings focus on a range of contexts and issues unfolding across Europe – from colonial practices of language documentation and translation to discourses of bilingualism and code-switching, from “migrant” literature to public debates about the roots of national identity. At the same time, we will explore how the study of language itself has historically contributed to the creation and maintenance of the idea of “Europe” in the first place, both in the way it narrates the history of and relationships between languages, and in describing their differing capacities. Tracing this story will in turn require that we ask how European ideas about language have been naturalized in the social sciences, and what kinds of alternatives have emerged to challenge this hegemony. Instead of treating language as a separate domain of research, therefore, we will see how language helps constitute the social and political worlds in which we live, as well as how our ideas about language reflect and produce a variety of normative assumptions.


Social Studies 98se. Race and Ethnicity in the United States
Sarah James
Half course (spring term).

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
Ana Isabel Keilson
Half course (spring term). 

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).

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 Studie 98ta. What's the Matter with Inequality? Normative and Empirical Perspectives
Glory Liu
Half course (spring term).

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

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. 


Social Studies 98uc. Colonialism and Postcoloniality - NEW
Ruodi Duan
Half course (spring term).

By 1914, European rule extended over 85% of the land surface on Earth. In the colonized world, a multiplicity of ideologies and movements sought political self-determination and an end to imperialism in all of its forms. Anti-colonial nationalism in the twentieth century collided with the course of the World Wars and the Global Cold War, giving rise to fierce debates about the relationship between race, nationhood, and the international order. With a focus on Asia and Africa, we will consider the emergence of postcolonial thought and its central concerns related to knowledge, culture, and sovereignty in formerly colonized societies. Thematically, we will discuss the legacies of imperial violence and scientific racism, the impact of Marxism-Leninism, war and revolution, and the diverse trans-regional connections that linked the states and activists of the decolonizing world. 


Social Studies 98ud. Critical Theory of Knowledge, Technology and Power - NEW
Bo-Mi Choi
Half course (spring term).

This tutorial explores the role and impact of science and technology on society, culture and politics from the perspective of critical theory. Building on the foundations of 20th-century critical theory by thinkers such as Benjamin, Heidegger and Foucault, the course provides an intellectual bridge to recent theoretic contributions in the field of science and technology studies (STS). Questions we’ll address along the way include: how do science and technology shape our experience and knowledge of the world and ourselves? how do they co-produce our political and social order? what impact do they have on democratic processes and on regulating human behavior? what are the legal ramifications of new technologies? and what kinds of ethical implications do we need to consider as we adopt them? 

While the tutorial is largely designed as a theory course, we will also apply the theoretical components to concrete material case studies such as artificial intelligence and ethics, gender in science, privacy and big data, or racial bias in algorithmic systems. In addition to “classic” critical theory, readings are drawn from disciplines across the social sciences, including anthropology and newer fields such as AI studies. Rather than conceptualizing science and technology in Promethean terms as mere “tools” of progress, we will closely examine how they are intrinsically constitutive of the ways we experience, order and govern the world, for better or worse. The aim of this tutorial is to collaboratively arrive at an amplified social theoretical framework that enables us to critically engage and normatively evaluate scientific and technological innovations from the standpoint of social justice, democratic freedom, and human emancipation. 

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.