Courses

2019-20
 

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

Sophomore Tutorial

Social Studies 10a. Introduction to Social Studies
Alex Gourevitch 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 (Spring 2019 course site)
Brandon Terry 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, Sigmund Freud, 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). Monday 3:00-5:00, and a weekly section Wednesday 3:00-5:00.
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). Wednesday 3:00-5:45.

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 68ea. Engaged Philosophy: The Theory and Practice of Altruism - NEW
Bonnie Talbert
Half course (spring term). Monday 12:45-2:45.
Many people feel that it is important to help others and to make the world a better place. This altruistic mission sounds like a noble goal, but like all missions, it 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 such as 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? 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. We will read stories of people who earn money for the sake of giving it away, 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 help students think about what it means to help not just theoretically, but also in practice, both by reading examples and by engaging in altruistic activities of their own.

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.

Special Seminars

Social Studies 96sd. The Crisis of Social Democracy: Its History and Its Future
E.J. Dionne and James Kloppenberg
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 3:00-5:00.

Social democracy, which in the US has been associated with the left-wing of the Democratic Party, has attracted non-communist leftists around the world for over a century. Securing equal participation for all persons in political, economic, and social decision-making has been the aim of social democrats. Will social democracy—and the regulated capitalist welfare states it created—survive, or give way to autocracy, ethnic and national exclusion, and/or neoliberal globalism? Students will read and discuss primary and secondary sources and write research papers on the past or the present of social democracy.

Note: This course is also offered through the History Department as History 14L. Credit may be earned for either SOC-STD 96SD or History 14L, but not both. This course will be lotteried.

Junior Tutorials - Fall 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 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.

Note: This course will run from 12:15-2:15 p.m.


Social Studies 98eo. Art, Political Culture, and Civic Life
Kiku Adatto 
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 3:00-5:00. 

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). Tuesday 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 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 12:45-2:45.
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 3:45-5:45.
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). Wednesday 12:45-2:45.
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 98pf. Rethinking Transnational Feminism
Angela Maione
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 3:00-5:00.

While some claim that global feminism is made possible by a shared common condition among women, others argue that power differentials make such claims nonsensical. What does transnational feminism mean for politics today? Can it be democratic? How have historical figures attempted to think and act on a world stage? This course offers a broad overview of transnational feminism through one genealogy of its appearances in theoretical, social movement, and institutional forms. 


Social Studies 98qb. Democracy and Education in America 
Leslie Finger
Half course (fall term). Monday 3:00-5:00.
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 98qk. The Ideal of the Open Mind
Adam Sandel
Half course (fall term). Thursday 9:45-11:45.
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 98rf. Neoliberalism and Its Discontents in the Middle East and North Africa
Jeremy Siegman
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 12:45-2:45.
This course offers students a theoretical and empirical understanding of neoliberalism - understood, inter alia, as a form of governance that approaches all spheres of life through the lens of the market. The course explores neoliberalism not merely as economic policy but as a set of transformations, roughly since the 1970s, in class relations, everyday life and politics; these transformations speak to broad social-science questions about society, power and politics. The course thus examines neoliberalism from theoretical, political-economic, historical and anthropological perspectives, and students practice associated research methods through assignments. Readings range from key expositions and critiques of neoliberal thought, including F.A. Hayek and Wendy Brown, to empirical studies of neoliberalism in the realms of development initiatives, urban life, war and colonialism, and the recent Arab Uprisings. Empirical materials come largely though not entirely from the Middle East and North Africa. Prior knowledge of the Middle East is not required, and research papers need not focus on the region. 
 

Social Studies 98sa. Constitutional Theory and the American State - NEW
David Lebow
Half course (fall term). Thursday 3:00-5:00.
This junior tutorial introduces students to American constitutionalism and explores its relationships with the American state, American democracy, and American history. The syllabus consists of four distinct, but interconnected modules. The first module is an introduction to constitutional theory: it explores theories of judicial review, constitutional interpretation, and constitutional change. The second module situates constitutionalism in the American political tradition, teasing out its intertwining with liberal, republican, and racist threads of thought. The third module provides a theoretically informed survey of representative topics in American constitutional history: economic regulation in the early twentieth century ‘Lochner era’, the arc from ‘Jim Crow’ to civil rights, the breakdown of the postwar liberal consensus, and democratic constitutionalism in the women’s rights movement. The fourth module takes up major theoretical issues alive in contemporary constitutional debates: the administrative state, inequality, and campaign finance. The tutorial is intended to be accessible and interesting to a wide range of students with interests in any of the following: political theory, constitutional law, American political thought, American history, and contemporary legal controversies.


Social Studies 98se. Race and Ethnicity in the United States - NEW
Christina Ciocca Eller
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 12:45-2:45.
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 98st. The Many Faces of Tyranny - NEW
Rosemarie Wagner
Half course (fall term). Thursday 3:45-5:45.
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 Hobbes's tyrant, to modern accounts of the tyranny of the majority, of empire, and of 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.

Junior Tutorials - Spring 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 98cl. Law and American Society (Spring 2019 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. April date to be determined.
 

Social Studies 98nd. Justice and Reconciliation after Mass Violence (Spring 2019 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 98nq. Global East Asia 
Nicole Newendorp
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 12-2:45.

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). Tuesday 9:45-11:45.

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). Tuesday 3:00-5:45.

This junior tutorial examines the distinctive critical theory created by members of the Institute for Social Research—the so-called 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 98qa. Rawls & the Moral Feelings
P. MacKenzie Bok
Half course (spring term). Thursday 3:00-5:45.

This tutorial will use the Harvard archive of the philosopher John Rawls to uncover his work on a complex theory of moral feelings in the 1950s.  This moral theory would come to underpin Rawls's political philosophy in his famous text A Theory of Justice, yet most of the relevant documents are unpublished.  After learning approaches for archival research from this case study, students will write a historical research paper using other materials in the Rawls archive -- or another archive, with permission of the instructor. 
 

Social Studies 98rc. The Politics of Culture in Europe (Spring 2019 course site)
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 98rg. Aesthetics and Modern Politics (Spring 2019 course site)
Ana Keilson
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 12:45-2:45.

Since Ancient Greece, political philosophers have theorized politics and society alongside a consideration of the aesthetic, defined alternately as the appreciation of beauty and the sensible, non-rational experience of the world. This course considers the aesthetic theories of major political and social theorists - as well as literary, visual, and performing artists - of the modern era, including Kant, Burke, Nietzsche, and the Frankfurt School. 
 

Social Studies 98sc. Caste, Race, and Democracy - NEW
Hari Ramesh
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 12:45-2:45.

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 98sh. Human Rights in History - NEW
Justin Reynolds
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 12:45-2:45.

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

Social Studies 98sm. American Social Movements - NEW
Lisa Gilson
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 3:00-5:45.

How can citizens actually affect political policy? This course will explore how U.S. social movements from the mid-20th century to the present have sought to answer this question. We will examine movements across the ideological spectrum, focusing on the conditions which gave rise to them, how they mobilized, the strategies each adopted, and the dilemmas they encountered in the course of political action. Movements studied include the Civil Rights Movement, SDS, second- and third-wave feminisms, the Moral Majority, the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Antifa. 

Note: This course will typically run from 3:15 – 5:15 p.m. and will occasionally run to 5:45 p.m.


Social Studies 98sv. Capitalism, Time, and Value - NEW
Tracey Rosen
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 3:45-5:45.

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.

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 (Spring 2019 course site)
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.