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 2017

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, Popular Culture, and Civic Life
Kiku Adatto 
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 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, 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?  What accounts for impulse to control and censor the arts? 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 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 98nb. Inequality and Social Mobility in America
Anya Bassett 
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 4-6.
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 98nq. Global East Asia
Nicole Newendorp
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 1-3.
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 (fall term). Tuesday 1-3.
This course examines how governing through crime has become a dominant mode of power in Latin America and considers the political and social effects that such regime of governance has thus far produced. Combining social theory with ethnographic case studies – which include the “war on drugs” in Colombia and in Mexico, security tactics and aesthetics in urban Brazil, gang sovereignty and violence in El Salvador and Honduras, informal economies, smuggling, and unauthorized migration on the U.S.-Mexico border, among others – we will analyze historical, economic, and cultural processes that have shaped the organized brutalities and petty delinquencies in the region. The underlying questions throughout the semester will be the following: Who has the power to outlaw particular activities and what is the logic behind designating people who engage in them as criminals? How do security policies and strategies shape the urban environment, and why does security buildup, such as militarization of borders and the building of fortified enclaves, create, rather than reduce insecurity While laws establish formal boundaries between the legal and the illegal, how does a bottom-up approach to the lived experiences of crime blur this separation? The main goal of this course to understand the entanglement between crime and security from a perspective that does not take the state or its legal categories for granted.

Social Studies 98pv. The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School
David Lebow 
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 2-4.
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 98qa. Rawls and the Moral Feelings - NEW
P. MacKenzie Bok
Half course (fall term). Wednesday 4-6.
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 98qb. Democracy and Education in America - NEW
Leslie Finger
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 2-4.
Education has been an active and contentious area of policymaking in the U.S. Many issues that policymakers grappled with throughout the 20th century – racial segregation, school funding, teachers’ rights, etc. – continue to be the subject of legislative battles. This course seeks to provide students a comprehensive foundation in several of the most debated - and most important - policy areas in U.S. K-12 schooling today: desegregation, school funding, teachers’ unions, and school choice. In each of the four focus areas, students will learn about the evolution of the issue, the different ethical perspectives on the issue, and its impact on political and student outcomes. We will hear from political scientists, sociologists, legal scholars, philosophers, and economists, among others. In addition to gaining deep content knowledge on the history, politics, and ethics of K-12 schooling, students will learn the basics of social science research design. They will put their research design skills to work through an original research paper on a topic related to education policy that they will work on throughout the semester. 

Social Studies 98qc. Populism and Democracy - NEW
William Selinger
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 4-6.
Contemporary politics is haunted by the specter of populism. Yet what exactly is populism? Is it a genuine pathology facing democratic polities? Or is it a meaningless term that has been invented to impugn legitimate democratic movements? This course makes use of the tools of history and political theory to explore these and other questions, with the aim of achieving a better handle on the populist phenomenon. We will examine the rich contemporary literature on the relationship between populism and democracy. We will also delve into American history and consider whether there has in fact been a lasting populist undercurrent in American politics.

Social Studies 98qe. Medicine and Society - NEW
Kristin Skrabut
Half course (fall term). Tuesday 4-6.
Biomedicine plays a profound role in shaping social phenomena. It informs how we conceptualize ourselves, how we care for others, the ethical dilemmas we confront, and our global political engagements.  Drawing on readings and insights from anthropology, science and technology studies, and the medical humanities, students will explore the socio-political, moral, and existential issues associated with biomedicine, while also developing theoretical and methodological tools they can use to conduct their own person-centered investigations of afflictions and therapies in the US and around the world.  By engaging ethnographic case studies on topics such as abortion, addiction, organ transplants, disability, and infectious disease, students will develop an understanding of how social and political processes shape health and disease outcomes, as well as how culture is revealed and produced in the ways people pursue and receive medical care.

Junior Tutorials - Spring 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 98cl. Law and American Society
Terry Aladjem 
Half course (spring term). Thursday 2-4.
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.
Note: A prison trip is planned, subject to approval. 

Social Studies 98nc. The Economics of Education
Amanda Pallais 
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 3-5.
This course examines economic aspects of education issues, using quantitative research. We will examine several of the major proposed strategies for improving schools including increasing school resources, enhancing school accountability, and improving teacher selection and training. We will also discuss higher education and education in developing economies. The class culminates with students writing a serious research paper. 

Social Studies 98nd. Justice and Reconciliation after Mass Violence
Jonathan Hansen
Half course (spring term). Monday 1-3.
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 98ou. Environmental Theory
Rebecca Ploof
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 4-6.
The term “anthropocene” – which suggests that the natural world has been profoundly altered by human activity – originated in the physical sciences and has become an increasingly popular a way to describe the time in which we live.  But how have the social sciences understood nature and humanity’s relationship to it?  Is this relationship best framed in terms of human exceptionality and domination?  Is our connection to the natural world and its non-human inhabitants best construed, alternatively, in terms of interdependence or, perhaps, ethical obligation?  What are the social, political, and economic implications of the relationship between nature and humanity?  This course will explore these and related concerns by pairing classic texts from the history of social and political thought with contemporary ecological discourse. 

Social Studies 98pb. Global Slums
Kristin Skrabut
Half course (spring term). Thursday 2-4.

This course investigates “the slum” as a social product, an icon of disorder, and a setting for diverse cultures and modes of sociality. By comparing ethnographic case studies of slums from around the world, we explore how slums emerge at the intersection of global inequalities, state planning, and the insurgent practices of the poor. Topics we cover include: rural-urban migration, spatial segregation, housing and infrastructure, informal markets, sustainability, and urban social movements.

Social Studies 98pd. Capitalism and American Culture Since the Gilded Age
Ryan Acton
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 4-6.

This course asks how capitalism and American culture have shaped each other since the rise of the modern economy after the Civil War. To what extent and in what ways has culture shaped economic life? To what extent and in what ways has economic life shaped the desires, aspirations, and values of Americans? Topics may include: evangelical businessmen, investment banking, race and suburban development, Walmart, cosmetic products, women in the corporate workplace, masculinity and the self-made man, the cult of celebrity, the "American Dream," and the astrology column of the LA Times.

Social Studies 98pl. Empire and Colonialism in the Modern World
Daragh Grant
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 4-6.
This junior tutorial will expose students to the scholarship on modern empire from across the fields of anthropology, history, law, and political science. Students will be asked to consider the differences and commonalities in empires across space and time. They will also 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. 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 98qd. Media, Power, and Resistance - NEW
Ieva Jusionyte
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 1-3.

Media and power are inextricably linked. On the one hand, mass forms of communication, such as national television and mainstream dailies, circulate hegemonic discourses and give legitimacy to state ideologies. On the other hand, nicknamed the “Fourth Estate,” news organizations can act as watchdogs, monitoring the performance of the government and holding it accountable to the people. This course examines this dual role of the media in reproducing existing power relations and providing a forum in which citizens can critically discuss public matters. Using social theory and anthropology, we will pay close attention to the performativity of different media forms; consider how the media achieves effects of truth in its depiction of reality; and analyze situations in which it becomes a tool in the hands of those who seek to challenge official narratives and governance regimes.

Social Studies 98qf. Modern Art, Politics, and Society - NEW
Ana Keilson
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 1-3.

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 visions of art serve as the basis to analyze – and in some instances, change – the features of modern life? This tutorial seeks to answer these questions by combining the empirical study of the contemporary art scene with an historical survey of the performing, visual, and literary arts from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, emphasizing how the convergence of art and politics has negotiated boundaries between fact and fiction, nature and technology, the local and the global, private and public, protest and participation, consumer and producer, reason and intuition, the body and object. Our focus will be on Europe, Russia/USSR, and the United States, though examples from throughout the globe (esp East Asia) will be considered as well. Weekly assignments will combine primary source readings, screenings, and listening sessions with secondary texts in history, anthropology, philosophical aesthetics, social theory, and science studies. Together, we will attempt to answer to answer the deceptively simple question: what does it mean to be modern? 

Social Studies 98qh. Ancient Chinese Thought and Modern China - NEW
Sungho Kimlee​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 4-6.

The Hundred Schools of Thought that flourished during the Warring States period (475 BC – 221 BC) had a profound influence on Chinese culture and society. This course will examine the four major schools of Chinese thought: Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism. The course begins by introducing the key Confucian ideas and concepts. Then it investigates the Mohist, Daoist, and Legalist response to Confucianism. We conclude by discussing the enduring relevance of these philosophical ideas in modern China. The course will focus on close readings of the primary texts. All texts will be read in translation, and no prior knowledge of Chinese philosophy is assumed.

Social Studies 98qi. New Populisms ​​​​​​​- NEW
Angela Maione
Half course (spring term). Tuesday 4-6.
Thinking the role of the people in politics has long been a topic in the history of political thought. On the one hand, democratic theory is rooted in the people. On the other hand, theorists worry about the consequences of the people behaving badly (that is, as masses, mobs, and multitudes). Together these views suggest that the people themselves are also always potentially the source of their own undoing. However, this thematic ambivalence about the people in the history of political thought differs sharply from more recent articulations of populism as either necessary or detrimental to democracy.

This course will compare and contrast views on popular mobilizations in the history of political thought with more recent accounts of populism. Is populism based on a sociological category, a particular political imaginary or something else? Can the relationship between populism and democracy be defined? Readings may include: Müller (What is Populism?, 2016), Laclau (On Populist Reason, 2007), Moffitt (The Global Rise of Populism, 2016), Grattan (Populism’s Power, 2016), Urbanati (Democracy Disfigured, 2014), Zerilli (A Democratic Theory of Judgment, 2016) Rousseau (On the Social Contract), and Arendt, (On Revolution). 

Social Studies 98qj. Secularism and Its Critics​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​- NEW
Justin Reynolds
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 2-4.

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 recent debates as they have taken shape in the wake of the collapse of the “secularization thesis” – a once-dominant theory asserting the declining importance of religion in the modern world – in academic disciplines 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, and 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​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​- NEW
Adam Sandel
Half course (spring term). Wednesday 2-4.

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? 

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.