Emma Fradgley, Holland 426

Sociology and anthropology share the belief that society and culture shape us in powerful ways and that we can only know ourselves when we understand our social and cultural context. Our personalities and choices reflect who we are, but so do the groups and social institutions to which we belong (peers, family, religion, politics, occupations).

Sociology grew out of efforts to understand the nature and problems of modern industrial societies, while anthropology grew out of European and American colonial encounters with diverse world cultures. Both seek to explain the relationships among individuals, groups, institutions, culture, and meaning; both seek insights into the pressing personal and social issues of our day.

Sociology and anthropology contribute to current debates in politics, philosophy, theology, and other areas about multiculturalism, environment, gender, inequality, “Third World” development, welfare reform, globalization, and immigration. All require clear understanding of life’s social and cultural dimensions.

Occupations drawing on sociological and anthropological knowledge include policy research and planning, human resources and industrial relations, public and international relations, law, medicine, ministry, counseling, education, management, social work, and marketing. Both disciplines also help prepare students for social service and justice work.

Overview of the Major

Humans are social and cultural beings. This means that they depend upon each other and cooperate, forming social relationships and social groups, which make up society. For societies to work, members must communicate with each other, primarily through language. They must also share beliefs, values, and meanings that are passed down from one generation to another. These learned meaning structures make up the culture of a group or society. Society and culture are interrelated in very complex ways, and both sociology and cultural anthropology are interested in this interrelationship.

Sociological research includes both micro-level community studies and macro-level national and transnational studies, using both ethnographic or qualitative methods and quantitative methods. Anthropological research is generally ethnographic, using qualitative methods at the micro- or local level. Both disciplines are very concerned with the dynamics of power, especially the ways in which social structures create inequalities among members of the society and how these inequalities are culturally justified. Both are also interested in processes of social and cultural change.

Sociology and cultural anthropology are closely related disciplines that share certain theories and methodologies. Both are critical disciplines because they are comparative, leading students to look at, understand, and question their own societies and cultures. Majors in sociology/anthropology explore sociological and anthropological theories in two core courses. They design and conduct independent research in quantitative and ethnographic methods core courses. In the senior seminar, majors consider and critique the ethics of sociology and anthropology and their impact on their own personal ethics and morals in depth. They also select one course examining social institutions, one course concentrating on a geographical area of the world or a topical area of particular interest to them, as well as two elective courses. Sociology/anthropology majors are highly encouraged to apply and test their skills by studying abroad, doing an independent study or research project, and/or completing an internship for one or more of the elective courses.

Special Programs

Faculty in the Sociology/Anthropology Department may be asked to provide academic supervision of internships that students arrange in community agencies (see SOAN 294 and SOAN 394). For details on off-campus programs, see the International and Off-Campus Studies section of this catalog. The Sociology/Anthropology Department is a core participant in the following interdisciplinary majors: race and ethnic studies, Asian studies, Latin American studies, social work, nursing, social studies education, and women’s and gender studies. The Sociology/Anthropology Department also contributes to the Africa and the Americas, family studies, and the Middle Eastern studies concentrations.

SOAN 291History of Sociological Theory1.00
SOAN 292Anthropological Theory1.00
SOAN 371Foundations of Social Science Research: Quantitative Methods1.00
SOAN 373Ethnographic Research Methods1.00
SOAN 399Senior Seminar1.00
Four elective courses 14.00
STAT 110Principles of Statistics 21.00
Total Credits10

All core courses must be taken on campus. Students who study abroad on a St. Olaf program that includes a sociology or anthropology course may petition to have this course count as an elective toward their major. One independent study/research course or an off-campus field internship supervised by department faculty may also count as an elective toward the major.

Level I and level II courses count for one or more of HBS, MCD, MCG, or HWC. In addition, SOAN 292, SOAN 371, and SOAN 373 carry WRI, SOAN 371 carries ORC, and SOAN 399 carries EIN credit. SOAN 121 and SOAN 128 are open to first-year students only. There are no prerequisites for level II courses.  SOAN 373 is open only to juniors and seniors.

Level I Courses

SOAN 121: Introduction to Sociology

This course helps students explore the connections between society and their own lives. Students answer challenging questions such as "Do we have a 'human nature'?," "Why does social inequality exist?," "What is race?," and "How do societies change?" In answering these questions students learn to develop a sociological imagination. In doing so they review the various research methods and theories that form the sociological tradition. This course is open to first-year students or students in certain accredited programs. Open to all students when taught during the summer. Offered each semester. Also counts toward race and ethnic studies and women's and gender studies majors and women's and gender studies concentration.

SOAN 128: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

How do anthropologists study other cultures? Peoples around the world create different realities through the ways they conceptualize experience (cultures) and how they organize themselves to do what they need to do (societies). Anthropologists describe and compare cultures and societies, focusing on different aspects such as family and kinship, inequality and power, religion and values, economy and technology, cultural and social change. This course is open to first-year students or students in certain accredited programs. Offered each semester. Counts toward race and ethnic studies and women's and gender studies majors; and women's and gender studies concentrations.

Level 2 Courses

SOAN 233: A Sociology of Colonialism and Postcolonialism

This course examines the sociology of colonialism and the colonialism of sociology. The readings in this course use sociological concepts to understand the colonial legacy irrespective of geographical or temporal parameters and reflect on how sociology itself is implicated in the colonial legacy. The objective is to assay whether sociology can meaningfully render colonialism intelligible without being an instance of it and determine whether colonialism can be conceived outside of specific national instances. Offered periodically.

SOAN 235: Introduction to Islamic Feminisms

This course focuses on the theories, political goals, strategies, and activities of the emerging trends of Islamic feminisms. After mapping the landscape of this movement and identifying its different manifestations, students investigate Islamic feminists' readings and interpretations of the Quran, Hadith, and Islamic history. The course examines methods Islamic feminists use in interpreting and reinterpreting such sources, politics and strategies they employ, and the impact of their work on Muslim women's lives worldwide. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester. Also counts toward women's and gender studies major and concentration.

SOAN 237: Forging a Latin American Culture

This course explores the forces that shape contemporary Latin American society, including material and cultural interactions with Europe, Africa, and the U.S. Emphasis is placed on understanding the formation of the region in terms of the responses of key groups of actors (indigenous peoples, women, peasants, workers, the poor, migrants, revolutionaries) to the actions of outside and/or more powerful forces and institutions (foreign invaders, the state, the military, missionaries, multinational corporations). Offered annually in the fall or spring semester. Also counts toward Latin American studies major and Latin American studies and management studies concentrations.

SOAN 247: Disasters

Disasters and crises loom large. They are not singular events. Their effects spiral starting where the crises occur and spiraling outward globally. This course examines disasters worldwide and anthropological approaches to studying them. This involves learning about disasters through various media, documentary film, written ethnography, and critical social theory. Studying disasters reveals much about scientific and institutional attempts to manage and control them and how power is articulated in disaster (mis)management. Offered annually.

SOAN 248: Sociology of Dying, Death, and Bereavement

This class investigates death-related behavior from an American and cross-cultural perspective, seeking to understand patterns of social interaction surrounding and giving meaning to dying, death, and bereavement. Topics include: death meanings and anxiety, religion and death-related customs, the dying process, hospice as a social movement, biomedical issues, the funeral industry, death rituals, and the social understanding of the bereavement process. Offered periodically during Interim. Also counts toward family studies concentration.

SOAN 250: Visual Sociology

Formal education has always emphasized written texts even though human beings are surrounded by photo-generated images and visual culture. This course helps fill that gap and offers methods for understanding the social world visually. The course challenges students to grapple with visual theory and develop their own visual research projects. Discussions of fieldwork, key writings about visual methodologies, and samples of groundbreaking visual sociological projects will inform student work. Offered alternate years.

SOAN 260: Families, Marriage, & Relationships

This course provides a social science understanding of the "contemporary American family" and analysis of marriage and family issues from a cross-cultural perspective. Students discuss issues of dating and mate selection, marital and parent-child relationships over the family life cycle, gender issues, work and family roles, and problem-related issues affecting families (divorce, violence and death) caused by rapid changes in society. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester. Also counts toward women's and gender studies major; and family studies, management studies, and women's and gender studies concentrations.

SOAN 261: Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective

This course compares gender patterns and issues in various cultures around the world, such as Latin America, the Middle East, India, the U.S., and East Asia. How do cultural expectations for women and men vary? Why do some societies have more gender equality than others? How do economic and political change, including globalization, impact gender roles? How do U.S. and Third World feminism compare? Offered annually in the fall or spring semester. Also counts toward race and ethnic studies and women's and gender studies majors; and Africa and the African Diaspora, management studies, race and ethnic studies, and women's and gender studies concentrations.

SOAN 262: Global Interdependence

Approaching the world as a "global village," the course will focus on the development of the world as an interdependent entity, the relationship between the "developed" and "developing" world, alternative explanations for planned social change, and new institutions for this international world. Global challenges such as the information revolution, population, the status of women, and migration are analyzed to illustrate this interdependence. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester. Also counts toward management studies concentration.

SOAN 263: Social Movements

In the face of discrimination, inequality, and other forms of injustice, individuals and groups have organized to resist such injustice, and to seek to change institutions, practices and society in attempts to address their grievances. This course will examine and explore some of the theories and practices of social movement organizing from primarily a sociological perspective, through in-depth studies of particular cases and comparative analysis of a range of contemporary and recent movements.
Prerequisite: one SOAN or other social science course.

SOAN 264: Race and Class in American Culture

Students explore the continuing significance of color, class, and immigration in the U.S., with a focus on the experiences and concerns of African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Asian-Americans. The course examines the nature and functions of prejudice; the relationship among race, class and gender; the persistence of racism and inequality; and social policies and social movements intended to create greater social justice. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester. Also counts toward Latin American studies and race and ethnic studies majors; and Africa and the African Diaspora, educational studies, Latin American studies, management studies, and race and ethnic studies concentrations.

SOAN 265: Religion, Culture, and Society

This course examines and analyzes religious beliefs, meanings, rituals, and organizational patterns from empirical and theoretical perspectives. Students are introduced to the sociological study of religion through its foundational thinkers as well as current theoretical approaches and research in the field. Important contemporary issues and debates examined include secularization, conversion, new religions and religious movements, gender and sexuality, and fundamentalism. Offered periodically in the fall or spring semester.

SOAN 267: Medical Anthropology

How do people understand illness and healing? How does social inequality shape health? These are among the questions explored by medical anthropology. In this course students examine the ways people in different societies experience their bodies, by looking at AIDS in Haiti, old age in India, and childbirth in the United States. Students investigate diverse understandings of health, different means of promoting healing, and the role of power in providing medical care. Offered annually.

SOAN 269: Urban Sociology

Urban sociology investigates the complex interactions of human beings in cities and beyond. Topics include the changing relationship between people and place; social stratification along the lines of race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, and class; and urbanism's importance in global political power and economics. Chicago will serve as an important case study for considering these social, political, and economic dynamics. Offered annually.

Core Courses/Independent Study/Internships

SOAN 291: History of Sociological Theory

This course provides an overview of the major thinkers who sought to create a science of human society, the ideas they found fundamental to a science of society and how human society changes through history. Classical thinkers such as Marx, Durkheim, Simmel, Weber, and Mead are studied along with the schools of theory which they inspired: positivism, interpretive and critical conflict theory. Offered annually in the spring semester.
Prerequisite: one sociology/anthropology course. Open to sociology/anthropology majors only.

SOAN 292: Anthropological Theory

This course introduces students to anthropological theory and the "culture" of the discipline itself. Students examine anthropology's formation during the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Empire, which called for new explanations of human differences and gave new significance to the nature and meaning of "culture." They explore the method of participant observation research, the question of whether anthropology is a science, the problem of representing one culture to another, and the changing nature of ethnographic writing. Offered annually in the fall semester.
Prerequisite: open to sociology/anthropology majors only.

SOAN 294: Academic Internship

SOAN 298: Independent Study

SOAN 299: Topics in Sociology/Anthropology

The department periodically offers special topics courses. The specific title of the course is listed in the class and lab schedule when it is offered.

SOAN 371: Foundations of Social Science Research: Quantitative Methods

Students gain the skills necessary to conduct and critically evaluate quantitative research. Students learn the underlying theoretical assumptions and orientations of quantitative research, including research design, sampling techniques, strategies for data collection, and approaches to analysis. Students gain practice in data analysis by conducting are search project and using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), a standard in sociology. Offered annually in the fall semester. Also counts toward environmental studies major (social science emphasis) and management studies concentration.
Prerequisite: STAT 110 or STAT 212; open to junior or senior sociology/anthropology majors only.

SOAN 373: Ethnographic Research Methods

Students learn to design and conduct qualitative research in the tradition of sociological and anthropological ethnography. Students discuss theoretical approaches to ethnography and learn data collection methods through case studies and fieldwork assignments. Students use their own research to gain experience in interpreting field notes, doing analysis, and writing an ethnographic interpretation of their research findings. Offered annually in the spring semester. Also counts toward management studies concentration.
Prerequisite: SOAN 291 or SOAN 292; open to junior or senior sociology/anthropology majors only.

SOAN 394: Academic Internship

SOAN 396: Directed Undergraduate Research

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Offered based on department decision. May be offered as a 1.00 credit course or .50 credit course.
Prerequisite: determined by individual instructor.

SOAN 398: Independent Research

SOAN 399: Senior Seminar

This seminar offers in-depth reading, writing, and discussion on a selected topic from areas common to sociology and anthropology with an emphasis on contemporary analysis and ethics. Specific content will vary from year to year. Offered annually in the spring semester.
Prerequisite: open to senior sociology/anthropology majors only.

Chair, 2020-2021

David C. Schalliol

Associate Professor of Sociology/Anthropology

social stratification; urban sociology; visual sociology; criminology; education

Ibtesam âl-Atiyat

Associate Professor of Sociology/Anthropology

Arab society; gender; social movements; Islamic movements

Christopher L. Chiappari (on leave)

Associate Professor of Sociology/Anthropology

Guatemala; religion; immigration

Vivian Choi

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology

South Asia; science and technology; disasters

Andrea Conger

Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology

Marc David

Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology/Anthropology

race and class; history and memory; public policy and the politics of knowledge; North America

Ryan R. Sheppard

Associate Professor of Practice in Sociology/Anthropology

family; gender; race/ethnicity; social movements; quantitative research

Thomas A. Williamson

Associate Professor of Sociology/Anthropology

Southeast Asia; theory; globalization; medical anthropology