Summer Session 2021

Fall Session 2021 – COMING SOON


To see a full list of the latest course offerings in Sociology, review the WFU Course Bulletin.


Featured Course Descriptions

SOC 327: Sociology of Emotion
taught by
Dr. Amanda Gengler


Spring 2021

Emotions are a central feature of social life. They influence how successfully we negotiate our jobs, how we make decisions about our health and futures, and how we individually and collectively respond to crises both big and small. As personal and “innate” as emotions often seem, they are strongly shaped by social norms and the cultures in which we are embedded. We must in fact learn when it is appropriate to feel sad, happy, angry, or afraid… and actively work to display, quash, or mediate these feelings accordingly. We may even deem ourselves or others good or bad people for failing to have or express a particular constellation of emotions in a given social context. What we are expected and “allowed” to feel is shaped by our race, class, and gender identities. Emotions are regularly mobilized by social actors to get us to buy products, support or oppose social policies, and to fight for or counter social change. Whether bubbling just below the surface of social life or boiling over, emotions are all around us, and will serve as the raw material we will sociologically analyze over the course of the semester.

SOC 364: Power, Politics and Protest
taught by
Dr. Hana Brown


Spring 2021

Power is a central facet of social relationships and institutions, but what is power?  And how do sociologists study it?  In this class, we’ll tackle these questions and more as we study the daily realities of global sex work, immigration enforcement, and the Movement for Black Lives.  In addition, we’ll probe three of the most contentious political issues of our time (terrorism, abortion, and illicit drug use) to learn when, how, and why issues get politicized and to probe the unintended consequences of policy decisions.  To round out the class, you write a newspaper-style op-ed where you use sociology to take a sense of an issue that matters to you.

SOC 365: Technology, Culture and Change 
taught by Dr. Ian Taplin


Spring 2021

This course looks at how technology is embedded socially providing not just tangible innovations that can transform our lives but also signifying changes in the way we think about the world; it considers some of the fundamental changes that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century following the growth of mass production and mass consumption; it looks at movements in art and architecture that were responses to the industrial changes of this period especially those that embraced the spirit of mechanization.  We then consider how work and the workplace changed during the past century, with increasing female labour force participation and some fundamental changes in the nature of work and occupations. The last part of the course examines the links between retailing, manufacturing changes and contemporary culture. In other words shopping activities and the culture of consumption and materialism – what do we buy and why do we buy it? How do we assign value to goods? What influences how and what we buy. 

SOC 366: Sociological Analysis of FIlm
taught by
Dr. Saylor Breckenridge


Spring 2021

This course examines the development of the film industry in the US and its role in the production of culture. The course includes over a dozen assigned movies (to be watched outside of class time) in addition to normal class materials. In Spring 2021, the course will highlight the impact of the pandemic on theaters and the rise of streaming services as competitors to conventional film production and exhibition companies; the film genre of focus will be teen movies (e.g. FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, EASY A, THE HATE YOU GIVE).

SOC 382: Sociology of the Lifecourse
taught by
Dr. Yaqi “Sam” Yuan


Spring 2021

This course is an introduction to the theories and research associated with the life course perspective in sociology. The life course perspective incorporates a life-long perspective on human development, in recognition of the developmental processes undergone by individuals throughout their lives, and emphasizes the continuities that exist between early-life circumstances and later-life outcomes.

The life course framework is based on four central themes: the intersection of history and biography, the salience of links to significant others and between different life domains (e.g. work, family), the role of individuals in shaping their own life trajectories within social constraints, and the significance of the timing of events in one’s life. Two additional themes have more recently been added as well: diversity in life course trajectories and developmental risk and protection.  This course will provide an overview of the principles of the life course perspective and of some of the life course research being conducted. More importantly, it will provide a new way of thinking about, and critically examining, social phenomena.

SOC 383: Opioids in American Society 
taught by
Dr. Alexandra Brewer


Spring 2021

This course considers the current opioid crisis in its social, cultural, and historical context. Our inquiry will begin in the mid-19 th century with the Opium Wars and the Civil War, will move into the 20th  century to consider the jazz age, counter-cultural movements, and the war on drugs, and will conclude with an analysis of the opioid epidemic. throughout the semester, we will explore the ambivalent role of opioids in American society, asking, What makes some opioids pharmaceuticals and others drugs? When is opioid use medicalized and when is it criminalized? When is it glamorized and when is it stigmatized? Why are some opioid users understood as “deserving” and others as “undeserving” of public support? We will examine how gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, and class intersect with opioid use and will interrogate the narratives constructed around different social groups as they come into contact with these substances. In addition to academic texts, course materials will include journalistic accounts, memoirs, obituaries, music, podcasts, films, and television. We will also engage with our community by speaking with local harm reduction advocates and by participating in a community service project. 

SOC 384: Crime, Law and Immigration
taught by
Dr. Andrea Gomez Cervantes


Spring 2021

The U.S. is home to the largest immigrant detention and deportation system in the world, with over 3.1 million immigrants under government control just in 2019*. However, the incarceration, deportation, and surveillance of immigrants and asylum seekers is not unique to the United States nor is it new. In this class, we will investigate the following questions:

  1. What is the role of the law in the production of the U.S. immigrant-detention system?
  2. Are immigrants who are incarcerated indeed “criminals”? if not, why are they treated as such? 
  3. Who are the key actors benefiting from the immigrant-detention system?
  4. How do these processes in the U.S. compare to other countries around the world?
  5. What are the consequences for immigrants, nonimmigrants, and their communities?
  6. What are immigrants and citizens doing to justify, legitimate, or resist this system?


SOC 390: Defund, Transform, Abolish? Reimagining Justice taught by Dr. Brittany P. Battle


Spring 2021

The summer of 2020 saw unprecedented calls for criminal legal system reform following the movement against anti-Blackness, police brutality, and white supremacist violence. In the wake of continued social unrest, we are in a critical moment where it is increasingly necessary to reimagine public safety, law enforcement, and justice. In four decades, the incarcerated population has grown exponentially, increasing by more than seven times. This explosive growth has become unsustainable economically, and from a practical standpoint, highlights some of the most pressing social issues which the nation currently faces. Penal institutions have become the country’s response to mental health issues, addiction, disability, homelessness, and extreme poverty. In this course, we will examine historical and contemporary calls to abolish the carceral state. We will read seminal works from abolitionist thinkers, folks with carceral experiences, and social scientists. We will examine the dimensions of the prison industrial complex and map the (re)production of the carceral state. Lastly, we will (re)imagine justice together, embarking on the journey to develop communities of care that are resourced to address issues of inequality.

Sample Syllabi for Select Courses

The following are syllabi for some of the recently taught courses in the department.  These syllabi illustrate the general themes likely to be covered in these courses, but readings and assignments will vary by semester.

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