TEACHING

My courses cover a range of subjects, but all of them have the primary objective of providing students with tools for understanding, critically analyzing, and engaging with the world around them.  Below you will find descriptions for each of the classes I have taught in recent years.  Feel free to email for a syllabus if any of these are of interest to you.

 

Latin American and Latino Youth Movements

This course aims to introduce students to the histories, structures, and practices of Latin American and Latinx youth movements. In addition to reading significant scholarship and research on Latin American and Latinx student and youth activism, we will try to understand these social movements “from the inside,” reading some primary documents, manifestos, communiqués, and activist reflections and debates with an analytic eye, seeking patterns, themes and differences. We will address the specific dynamics of age, generation, race, ethnicity, and nation at play in these movements and also use the empirical examples of US Latinx and Latin American youth activism to explore broader themes and questions relevant to the study of contemporary social movements in the Americas.

 

Youth and Citizenship

This course explores the multiple and contested meanings of “youth” and “citizenship,” and their complex relation to one another. Taking the experiences of Latina/o young people as a starting point from which to theorize, we will examine how youth civic and political identities are imagined, produced, and negotiated in a variety of social and cultural locations. We will look at the different versions of Latina/o youth citizenship being promoted by social and political institutions and will analyze how Latina/o youth are themselves challenging dominant models and contributing to new understandings of citizenship, belonging, and political participation. Students will work in groups to conduct their own empirical research in this field, developing research skills and contributing to scholarship.

 

Latin American Childhoods

This course provides an introduction to interdisciplinary and social scientific research on childhood in contemporary Latin America. We will examine childhood as a complex social category created and reproduced through social relations and social structures, including schools, families, peer relationships, popular culture, and political institutions. Childhood in Latin America is not singular or universal: as a social and cultural category, childhood is also crosscut by and intersects with other identifications and locations including race, class, gender, sexuality, and nation. Students will encounter not one Latin American childhood, but many Latin American childhoods. In addition to looking at how social processes shape the diverse lives of children in Latin America, we will discuss children’s agency, exploring how children actively interpret and influence the social world. One of the tenets of what is often referred to as “the new sociology of childhood” is that children are not simply passive objects of adult socialization, but are social agents who create their own worlds. This approach requires that those interested in childhood attempt to see the world from children’s perspectives, taking seriously children’s words and insights. This conceptual framework (structures/intersectionality/agency) will be developed and explored during the first three weeks of the course. Then, we will apply this framework to an exploration of the following thematic topics: family relationships, schools, work, street life, politics, and migration.

 

Latin American Social Movements (graduate)

This course grounds students in the social science literature on Latin American social movements. Integrating anthropological, sociological, and political science approaches to the field, as well as writings by both Latin American and US-based academics, the class familiarizes students with key concepts and debates, as well as the multiple methodological approaches to studying social movements in the region. We will engage with political process theory, contentious politics frameworks, analyses of collective identity, cultural approaches to social movement scholarship, and will delve into the ongoing and vibrant debates about state/social movement relationships and autonomy.

 

Introductory Sociology

People are social beings.  The lives we live are connected together, to social groups, to communities, and to increasingly distant institutions and practices.  This course is an introduction to these social connections.  We’ll look at how individuals are never merely individuals, but instead are always simultaneously shaped by and shaping the world around them.  Our identities, lives, and practices are always negotiated in relationship to the social, cultural, political, and economic structures that surround us.  And, importantly, we are differently situated in relation to these structures.  Therefore, in this course, we will examine the many layers of social life, exploring how these sometimes invisible forces have influenced our divergent (and similar) identities and experiences.

 

Sociology of Childhood

This course examines childhood as a complex social category created and reproduced through social relations and social structures, including schools, families, peer relationships and popular culture.  In addition to looking at how social processes shape the lives of children, we will discuss children’s agency, exploring how children actively interpret and influence the social world.  Childhood, as a social category, is also crosscut by and intersects with other identifications including race, class, gender, and sexuality.   One of the tenets of what is often referred to as “the new sociology of childhood” is that children are not simply passive objects of adult socialization, but are social agents who create their own social worlds.  This approach requires that those interested in childhood attempt to see the world from children’s perspectives, taking seriously children’s words and insights.  Given this commitment, students will spend at least 2 hours per week volunteering at a local children’s organization, integrating course texts with a community-based learning experience.  This will allow students to learn with and from children, enhancing their ability to critically engage with course concepts and sociological ideas about childhood and children’s cultures.

 

Social Movements 

This course aims to introduce students to social movements as distinctive political and social spaces in which relatively powerless groups of people make collective efforts to shape history.  In addition to reading significant sociological scholarship on social movements, we will try to understand social movements “from the inside,” reading some primary documents, manifestos, communiqués, and activist reflections and debates with a sociological and analytic eye, seeking patterns, themes and differences.  Guiding questions for the course include: how do movements emerge and what is their role in contemporary society? How do people become involved in movements and how does this impact their lives?  How do movements create their visions, goals and objectives? What is the influence and role of various models of organization, structure and internal democracy? How are dynamics of similarity, difference and power within movements experienced and negotiated? What are some of the strategies and tactics of movements and how do these develop? What are the outcomes of social movement activity?

 

Globalization and Social Change

This class provides an introduction to some of the social consequences of the multi-faceted and contested process of globalization.   It explores how cultural, economic, and political globalizations are all altering the social landscape, social relationships, and social institutions including patterns of work, consumption, migration, and families.  In addition to addressing a few significant global social changes, we will also look at how diverse groups of people are actively trying to shape globalization in particular ways.  Students will also each conduct independent research on a global social group in order to develop skills for thinking about how various social actors are shaped by and are shaping the dynamics of globalization.

 

Inequality in America

This class explores the causes, dynamics, lived experiences and consequences of inequality in the United States.  Focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on economic inequality and the concept of class, it looks at how resources, power, and opportunity are divided.  In addition to examining theories of stratification, inequality, class formation, privilege, and intersectionality we’ll consider how inequality is structured, maintained, and experienced.  We’ll look at employment, schools, and the cultural dynamics of consumption and aspiration formation.  Finally, we’ll address efforts to reduce inequality and poverty, including policy, social service, and social movement interventions.

 

Feminist Theories

This class introduces students to some of the key concepts and debates within feminist social theory.  We’ll explore the significance and meaning of gender within social life, how gender is produced and reproduced at the individual and institutional levels, the intersection of gender with other dimensions of social difference, as well as the various feminist approaches to and interpretations of equality, justice, and freedom. Through the lens of feminist theory, the class also explores some of the big questions of sociological theory more broadly: what is the relationship between individuals and social structures?  How determinate and stable are these long-standing structures?  How do social structures change?  What is the role of the individual in social change?  How are our identities produced and reproduced in different social contexts and historical moments?

 

Gender & Globalization

In this course, we will explore the gendered effects of contemporary processes of globalization.  Focusing primarily on women’s lives, we’ll look at how cultural, political, and economic globalizations are changing the landscape of gender relations. We’ll begin by looking at the gendered implications of macro-level global social changes, including the legacy of colonialism, economic development, structural adjustment, neoliberalism, militarization and population control.  Next, we’ll devote attention to the conditions of gendered work, including both factory labor and transnational care work.   Then, we’ll explore the globalization of families, sexuality, and romance.  Finally, we’ll turn to women’s transnational struggles for human rights and gender equity.   Students will become familiar with many of the current issues and debates in transnational gender research.

 

Youth Cultures and Subcultures 

Youth studies and cultural studies have been closely tied together in sociological research since the seminal works of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.  This course introduces students to both the methodology of cultural studies and to the major themes of research on youth cultural formations and subcultural practices.  Students will conduct extensive, semester-long research projects, building their analytic and interpretive skills.   They will also read extensively on contemporary youth cultural practices, becoming familiar with the experiences and social norms of diverse groups of young people, as well as the discourses, structures, and conditions that shape the lives of youth in different social, political, cultural and economic contexts.

 

Qualitative Research Methods

This class provides students with training in qualitative field research methods, with an emphasis on participant observation and in-depth interviewing. Students will conduct their own semester-long empirical research projects, going through the entire process of research design, data collection, coding, analysis, and writing.  Readings and class sessions will focus on both theoretical foundations and techniques of interpretive, qualitative research.  One of the best ways to develop research skills is to get out there and try it, to reflect on the process as you go, and to talk about what is working and not working for you with a group of colleagues and peers.  Therefore, students will have extensive opportunities to reflect on their own research practices, learning by doing.

 

The Politics of Childhood and Youth

Save the children.  Rebellion is just a phase.  Teens are apathetic.  Children need to be educated for future citizenship.  Each of these discursive claims highlights a different imagined connection between young people and political, cultural, and social change.  In this seminar, we’ll consider how the symbolic figures of children, teens, youth, and students are imbued with political significance and the ways that diverse communities of young social actors are themselves engaged in political and civic projects, including community service, social movement activism, cultural and subcultural production, and participation in government.  Designed as a capstone experience, students will complete individual empirical research projects that draw on their previous coursework in sociology and contribute to our understanding of the complex relationships between young people and social change.

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