Current offerings (Academic timetable)

Course descriptions (Undergraduate calendar)



Fall 2019

SOSA 4001/5001 Quantitative Analysis for the Social Sciences I

This course will introduce quantitative analysis. It will engage issues of research design, the relationship between samples and populations, statistics and inference, as well as basic tests of statistical significance. The course will also introduce tabular, graphical, and bi-variate linear analysis, using computer software. It will encourage secondary data analysis of available datasets, evaluation of surveys, and develop skills through a series of class projects.

SOSA 4003/5003 Contemporary Perspectives in Ethnography

We know that social/cultural anthropologists and some sociologists “do ethnography”, but what does ethnography involve and how does it do the work of contributing to social scientific knowledge? The word “ethnography” refers to both a set of methods – the practical activity of gathering data – and the end product – the anthropological (or sociological) text. But in fact it encompasses every part of an anthropologist’s research process, from research design, to fieldwork methods, to analysis, to strategies for representation. Part of what makes anthropology distinctive is the commitment to see all of these stages as intimately interwoven, and shot through at every step with questions about evidence, power, epistemology, theory, politics, ontology, interpretation, translation and ethics, to name a few. To “do ethnography” is to never stop asking: what do I know, how and why do I know it, what are the consequences of this knowledge, and under what circumstances is it possible to share it with others? This course engages with these questions through a deep, critical reading of a selection of ethnographies with different theoretical approaches, geographical locations, fieldwork methods and substantive problems. Our aim is to figure out how, in each ethnographic text, anthropological and sociological problems are constructed, investigated, analyzed, explained and represented. We'll embark with open minds on the anthropological journeys that each book makes possible and will chart new routes that link these journeys to our own. 

SOSA 4004/5004 Issues in Economy, Work and Development: Precarious Work

The 21st century finds regular, dignified work an increasingly rare phenomenon in rich and poor countries alike.  Global processes mean that temporary, contractual, part-time, or casual employment are increasingly common.  In this seminar we will explore how scholars and activists are thinking about this phenomenon.  To do so, the seminar will address three broad questions. First, how should we think about class and work in the 21st Century?  Second, how do we understand the phenomenon which we might associate with “neoliberalism” (itself a concept to be examined here) where some people work too much while others cannot find work at all?  For example, we will consider the ideas of “accumulation by dispossession” and “the precariat” which some use to describe these phenomena.   Third, we will ask: what kinds of policy initiatives are people proposing to address this situation?  Some of the solutions being advocated include the Basic Income Guarantee, targeted Welfare initiatives, and the Living Wage.  This is a seminar in which we will read theory against particular cases and proposal to advance our understanding work and inequality in the present moment.  Students are expected to read attentively and participate actively. 

SOSA 4005/5005 Issues in Social Justice and Inequality

Social justice is broadly defined and currently being redefined with the rise of new technology and artificial intelligence. This seminar will explore how societies are changing as a result of these and will explore how changes intersect with the pursuit of social justice. Particular attention will be offered to political mobilization, political communication, race and gender, as well as new models for understanding social change. The seminar will focus on understanding underly mechanisms of politics and change and will involve active participation, discussion, and debate.

SOSA 4016 Special Topics: Happiness, Play and Celebration

As SOSA students will have probably realized by their fourth year, sociology and social anthropology often focus on social problems, social pathologies, and social suffering. Yet we can learn just as much about the worlds we and others live in by focusing our inquiry on the more positive elements of social life – not through rose-tinted glasses, but with a clear and critical approach. This seminar will explore values and practices of happiness, play, and celebration. It addresses questions like: What makes us happy, and can and should we quantify happiness? Is happiness different from pleasure, satisfaction, wellbeing, or joy? What is Gross National Happiness? Why do humans play? What does play do for us, and do we get enough of it? How do our ideas about play and leisure reflect our societies? What are the defining elements of celebrations such as life-cycle rituals, religious rituals, or cultural festivals? Can we tell if they are ‘authentic’ or serving hidden agendas of, say, city-boosting or state-building? The course unfolds in three parts – Happiness, Play, and Celebration – but, not surprisingly, the three are closely intertwined. The course features compelling readings and some original in-class activities.

Winter 2020

SOSA 4006/5006 Issues in Critical Health Studies: Knowing about Health and Illness

This course will examine and compare ways of making claims about health and illness, with a particular focus upon science and technology studies, feminist, and Foucauldian perspectives. The focus of the course will be upon a critical examination of the underlying assumptions and social consequences of biomedical and patient knowledges in the industrialized West. Topics will include: an interrogation of the concept of 'social construction' in social science research on health; the 'risk paradigm' in medicine and public health; the development and use of standards and guidelines in biomedicine; representations of 'the patient view'; patient movements; the relationship between biomedical science and clinical practice; and efforts to contest the 'expert-lay divide'. Through student presentations, we will also consider how knowledge about a variety of health issues is represented in popular media.

SOSA 4013 Issues in Sociology and Social Anthropology

Topic:  TBA

SOSA 4014 Special Topics: Water Power and People

As water constantly shapes the face of the earth, it also has a leading role in shaping societies in the past, present, and future. Despite the abundance of water on the Earth, fresh water is coming under increasing pressure as human populations increase and climate changes progress.

In this class, we will critically examine how people and societies have interacted with water resources along history. We will investigate water issues that transcend ethnic, cultural, national, and political borders. As a class, we will analyze the various ways in which societies value and think about water through various dimensions (drinking water, recreational space, sanitation mechanism, economic resource, environmental hazard, how water site tied into their cultural and national identity and more). The ultimate goal of this class is to help you develop a deeper understanding of the role of water in contemporary and historical human development while developing your critical thinking and writing skills.

Topics of interest which cross the all course include climate change, fisheries, water pollution, urbanization, land use, water policy and management, water wars and water rights, international relationships and the biggest question of all – do we have enough water for future generations?

Relevant examples will be drawn from Canada and from around the world.