Recently, prominent politicians have suggested that it is not the time to “commit Sociology,” suggesting instead that we should be focused on addressing the immediate problem (e.g., crime). This is a naïve (or intentionally misleading) approach, one that neglects the important relationship between individual behaviours and the social context in which those behaviours arise. As C. Wright Mills put it, a sociological imagination allows us to understand how personal troubles are connected to and constructed by public issues, enabling us to “grasp history and biography, and the relations between the two.” Thus, issues such as crime, personal finances, relationship challenges, workplace concerns, personal attitudes, or quality of life, to a sociologist, are much more than the result of our choices, talent, morality, hard work or good luck. Rather, sociologists consider such personal traits or experiences to be the outcroppings of more sustained questions of inequality, gender relations, stratification, global history, ideology, or other systematic ways of organizing social interaction within a given culture.
Department members are engaged in mapping the connections between personal troubles and public issues in a variety of theoretical and methodological ways. Our internationally-reknowned research includes numerous important foci, including: race and racialization; the ways disability is socially managed and produced; ethnic and racial diversity and marginalization; subjectivity, affect, and emotion; control of sexual expression and reproduction; paid and unpaid work; bodies and embodiment; the effects of policy on family life; childhood; aesthetics and culture; the effects of physical capital on social status; the history of alternative social movements; religion and religiosity; political sociology; medicine and science studies. The methods we use include discourse analysis, qualitative interviewing, ethnographic fieldwork, theoretical research, surveys, archival research, autoethnography, and media analysis.
Our curriculum conceives how current and historical events, as well as ideas and social institutions, affect our lives in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, age, ability, class, nationality, and sexuality. We also examine social processes, such as the rules and norms that guide our everyday interactions, and the ways that power operates at multiple levels in our homes and communities. We are committed to diversity and welcome the participation of all students. In fact, those who are privileged by various institutional arrangements often have more difficulty seeing the power of these institutions to shape experiences than those who are too-often Othered in their day-to-day lives.
Our core undergraduate courses in contemporary and classical theory, social statistics and research methods provide students with the tools to understand social issues from critical and informed perspectives. Building on those core strengths, substantive courses in health, deviance, work, gender, social problems, religion, families, the body, and media give students the opportunity reflect critically on many aspects of society that can go unexamined. These include: the status of women in the workplace, the ways that race operates to create inequality in the criminal justice system; how bodies are controlled medically or (mis)represented in media; sport as an institution that produces (rather than reflects) ways of thinking about the world; the role of cyberspace in facilitating or constraining democracy; how nationalism and corporate culture affect states; family roles and structures in a changing context, and religion as a cultural and social phenomenon. That’s just a small sampling of our sociological offerings; we also regularly offer senior seminars in new topics, building on the interests of our faculty and students. Recent examples include a seminar on controlling sexuality, and another on knowledge, memory and history.
Our students link with organizations in the immediate community and beyond, even during their studies. Faculty members have supervised independent and applied studies involving collaborations with schools, human service agencies, and government offices. Our B.A. students emerge prepared for a broad and exciting range of opportunities including work in community agencies, health and family services, social work, and political and social activism. Our M.A. students have gone on to policy work relating to government and non-government organizations involved in immigration and multiculturalism, family services, health provision, affordable housing, and human services. Additionally, our M.A. graduates have worked as researchers in the fields of criminology, health care, politics, and education.
Again, we welcome you to the Sociology department, and invite you to join us and develop your own sociological imaginations!
Dr. Jason Laurendeau, Chair