Social Problems [CRN 32579]

Discipline: Sociology
Instructor: Owens
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 15:30
End: 16:50
Field Work: Day 1 | March 18, 2019 | South Africa
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

We live in a world of more than 7.4 billion people, and we share a society with hundreds of millions. Despite the hugeness of humanity, most people think of themselves as unique individuals, and as having distinctive experiences like no other. However, many of our personal experiences are patterned and are shaped by social structure, which is the organized arrangements of relationships and institutions that together form the basis of society.

A sociological perspective reveals general patterns in what otherwise might be thought of as simple random events.  Problems such as social inequality, poverty, mental illness, racism, substance abuse, crime, poor health, and environmental degradation are more than just personal troubles experienced by a few people. They are issues that affect large numbers of people and originate in society’s institutional arrangements.

This course introduces students to a sociological perspective that we will use to analyze the objective and subjective realities of social problems in the United States and around the world. Our travel will illustrate that social problems are often interrelated. We will also investigate strategies aimed at solving and preventing social problems, again using a cross-cultural and comparative lens.

Field Work

Country: South Africa
Day: 1
Date: March 18, 2019

This field class will begin with a visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned from 1964 to 1982. The visit will include a prison tour and an opportunity to speak with a former political prisoner. Then, the class will have an opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela's former prison guard from his time at Robben Island, to learn about social change in South Africa from someone who experienced it first hand in a very unique way.


  1. Learn about apartheid and contemporary race relations in South Africa.
  2. Examine the power and process of forgiveness and reconciliation using South Africa as a case study.
  3. Apply insights about forgiveness and reconciliation to social justice efforts other than apartheid and race relations.