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 WorkCountry: South Africa
Date: March 19, 2017
During this Field Class we will visit Langa Township, the oldest township in South Africa. We will witness the daily life of township residents via a walking tour of the area, observing residential and commercial life of the township. We will focus on issues such as education, employment, migration, ways to keep local customs alive, the importance of traditional foods, and the roles of women. We will have lunch in the commercial center of Langa, a hub of entrepreneurial activity where just 25 years ago apartheid had outlawed these endeavors. Afterwards we will do hands-on community service at Cheshire Home, observing the care of disabled residents. Finally, we will pay a visit to Happy Feet Project, which provides township children with positive influences to keep them away from gangs and drugs in the community. We will be able to experience an inspiring performance of gumboot dancing.
1. Learn about the history of apartheid in South Africa, and apply sociological theories of inequality.
2. Explore a township, and learn about its unique culture.
3. Learn about efforts to keep youth safe and healthy.