Social Problems [CRN 79580]

Discipline: Sociology
Instructor: Llambias-Wolff
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1230
End: 1350
Field Work: Day 1 | September 15, 2017 | Spain
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

Once, when trying to understand the basics of astronomy, I was told that discovering stars was rather simple, though what was truly difficult was to comprehend social problems and human relations. Social problems demand explanation, understanding and enlightenment. We, as individuals, need to explore and open our own spaces and barriers – conscious and unconscious – as constructed by our own education, human experiences and prejudgments.

Through a dynamic participatory approach, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking, the course will use an interdisciplinary and sociological perspective to apprehend that issues distressing some people are not just isolated experiences, but a more general pattern that impacts on a larger population.

This course is divided in four sections, each of which addresses selected social problems.  Section One: The study of Social Problems, covers theoretical perspectives and approaches to the study of social problems, the self-understanding, prejudices and diversity. It will introduce students to social interdisciplinary inquiry and research.  Section Two: Organizing Social Life will discuss the “myself”, family and social groups, the socialization process, social interaction and social structure, culture and development. It will also feature education, human rights, democracy and the rule of Law. Section Three: Problems of Inequality and Disparities, will analyze such themes as the socio-economic structure, state and power, majorities and minorities, poverty and economic inequality, ethnic and racial relations, empowerment and social and economic development. Finally, Section Four: Social Problems of the Global World, will discuss world disparities, development policies, cultural homogenization and diversity, human displacements, health and global environmental problems.

A street graffiti, seen in Quito, Ecuador simplified its complexity: “reading is the cure for tyrants, travelling is the cure for ethnocentrism”. Learning is a passionate, lifelong exercise that takes place both within and outside the classroom. Perhaps this is where the Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination encounters the John Lennon’s Imagine.

Field Work

Country: Spain
Day: 1
Date: September 15, 2017

Barcelona is one of the major cultural centers of Spain. Barcelona has always been known for its cultural life, where some of the best writers, architects, poets, scientists, not only Spanish, but from the whole world, have worked. Also, the populations least likely to feel Spanish are Catalans and Basques, although these large, complex regional populations are by no means unanimous in their views. Cataluña has had greater autonomy in the past and have had, at different epochs, as close ties with southwestern France as with Spain. The Catalan language, like Spanish, is a Romance language.

Las Ramblas is often considered the most famous street in Barcelona and is well known around the world, exemplifying Barcelona’s success in having public spaces for people to meet and socialize, as well as walk their daily lives.

The street is full of history and character, dating back hundreds of years. It is also physically well connected to key areas of Barcelona. The buildings, paths, vegetation and details are proportioned so that pedestrians have pleasant spaces to interact in. Because of its social quality, some would call it the “emotional hub” of the city.

We will do a walking tour that will take us through Las Ramblas to visualize and uncover the social life, the hidden sociological richness that this place has to offer. Las Ramblas is approximately 1.2 kilometers long with Port Vell (near the cruise port terminal) at the Southern most end and Plaça Catalunya at the northern most end. After lunch, we will undertake a street life walking tour (Hidden city tour). This tour will be around the Raval area. After the tour, we will continue to the Café Opera (with Lisa and the guides) for a drink and an exchange about the day experience. For this purpose you will prepare and observation-matrix that comprises an outline diagram of the key features of the sites.

Learning Objectives:
1. To familiarize students with Barcelona and Catalan social interactions and urban life.
2. To examine how different social groups interact in key public spaces within a closely defined urban area.
3. To analyse whether interactions differ with age or with place; and whether the presence of particular people or groups affect the use of public space by other people or groups.