First Year Program - Sociology and Anthropology Skip Navigation

Sociology and Anthropology (SOCI / ANTH)

Chair: M. Bigenho

Sociology and anthropology study human cultures and societies, past and present, on a comparative basis. These disciplines are concerned with analyzing and understanding the social structures and values that shape our lives, as well as the institutions and social forces of our own and other societies. The major in sociology or anthropology provides an excellent preparation for graduate study and a variety of careers, including law, education, business, public administration, journalism, health, counseling, and social work. Sociology and anthropology graduates also pursue careers in local, national, and international non-profit organizations. The department offers two majors, one in anthropology and one in sociology.

Anthropology is the study of human beings in all their complexity. The scope of anthropology is truly global, as it aims to describe and analyze the full diversity of the human experience and cultural creativity across time and space. Anthropology recognizes that human beings are, simultaneously, social actors who create cultures and the products of those cultures. Using a broad array of research methods, including participant-observation and archaeological excavation, anthropologists investigate the historical composition of societies, their transformations, and their contemporary forms. We seek to understand the commonalities and differences in the identities, experiences, discourses, and beliefs of people around the world. We connect the details of people’s everyday lives to large-scale social systems and cultural forces and reveal that seemingly innate or natural differences among human groups are the result of historical, social, and political-economic processes. The curriculum integrates classroom and out-of-classroom learning, encouraging students to pursue off-campus study and independent fieldwork or research with collections.

Sociology is the scientific study of the organization and functioning of societies, their major institutions, groups, and values. Sociologists are particularly interested in understanding and explaining social issues and problems, and the sources of stress and change in contemporary and historical societies. Our courses provide students with critical perspectives on a wide range of major social issues, including globalization, immigration, social stratification and inequality, race and ethnic relations, gender and sexuality, age, aging, and ageism, unemployment, crime and deviance, conflict and war, environmental politics, social movements, popular culture, and media and politics. In addition, students take courses on classical and contemporary sociological theory, research design, and qualitative and quantitative research methods. The culmination of our curriculum is the required senior seminar. This course provides an opportunity for students to draw on their substantive and methodological training to complete an independent research project on a topic of their choice.


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ANTH 102, Intro to Cultural Anthropology
Provides an introduction to cultural anthropology and is intended to help students come to a better understanding of human cultures and societies through the analysis and comparison of specific cases. Students study diverse societies from a wide range of geographic areas and examine topics such as kinship and marriage, economic organization, religion, gender, and social change. Students learn about some of the major theories and theorists in cultural anthropology and examine the way cultural anthropologists collect and interpret data, particularly in the course of fieldwork.

ANTH 103, Introduction to Archaeology

ANTH 211, Investigating Contemp Cultures
Introduces students to the research methods that anthropologists use to study human beings in all their complexity: the range of qualitative, in-depth, and participatory techniques that comprise ethnography. Through a series of hands-on active research projects, students will learn how to investigate the complex social world we live in, and analyze what they find. The course covers the research process from asking compelling questions, to collecting qualitative data and critically analyzing it, to choosing how to present it. The course also addresses the ethical implications and responsibilities that accompany learning about human beings by interacting with them, and then representing them to others. The readings, lectures, and discussions will explore how anthropological knowledge is generated and anthropology's relationship to political-economic power, historical experience, and personal identity. Students will also gain valuable research methods skills for career choices.

ANTH 228, Women and Gender in Prehistory
Takes a feminist perspective to the study of gender and identity in prehistoric societies and ancient civilizations. By looking at the variation of gender roles and relations throughout history and cross-culturally, students help to deconstruct many modem-day assumptions about gender and gender roles in the present. The course will provide an overview of how material remains are used for understanding social identities in the past. It will review feminist critiques of archaeology and how feminism has impacted the discipline of archaeology. Students examine archaeological resources for gendering the past (burials, art, artifacts) and explore gender in a range of prehistoric cultural contexts (hunter-gatherers, farmers, states, and empires) using archaeological case studies as examples. Students additionally look at the ways in which historical archaeology has helped to better understand gender relations in historical contexts. Students critically examine how gender and identity have been represented in academic research, museums, and popular media, in order to deconstruct modem-day assumptions about gender. Case studies derive from the earliest human origins, ancient complex civilizations, and recent colonial America. This course is designed for students with little or no background in archaeology or anthropology.

ANTH 253, Field Meth/Interpret-Archaelog
Provides students with hands-on experience in procedures archaeologists employ in collecting, processing, and reporting data. The course revolves around two basic premises: learning about archaeology includes doing archaeology, and doing archaeology involves more than just digging. Training in archaeological fieldwork and data processing is based upon an ongoing research project in Central New York. Each student has the opportunity to participate in various aspects of this research from excavation and field recording to cataloguing and analysis. The culmination of the course is a detailed report based upon research conducted during the semester. (MC, GR, FR)

ARTS 248, African Art
A study of the principal art styles of sub-Saharan Africa, this course gives attention to both the formal and cultural aspects of indigenous art. The manufacture and usage of art objects is examined within the contexts of local religious, social, and political systems, as well as within the larger framework of language and cultural areas. Traditional art styles are analyzed as products of both collective aesthetics and individual innovation. Attention is given to transmission of art forms from culture to culture and to the persistence of traditional art in the face of social change.

ARTS 250, Native Art of N America
Relying on archaeological, art historical, and ethnographic sources, this course examines the principal art styles of the indigenous cultures of North America. The course explores such issues as the usefulness of art objects in reconstructing cultures of the past and as historical documents for living peoples; gender roles in art production; the relationship between art, technology, and utility; the use of art as educational tools, memory aids, and religious devices; the relative importance of tradition and innovation; and the role of contemporary art in Native North American life today.

FSEM 194, Intro to Cultural Anthropology
Faculty Profile for Professor Bigenho

Many people think anthropology is the study of foreign cultures elsewhere. However, the cultural anthropological project is about both “making the strange familiar” and “making the familiar strange.” Through looking at different cultural contexts--some quite far from most students’ experiences, and others not so far from home--students will become familiar with the questions anthropologists ask. The seminar is designed to introduce students to key areas of critical inquiry in cultural anthropology--culture theory, institutionalized racism, social inequalities, sex/gender systems, kinship structures, and language in society. Through readings, students also gain perspectives on two cutting edge areas of anthropology today: medical anthropology and legal anthropology. Although engagement with cultural difference is a major project of anthropology, reflecting back on one’s own culture is also part of the discipline’s approach. This seminar aims to transform the way students look at everyday life in the world today. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for ANTH 102 and satisfy one half of the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.

Michelle Bigenho, Professor of Anthropology and Africana & Latin American Studies, looks forward to working with students who are curious about and engaged with the complex world we inhabit. She believes that learning a foreign language is one of the most transformative things students can do. Music performance on the violin has shaped her research projects, as can be read in her books: Intimate Distance: Andean Music in Japan, and Sounding Indigenous: Authenticity in Bolivian Music Performance.


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FSEM 185, Contested Ident: Pop Cult/US
Faculty Profile for Professor Lopes

Contested Identities: Popular Culture in the United States

This course looks at popular culture in the United States as an ongoing politics of social identity and social transformation. The construction of an American Identity has been an ongoing process of contention and formation, as different communities in the United States negotiated the complex nature of national as well as social identities. The course looks at how ethnic, racial, gender, class, sexual and other social identities shaped the production and reception of popular culture. The course will study theater, public amusements, sports, film, television, popular music, and social media. This course is designed to challenge students to reexamine the nature of popular culture, social identities, and fundamental questions about American national identity. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for a 200-level SOCI course and satisfy one half of Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.

Paul Lopes, Associate Professor of Sociology, specializes in art, media and American Studies. His research combines a focus on the nature of innovation and diversity in American art and media with an interest in popular culture as a site of struggles over social identity and social status. His first book, The Rise of a Jazz Art World, explores how transformations in jazz music during the twentieth century were shaped by race and class struggles over the social identity and status in the United States. His second book, Demanding Respect: the Evolution of the American Comic Book, looks at the struggle of artists, publishers and fans to transform the comic book from simply an entertainment for children and adolescents to a serious art form worthy of the same legitimacy as fine literature or fine art.

SOCI 101, Introduction to Sociology
An introduction to sociology, with special emphasis on American society, using a historical and comparative focus. Introduces students to some of the basic concepts and methods used by sociologists. Students consider a selection of topics: racial inequality, class reproduction, gender roles, work and society, social movements, bureaucracy, and crime and deviance.

SOCI 212, Power, Racism and Privilege
Familiarize students with theoretical and historical perspectives of racial inequality and other ethnic and minority group relationships. The course primarily examines the relationship between racism and the socio-economic and political development of the United States. Course readings, lectures, and discussions are intended to aid students in gaining a clear understanding of the role race and ethnicity have played in shaping contemporary US society as well as the larger social world we live in and to therefore contribute to each student’s self-understanding and to a better understanding of others whose racial-cultural backgrounds are different.