Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Sociology 298. Experimental Courses

Sociology of the Body

The body in sociology has long been what Chris Shilling calls an “absent presence”: always there, yet rarely theorized. As social actors, we all have bodies. Those bodies shape our experience in society, signaling information to others about our apparent race, class, gender, and other elements of identity. At the same time, society shapes our very bodies and how we use them; for example, medical technologies, beauty ideals, and social norms for polite manners—all products of human society—act on the physical body. In this class, we will explore these interactions of body and society, with particular attention to themes of identity, inequality, and social control.


Organized Crime

The goal of this course is to give the student a broad, sociological orientation to understanding the phenomenon of criminal organizations and of criminals in organizations. Specific attention will be paid to the origins, history, culture, organizational structure, and goals of various types of criminal organizations and of criminals in organizations including La Cosa Nostra, the Yakuza, business corporations, terrorist cells, street gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and the like. The types of crimes these organizations are involved in and the efforts of law enforcement in fighting OC groups, will also be analyzed.


Sociology of the Environment

We live in a world where we find ourselves locked into powerful political, cultural, social, and economic systems that significantly effect and are affected by the natural environment. By discussing issues of science, technology, popular culture, economics, urbanization, racial and gender relations, as well as social movements, this course will examine the social processes that define, create, maintain, and threaten our relationship with the natural environment. The readings for the course will come from a variety of sources, including the social and natural sciences, journalism, and popular culture.


Sociology of Food

Few things are said to be more important for our sustenance than food. This course explores the social contexts in which food is situated. We will examine numerous topics in relation to what we eat, including the variety of ways in which food can be produced, the implications of an increasingly globalized food system, how food can distinguish individuals and cultures, and the consequences of our current mode(s) of food consumption. The course will include material from a variety of scientific and popular culture sources through several different mediums, including text, podcast, and documentary film.


Gender and Disability

Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the treatment, cultural representation, legal status, and lived experiences of people with disabilities in society. Disabilities may be physical or intellectual/emotional, temporary or permanent, and while disability is often seen as a deviation from “normal” functioning, it is, in fact, one of the most universal human experiences. In this class, we will adopt a feminist perspective on the study of disability, asking questions such as: How are experiences of disability shaped by gender and sexual identity? To what extent is disability “natural,” and to what extent is it mediated by cultural norms, technology, medical interventions, politics, and other social factors? What does disability, especially in combination with other characteristics like gender, class, race, and age, reveal about the workings of power and inequality in human societies? And how might the answers to these questions help us work toward a future in which greater numbers of people can be productively or meaningfully involved in the life of our society?


Introduction to LGBT Studies

Sexuality is an integral part of human life and society, but—despite popular claims that we were all “born this way”—its meanings and social significance have changed tremendously over the course of history. In the first half of this class, we will trace that history, looking at the rise of sexuality-based classifications in law and medicine, the development of sexual identity politics, and the intersections of sexuality with gender, race/ethnicity, class, and citizenship. In the second half of the course, we will turn from historical developments in American LGBT identities to contemporary issues facing people who fall under the “queer” umbrella, including: gender non-normativity (via transgender and intersex experiences); marriage and family rights; queer representation in the media; and bullying and queer youth. The course will end with a week of student-led research presentations on a variety of self-chosen topics in current queer activism and identity.