Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.


Chair, 2010-11: Christopher Chiappari, religion, identity, social change and development, immigration, Latin America

Faculty, 2010-11: Carolyn R. Anderson, identity, kinship, theory, gender, Native North America, Western Europe, Scandinavia; Ibtesam Al Atiyat, Arab world, gender, social movements, global interdependence, Islam; Elizabeth Hoover; Michael Leming, religion, death, family, Thailand and Southeast Asia (on leave fall semester and interim); Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb, gender, family, race and class (on leave spring semester); Elizabeth Rogg; Ryan Sheppard, family, gender, race/ethnicity, social movements, quantitative research; Julius Snell; Thomas Williamson, nationalism, health, globalization, cultural theory, Southeast Asia (on leave fall semester and interim)

Sociology and anthropology share the belief that society and culture shape us in powerful ways and that we can only know ourselves when we understand our social and cultural context. Our personalities and choices reflect who we are, but so do the groups and social institutions to which we belong (peers, family, religion, politics, occupations).

Sociology grew out of efforts to understand the nature and problems of modern industrial societies, while anthropology grew out of European and American colonial encounters with diverse world cultures. Both seek to explain the relationships among individuals, groups, institutions, culture, and meaning; both seek insights into the pressing personal and social issues of our day.

Sociology and anthropology contribute to current debates in politics, philosophy, theology, and other areas about multiculturalism, environment, gender, inequality, “Third World” development, welfare reform, globalization, and immigration. All require clear understanding of life’s social and cultural dimensions.

Occupations drawing on sociological and anthropological knowledge include policy research and planning, human resources and industrial relations, public and international relations, law, medicine, ministry, counseling, education, management, social work, and marketing. Both disciplines also help prepare students for social service and justice work.

Overview of the major

Humans are social and cultural beings. This means that they depend upon each other and cooperate, forming social relationships and social groups, which make up society. For societies to work, members must communicate with each other, primarily through language. They must also share beliefs, values, and meanings that are passed down from one generation to another. These learned meaning structures make up the culture of a group or society. Society and culture are interrelated in very complex ways, and both sociology and cultural anthropology are interested in this interrelationship.

Sociological research includes both micro-level community studies and macro-level national and transnational studies, using both ethnographic or qualitative methods and quantitative methods. Anthropological research is generally ethnographic, using qualitative methods at the micro- or local level. Both disciplines are very concerned with the dynamics of power, especially the ways in which social structures create inequalities among members of the society and how these inequalities are culturally justified. Both are also interested in processes of social and cultural change.

Sociology and cultural anthropology are closely related disciplines that share certain theories and methodologies. Both are critical disciplines because they are comparative, leading students to look at, understand, and question their own societies and cultures. Majors in sociology/anthropology explore sociological and anthropological theories in two core courses. They design and conduct independent research in quantitative and ethnographic methods core courses. In the senior seminar, majors consider and critique the ethics of sociology and anthropology and their impact on their own personal ethics and morals in depth. They also select one course examining social institutions, one course concentrating on a geographical area of the world or a topical area of particular interest to them, as well as two elective courses. Sociology/anthropology majors are highly encouraged to apply and test their skills by studying abroad, doing an independent study or research project, and/or completing an internship for one or more of ther elective courses.




The major in sociology/anthropology requires completion of at least nine courses distributed as follows: five core courses (Sociology/Anthropology 291, 292, 371, 373, 399) and four elective courses, including at least one course from the area and topical groups (230s, 240s) and one from the social structures and processes group (260s).Transfer students are under the same requirements as students in their graduating class. Majors are also required to take Statistics 110. Statistics 110 is best taken before Sociology/Anthropology 371. Students are permitted to take one of the four elective courses, but not a core course, S/U. An introductory course is not required but may be used as an elective for the major.

Students who study abroad on a St. Olaf program that includes a sociology or anthropology course may petition to have this course count as an elective toward their major. One independent study/research course or an off-campus field internship supervised by department faculty may also count as an elective toward the major.



A social studies education major with an area of emphasis in sociology/anthropology is available. For more information, see Faculty in the Sociology/Anthropology Department may be asked to provide academic supervision of internships that students arrange in community agencies (see Sociology/Anthropology 294 and 394). For details on off-campus programs, see the International and Off-Campus Studies section of this catalog. The Sociology/Anthropology Department is a core participant in the following interdisciplinary majors: American studies, American racial and multi-cultural studies, Asian studies, Hispanic studies, social work, nursing, and women’s studies. The Sociology/Anthropology Department also contributes to the Africa and the Americas, family studies, and the Middle Eastern studies concentrations.


Level I and level II courses count for one or more of HBS, MCS-D/MCD, MCS-G/MCG, or HWC. In addition, 292, 371, and 373 carry WRI, 232 and 371 carry ORC, and 399 carries EIN credit. 121 and 128 are open to first-year students only. There are no prerequisites for level II courses except for 267.


116 Modern Elixirs: The Anthropology of Mood-Altering Substances

In many respects, products like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and opium provide the glue that holds together modern life. This course examines the web of these substances from an anthropological perspective. Our focus includes the politics of production, the culturally diverse practices of consumption, and the social consequences of regulation. Based on our collective experience at St. Olaf, we consider the mood-altering substances on and off campus and examine their influence in such things as our social identity, individual consciousness and the structure of authority. Offered during interim.

121 Introduction to Sociology

This course helps students explore the connections between society and their own lives. Students answer challenging questions such as "Do we have a 'human nature'?," "Why does social inequality exist?," "What is race?," and "How do societies change?" In answering these questions students learn to develop a sociological imagination. In doing so they review the various research methods and theories that form the sociological tradition. This course is open to first-year students or students in certain accredited programs. Open to all students when taught during the summer. Offered each semester.

128 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

How do anthropologists study other cultures? Peoples around the world create different realities through the ways they conceptualize experience (cultures) and how they organize themselves to do what they need to do (societies). Anthropologists describe and compare cultures and societies, focusing on different aspects such as family and kinship, inequality and power, religion and values, economy and technology, cultural and social change. This course is open to first-year students or students in certain accredited programs. Offered each semester.


232 Thailand: Culture, Institutions, and Interactions

This course offers a sociological understanding of Thailand, focusing on Thai culture and the institutions of education, religion, and economy, drawing partly on guest lecturers and visits to Thai sites. It also provides beginning skills and experience in ethnography social scientific observation and interpretation of interactions in "the field" for example, among Thai students, monks, and vendors and customers in markets. Offered during interim.

234 Native North American Cultures and Religions

As an overview of the variety of belief systems and ways of life, this course explores ethnographic case studies of Native American groups from the major culture areas of North America north of Mexico. Topics addressed in this course include language families, social organization systems, ecological and economic adaptations, material culture, religions, and revitalization movements. This course will also examine the impacts of colonial encounters upon Native American cultures. Offered every other year in the fall or spring semester.

236 The Arab World

Focusing on present day Arab and Middle Eastern countries, the course explores the role of the institutions of family and religion in maintaining continuity, while also identifying sources of change such as the colonial experience, regional and global interdependence, the social impact of oil, fundamentalist movements, and the co-existence of traditional and "modern" values. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester.

237 Forging a Latin American Culture

This course explores the forces that shape contemporary Latin American society, including material and cultural interactions with Europe, Africa, and the U.S. Emphasis is placed on understanding the formation of the region in terms of the responses of key groups of actors (indigenous peoples, women, peasants, workers, the poor, revolutionaries) to the actions of outside and/or more powerful forces and institutions (conquerors, the state, the military, missionaries, multinational corporations). Offered annually in the fall or spring semester.

Asian Studies/Sociology/Anthropology 239: Modern Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a diverse region, stretching from the sleek high-rises of Singapore to hermetic Rangoon; from Islam to Buddhism; from computer chip manufacture to swidden agriculture. Students read ethnographies, novels, and local histories to better understand Southeast Asian family life, religion, language, and education. Through focusing on the experience of modernity, students examine how Southeast Asians make sense of their group affiliations, their pasts and their futures. The course aims to challenge contemporary understandings of place, entitlement, and home both in Southeast Asia and beyond. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester or during interim.


242 Contemporary Native American Issues

What do self-determination and cultural identity mean for Native American peoples today? Students examine the impact of colonization on Native American peoples, including federal policies, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Issues include economy and politics on reservations, family and gender roles, orality and literacy, persistence and revitalization of religious life and culture, urban life, and recent social movements and organizations. Offered every other year in the fall semester.

244 Gender Matters at Work

Students gain a sociological understanding of gender and work which they can use to understand the larger work world and their own lives and careers. The course explores gender and work in terms of history, current conditions, causes, consequences, and sources of transformation, largely in the United States but also globally. Topics range across domestic labor, unequal pay and promotion, sexual harrassment, survival jobs such as garment assembly, laws, workplace policies, and union organizing. Offered during interim.

245 Crossing Borders: Transnational Migration in a Globalized World

This course examines contemporary transnational migration from a sociological perspective. Students investigate major patterns, causes, and consequences of transnational migration, and explore key issues including immigrants' unequal access to power and resources. Students use major public databases on migration and produce a project on a specific immigration issue or group. Offered periodically during interim.

246 GLBT Lives and Issues

This course explores the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from several social science perspectives. Students examine whether gender and sexual orientation (both heterosexual and homosexual) are socially constructed or biologically natural, and what cross-cultural and historical examples can tell us. Students also study controversies over the family and religious status of GLBT people, why homosexuality has become such a political issue, and movements for change. Offered during interim.

248 Sociology of Dying, Death and Bereavement

This class investigates death-related behavior from an American and cross-cultural perspective, seeking to understand patterns of social interaction surrounding and giving meaning to dying, death, and bereavement. Topics include: death meanings and anxiety, religion and death-related customs, the dying process, hospice as a social movement, biomedical issues, the funeral industry, death rituals, and the social understanding of the bereavement process. Offered annually in the fall semester.

249 Indigenous Peoples

Hunters and gatherers, herders and agriculturalists who have developed successful strategies for utilizing natural resources while maintaining ecological balance are in danger of losing their ways of life. Deforestation, dams, pollution, global warming, desert expansion, and population pressure -- the products of globalization and economic development -- are threatening the loss of invaluable cultural knowledge as well as sustainable adaptations. Students explore humans and the environment and the survival of indigenous peoples. Offered every other year in the spring semester.

SOCIAL structures and processes COURSES

260 Marriage and the Family

This course provides a social science understanding of the "contemporary American family" and analysis of marriage and family issues from a cross-cultural perspective. Students discuss issues of dating and mate selection, marital and parent-child relationships over the family life cycle, gender issues, work and family roles, and problem-related issues affecting families (divorce, violence and death) caused by rapid changes in society. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester.

261 Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective

This course compares gender patterns and issues in various cultures around the world, such as Latin America, the Middle East, India, the U.S., and East Asia. How do cultural expectations for women and men vary? Why do some societies have more gender equality than others? How do economic and political change, including globalization, impact gender roles? How do U.S. and Third World feminism compare? Offered annually in the fall or spring semester.

262 Global Interdependence

Approaching the world as a "global village," the course will focus on the development of the world as an interdependent entity, the relationship between the "developed" and "developing" world, alternative explanations for planned social change, and new institutions for this international world. Global challenges such as the information revolution, population, the status of women, and migration are analyzed to illustrate this interdependence. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester.

263 Social Movements

Students explore social, political, and religious movements, focusing on case studies of struggles utilizing both violent and nonviolent tactics. The course emphasizes the historical and cultural contexts of social movements, including tradition, ritual and symbolism, colonialism, national borders, and indigenous peoples. The role of cultural identities in the creation of communities of resistance and movements for social change is also a central issue. Offered occasionally in the fall or spring semester.

264 Race and Class in American Culture

Students explore the continuing significance of color, class, and immigration in the U.S., with a focus on the experiences and concerns of African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Asian-Americans. The course examines the nature and functions of prejudice; the relationship among race, class and gender; the persistence of racism and inequality; and social policies and social movements intended to create greater social justice. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester.

265 Religion, Culture and Society

This course examines and analyzes religious beliefs, meanings, rituals, and organizational patterns from an empirical perspective. Students study the social organization and functions of religion, the process of secularization in society, the practice and function of civil religion, religious conversion and defection, and sectarian religious movements. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester.

267 Medical Anthropology

How do people understand illness and healing? How does social inequality shape health? These are among the questions explored by medical anthropology. In this course students examine the ways people in different societies experience their bodies, by looking at AIDS in Haiti, old age in India, and childbirth in the United States. Students investigate diverse understandings of health, different means of promoting healing, and the role of power in providing medical care. Prerequisite: one sociology/anthropology course. Offered annually in the fall or spring semester.


291 History of Sociological Theory

This course provides an overview of the major thinkers who sought to create a science of human society, the ideas they found fundamental to a science of society and how human society changes through history. Classical thinkers such as Marx, Durkheim, Simmel, Weber, and Mead are studied along with the schools of theory which they inspired: positivism, interpretive and critical conflict theory. Open to sociology/anthropology majors only. Prerequisite: one sociology/anthropology course. Offered annually in the spring semester.

292 Anthropological Theory

This course introduces students to anthropological theory and the "culture" of the discipline itself. Students examine anthropology's formation during the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Empire, which called for new explanations of human differences and gave new significance to the nature and meaning of "culture." They explore the method of participant observation research, the question of whether anthropology is a science, the problem of representing one culture to another, and the changing nature of ethnographic writing. Open to sociology/anthropology majors only. Offered annually in the fall semester.

294 Internship

298 Independent Study

299 Topics in Sociology-Anthropology

The department periodically offers courses on special topics. The specific title is listed in the class and lab schedule when it is offered. Prerequisites to be determined by instructor.

371 Foundations of Social Science Research: Quantitative Methods

Students gain the skills necessary to conduct and critically evaluate quantitative research. Students learn the underlying theoretical assumptions and orientations of quantitative research, including research design, sampling techniques, strategies for data collection, and approaches to analysis. Students gain practice in data analysis by conducting a research project and using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), a standard in sociology. Open to sociology/anthropology majors only. Prerequisite: Statistics 110 or 212. Offered annually in the fall semester.

373 Ethnographic Research Methods

Students learn to design and conduct qualitative research in the tradition of sociological and anthropological ethnography. Students discuss theoretical approaches to ethnography and learn data collection methods through case studies and fieldwork assignments. Students use their own research to gain experience in interpreting field notes, doing analysis, and writing an ethnographic interpretation of their research findings. Open to sociology/anthropology majors only. Prerequisite: Sociology 291 or 292. Offered annually in the spring semester.

394 Internship

396 Directed Undergraduate Research: "Topic Description"

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: Determined by individual instructor. Offered based on department decision.

398 Independent Research

399 Senior Seminar

This seminar offers in-depth reading, writing, and discussion on a selected topic from areas common to sociology and anthropology with an emphasis on contemporary analysis and ethics. Specific content will vary from year to year. The seminar is open to senior sociology/anthropology majors only. Offered annually in the spring semester.