Janelle M Silva
Explores the patterns of power that create our social world and how those patterns can be challenged or modified. Examines cultural, institutional, and interpersonal ways that people gain, challenge, and are affected by power and considers how and whether to bring about social change.
Institutions and Social Change seeks to explore the patterns of power that make up our social world, as well as the ways in which those patterns can be challenged or modified. We will examine the cultural, institutional, and interpersonal ways that people gain and maintain power, and critically analyze how these patterns of power affect the social fabric. We will examine a variety of social theories, paying special attention to how those theories enter into popular discourse. We will also consider the ways in which these theories, either explicitly or implicitly, shape our everyday choices regarding the seemingly mundane (e.g., Should I buy that cheeseburger?) to political allegiances (e.g., Who should I vote for?) to expressly moral and ethical decisions (e.g., Is abortion wrong?). In so doing, we will also consider debates surrounding how and whether to bring about large-scale social change. This course is one of the SEB Core courses. This course centralizes the concept of power in understanding human behavior. Specifically, the course addresses how power differentials between people are created and reinforced by social institutions (such as education, work, politics, media, family, religion, the justice system), social statuses (such as race, sex, class), as well as through everyday norms of social interaction. The course emphasizes the socially constructed nature of these institutions, statuses, and interactions, and thus problematizes “essentialist” understandings of human behavior and cultural norms.
Student learning goals
An understanding of the role of context in shaping, transforming, and influencing an individual’s life and social groups in the U.S.
Synthesize diverse theoretical concepts and apply these to real-world situations with plausible outcomes for change
Reflection on inequality, power, and privilege and ability to participate in respectful and collegial dialogue
Critically assess institutions and collaborate with others on future change
General method of instruction
Lectures, group-based facilitation, films
Class assignments and grading
Midterm, two response papers, final paper and presentation (group-based)