The sociological imagination is the understanding of the relationship between history and
biography; it is a way of thinking that highlights how everyday experiences and actions are
shaped by larger social structures and forces, and how these structures and forces are in turn
made up of everyday action. In this introduction to the discipline of sociology, we will develop the sociological imagination by exploring the connections between small and large-scale social processes by answering three questions: how does society shape individuals, how do social structures reproduce and change, and how do individuals shape society? In the course of this investigation, we will cover topics as diverse as the development of the social self, the impacts of gender, race, and class on individuals and society, the ways in which schools and workplaces shape human interactions and experiences, and the ways in which collective action can fundamentally change societies.
This course will explore the connections between history and biography, the social and the individual, through short lectures, discussions, readings, video, and short reflective papers. The course will begin by outlining the discipline of sociology, introducing its major paradigms and methods, before launching into an examination of small-scale social processes, including the development of the social self and identities, how social behavior is guided and enforced, and the bases of social interaction. We will then move on to discuss the role of institutions in our lives, with a focus on how schools, organizations, and workplaces impact our lives and vice-versa. By the second week, we will move on to discuss the even larger social structures that make up our society: governments, political movements, cultures, and race, class, gender, and sexuality.
Throughout the course, we will engage with sociological concepts in class through a wide variety of activities, including brief lectures, groupwork, media clips, and discussions. Outside of class, we will explore the sociological imagination through short readings – ranging from foundational theoretical pieces by Karl Marx and Max Weber to contemporary empirical pieces – that cover symbolic interactionism, functionalism, conflict theory, and other major sociological paradigms. In addition, you will engage with the course material outside of class through short reflective writing assignments asking you to connect what was discussed in class and readings to your own personal observations and experiences. At the end of the course, you will write a slightly longer paper using everything you learned to analyze a social phenomenon or process of your choice.
After taking this course, you will be able to think sociologically, and engage your sociological imagination by connecting your personal experiences to larger social structures. You will be able to define and use sociological concepts to understand social processes and phenomena, and will have developed your ability to think critically about current and historical events. This course will prepare you to take other sociology courses by introducing you to the vocabulary of the discipline and by asking you to analyze the world around you sociologically. It will also help prepare you for college by developing critical thinking and writing skills.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course; all are welcome!
Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2020.Visit Program Page Information Sessions Learn How to Apply