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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Alexander Weinreb

Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Associate Professor
Alexander Weinreb

Contact

Biography

My primary research interests are in the relationship between group-level identities (family, clan, tribe, region, religion, nation, etc.) and a range of social and demographic outcomes. This has inevitably taken me into varied theoretical and disciplinary turf (from micro-sociological theory to political economy).  Since most of my research has focused on sub-Saharan African societies, I have also developed important secondary interests in data collection methodology, in particular the extent to which standard survey methods can be usefully applied in developing country settings (they can be, but with limitations). 

My most important new research interests are in global religious change over long historical periods, and in the sociology of Judaism. Aside from these, I also have latent interests - gradually encroaching on shelf space - in the sociology of genocide and the demography of arid lands.

Interests

Africa, Judaism, historical sociology

SOC 321T • Sociology Of Africa

46200 • Fall 2014
Meets MWF 900am-1000am CLA 1.106
show description

Description:

This course provides a broad introductory survey to Africa from a sociological perspective. Bridging classical macro and micro-sociological approaches, it has two principal aims: to deepen our understanding of Africa and African societies; and to help enrich sociological thought by incorporating Africa – long ignored – into the sociological mainstream.

The course is divided into three sections. The first addresses the problem of representation. How do we learn about Africa? How has the tension between Philo-Africans, those who romanticize Africa, and those driven to improve life on the “Dark Continent”, affected what we claim to know about Africa? How do Africans themselves feel and think about Africa? What are “authentic” African cultural forms and behavior?

The second section deals with political structure. By this we refer not only to the formal structure of African states and political authority, but also to constraints on states’ ability to project their formal authority. Some of these constraints are internal, related to specific countries’ ethnic and geographic characteristics. Others are external, stemming from African states’ embeddedness in global or transnational authority structures.

Having identified those constraints, the third and major section of the course deals with three key institutions that, either in addition to the state or in response to its failures, affect life on the ground. These three are: the extended family, religious institutions, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). We will describe the key features and functions of each of these, document how they have changed over the last few decades, how they are likely to change in the near future, and outline the debates about how they should change (if at all).

The course is designed for upper-level undergraduates. Course reading will draw on both academic and popular non-fiction.

Readings: 

The coursepack will include chapters from:

Barley, Nigel. 1983. The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes from a Mud Hut. Penguin Books.

Herbst, Jeffrey. 2000. States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control. Princeton University Press

Maren, Michael. 1997. The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity. New York: Free Press.

Olivier, Roland. 1991. The African Experience: Major Themes in African History from Earliest Times to the Present. New York: HarperCollins.

Trinitapoli, Jenny and Alexander Weinreb. 2012. Religion and AIDS in Africa. Oxford University Press

van de Walle, Nicholas. 2001. African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979-99. Cambridge University Press

wa Thiongo, Ngugi. 1986. Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. London: Heinemann

Articles in leading academic journals (mainly sociological) will also be assigned. These include:

Dodoo, Francis, and Nicola Beisel. 2005. “Africa in American Sociology: Invisibility, Opportunity, and Obligation.” Social Forces 84(1): 595-600

Frye, Margaret. 2012. “Bright Futures in Malawi’s New Dawn: Educational Aspirations as Assertions of Identity.” American Journal of Sociology, 117(6), pp. 1565-1624

Manglos, Nicolette and Alexander Weinreb. 2013. “Religion and interest in politics in sub-Saharan Africa” Social Forces 92 (1): 195-219

Swidler, Ann, and Susan Cotts Watkins. 2009. “‘Teach a Man to Fish’: The Sustainability Doctrine and Its Social Consequences.” World Development 37 (7): 1182–1196

Tavory, Iddo, and Ann Swidler. 2009. “Condom Semiotics: Meaning and Condom Use in Rural Malawi.” American Sociological Review 74 (2): 171–189

Trinitapoli, Jenny, and Sara Yeatman. 2011. “Uncertainty and Fertility in a Generalized AIDS Epidemic.” American Sociological Review 76 (6): 935-954

Weinreb, Alexander A. 2006. “The Limitations of Stranger-Interviewers in Rural Kenya.” American Sociological Review 71 (6): 1014-1039

Weinreb, Alexander A. 2001. “First politics, then culture: Accounting for ethnic differences in demographic behavior in Kenya.”  Population and Development Review 27 (3): 437-467

Grading Policy:

The final course grade will be based on:

  • A single written assignment/research paper (40% each) due by the end of the semester
  • two exams (25% each)
  • class participation (10%)

 

In each case, students will receive a +/- letter grade, based on the following performance levels:

A

95-100%

Excellent grasp of subject matter; explains concepts clearly provides  relevant details and examples; draws clear and interesting connections, exceptionally original, coherent and well-organized; ideas clearly written/stated, outstanding classroom participation

A-

90-94%

Very good grasp of subject matter; explains concepts clearly; provides relevant details and examples; draws clear connections; ideas clearly written/stated

B+

87-89%

Good grasp of some elements above, others need work

B

83-86%

Satisfactory grasp of some elements above

B-

80-83%

Uneven, spotty grasp of the elements above

C+

77-79%

Limited grasp of the above

C

73-76%

Poor grasp of the above

C-

70-72%

Very poor grasp of the above

D

60-69%

Little evidence of grasp of material, having done readings, attended class, or completed assignments

F

<60

No evidence of having done readings, attended class, or completed assignments

 

SOC 317M • Intro To Social Research

46350 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 830am-930am CLA 0.122
show description

Asking questions, seeking answers: An introduction to research design and data collection

Description

This course introduces students to the core professional problem in sociology: how we go about asking and answering questions about patterns of social organization and human behavior. Spanning what are known as “qualitative” and “quantitative” approaches, it is organized into three core sections. First we deal with how to pose questions, including questions that threaten our own deeply held beliefs, as well as those of other important interests. Second, we deal with basic techniques of research design and data collection. Third, drawing on a sample of published studies from across several sociological subfields, as well as other types of social research, we critically evaluate the extent to which other researchers have navigated these methodological hurdles. By the end of the course, students should be able to both critically evaluate the methodological underpinnings of most social research, as well as design their own robust studies.

Text

H. Russell Bernard’s Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. E-copies of other readings will be made available by the Professor.

 

SOC 317M • Intro To Social Research

46140 • Fall 2013
Meets MW 100pm-200pm ENS 109
show description

Asking questions, seeking answers: An introduction to research design and data collection

Description

This course introduces students to the core professional problem in sociology: how we go about asking and answering questions about patterns of social organization and human behavior. Spanning what are known as “qualitative” and “quantitative” approaches, it is organized into three core sections. First we deal with how to pose questions, including questions that threaten our own deeply held beliefs, as well as those of other important interests. Second, we deal with basic techniques of research design and data collection. Third, drawing on a sample of published studies from across several sociological subfields, as well as other types of social research, we critically evaluate the extent to which other researchers have navigated these methodological hurdles. By the end of the course, students should be able to both critically evaluate the methodological underpinnings of most social research, as well as design their own robust studies.

Text

H. Russell Bernard’s Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. E-copies of other readings will be made available by the Professor.

 

SOC 321K • Anti-Semitism

46150 • Fall 2013
Meets MWF 900am-1000am CLA 0.102
(also listed as HIS 366N, J S 365 )
show description

Course description

Why have Jews been hated and mistrusted for so long? How, if at all, does judeophobia differ from other types of xenophobia or racism?  In which societies have we historically seen intense hatred or mistrust of Jews? Where do we see it today? And where do we see the opposite phenomenon: philosemitism?

In this upper-level undergraduate course, we tackle these and related questions. We identify distinct types of judeophobia/antisemitism over 2,500 years, identifying continuity and change in antisemitic discourse.

 

Although our primary focus is on antisemitism in contemporary and historical Christian and Muslim societies, we begin in the antisemitic bedrock—Ancient Greece and Rome. We also look at antisemitism in peripheral societies which have had few Jews, if any (e.g., Japan). Finally, we consider judeophobia among Jews themselves—that is, the enduring phenomenon in which some Jews have not only internalized anti-Semitic discourse but have become “self-hating.”

 

Throughout the course, we use antisemitism to explore more general ideas in social theory, including globalization, and the nature of conflict related to race, ethnicity, class, and ideology. Perhaps most surprising and disturbing—this being a university—we look at the repeated role of intellectual elites in generating and justifying new forms of judeophobia, and in so doing, perpetuating this ancient hatred.

 

 

SOC 317M • Intro To Social Research

45700 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 930am-1030am PAR 206
show description

Asking questions, seeking answers: An introduction to research design and data collectionDescription

This course introduces students to the core professional problem in sociology: how we go about asking and answering questions about patterns of social organization and human behavior. Spanning what are known as “qualitative” and “quantitative” approaches, it is organized into three core sections. First we deal with how to pose questions, including questions that threaten our own deeply held beliefs, as well as those of other important interests. Second, we deal with basic techniques of research design and data collection. Third, drawing on a sample of published studies from across several sociological subfields, as well as other types of social research, we critically evaluate the extent to which other researchers have navigated these methodological hurdles. By the end of the course, students should be able to both critically evaluate the methodological underpinnings of most social research, as well as design their own robust studies.

Text

H. Russell Bernard’s Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. E-copies of other readings will be made available by the Professor.

SOC 321K • Anti-Semitism

45520 • Fall 2012
Meets MWF 900am-1000am BUR 208
(also listed as HIS 366N, J S 365, MES 341 )
show description

Why have Jews been hated and mistrusted for so long? How, if at all, does judeophobia differ from other types of xenophobia or racism?  In which societies have we historically seen intense hatred or mistrust of Jews? Where do we see it today? And where do we see the opposite phenomenon: philosemitism?

In this upper-level undergraduate course, we tackle these and related questions. We identify distinct types of judeophobia/antisemitism over 2,500 years, identifying when and where new and discrete layers of antisemitic ideas developed and flourished. Although our primary focus is on antisemitism in contemporary and historical Christian and Muslim societies, we begin in the antisemitic bedrock—Ancient Greece and Rome. We also look at antisemitism in peripheral societies which have had few Jews, if any (e.g., Japan). Finally, we consider judeophobia among Jews themselves—that is, the enduring phenomenon in which some Jews have not only internalized antisemitic discourse but have become “self-hating.”

Throughout the course, we use antisemitism to explore more general ideas in social theory, including habitus, globalization, and the nature of conflict related to race, ethnicity, class, and ideology. Perhaps most surprising and disturbing—this being a university—we look at the repeated role of intellectual elites in generating and justifying new forms of judeophobia, and in so doing, perpetuating this ancient hatred.

 

Grading

To be provided by instructor. 

SOC 389K • Training Smnr In Demography

45725 • Fall 2012
Meets F 1000am-100pm BUR 214
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This is a professionalization course. Its main purpose is to provide practical training to developing a career in social demography. We'll focus on three tracks. The first covers the contemporary structure of academic and non-university labor markets, sources of financing for each, and intellectual fashions and fads. We'll look at how each of these affects publication prospects and hiring. We'll also try to take into account likely changes in each of them.

The second track is focused more narrowly on how to work. We'll cover questions like: what research questions merit research papers? How should work be best presented visually? How abstruse can one make one's scholarly prose? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of working on one, two or three topics?

A third track is focused on technical topics, in particular project development and design, and grant-writing.

The training seminar is held Friday mornings. For one hour of the course, we are joined by colleagues throughout the University for the PRC brownbag lecture.

SOC 321K • Anti-Semitism

45350 • Fall 2011
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CPE 2.206
(also listed as HIS 366N, J S 365, MES 322K )
show description

Description:

Why have Jews been hated and mistrusted for so long? Is Judeophobia like any other type of xenophobia or racism?  Where do we see hatred and mistrust of Jews today? And where do we see the opposite phenomenon: philosemitism?

In this upper-level undergraduate course, we tackle these and related questions. We survey trends in Judeophobia/anti-Semitism over 2,500 years, identifying continuity and change in anti-Semitic discourse. Although our primary focus is on anti-Semitism in contemporary and historical Christian and Muslim societies, we also explore the ancient anti-Semitic bedrock—Ancient Greece and Rome—as well as anti-Semitism in peripheral societies which had few Jews, if any (e.g., pre-modern Japan, contemporary Africa). Finally, we consider Judeophobia among Jews themselves—that is, the enduring phenomenon in which some Jews have not only internalized anti-Semitic discourse but have become “self-hating.”

Throughout the course, we use anti-Semitism to explore more general ideas in social theory about boundary-making, models of racial, ethnic and cultural conflict, and perhaps most surprising and disturbing—this being a university—the repeated role of intellectual elites in generating and justifying new forms of judeophobia, and in so doing, perpetuating this ancient hatred.

Texts/readings:

Excerpts from:

-        Peter Schafer’s Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World

-        Robert Wistrich’s A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad

-        Gavin Langmuir‘s Towards a Definition of Anti-Semitism

-        Jean Paul Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew

-        David Goodman’s Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Stereotype

-        Stephen Norwood’s The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses

-        Donald Horowitz’s Ethnic Groups in Conflict

Grading/Assignments:

50% on exams and tests

40% on a group project (focusing on one aspect of anti-Semitism, historical or contemporary)

10% on class participation

Special notes:

In an effort to create a positive learning environment that is focused on lectures and exchanges in the classroom, the in-class use of laptops will be prohibited.

 

SOC 317M • Intro To Social Research

45476 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 1230pm-130pm BUR 112
show description

Asking questions, seeking answers: An introduction to research design and data collection

This course introduces students to the core professional problem in sociology: how we go about asking and answering questions about patterns of social organization and human behavior. Spanning what are known as “qualitative” and “quantitative” approaches, it is organized into three core sections. First we deal with how to pose questions, including questions that threaten our own deeply held beliefs, as well as those of other important interests. Second, we deal with basic techniques of research design and data collection. Third, drawing on a sample of published studies from across several sociological subfields, as well as other types of social research, we critically evaluate the extent to which other researchers have navigated these methodological hurdles.

By the end of the course, students should be able to both critically evaluate the methodological underpinnings of most social research, as well as design their own robust studies.

 

Text

 

H. Russell Bernard’s Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. E-copies of other readings will be made available by the Professor.



 

SOC 321K • Sociology Of Africa-W

46364 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm BUR 136
(also listed as AFR 374C )
show description

Uploaded

Publications

Weinreb, Alexander, and Guy Stecklov. 2009. “Social inequality and HIV-testing: Comparing home- and clinic-based testing in rural Malawi.”  Demographic Research 21: 627-646

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