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

Jennifer Storch McMorris

M.A., The University of Texas at Austin

SOC 313K • Intro To Sociology Of Religion

46335 • Spring 2014
Meets MWF 900am-1000am CLA 1.106
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Description

People join and leave religions for a host of different and intensely personal reasons. As consequence, we tend to think of religious engagement as an individual experience. However, sociologists studying religious engagement have found that involvement in different religious traditions impacts people’s lives in many different and intriguing ways. Religious involvement shapes teen’s sexual and risk-taking behaviors, adult’s parenting decisions, individual ideas of gender roles and sexuality, educational goals, and career choices. Religious involvement impacts the ways that immigrants to the United States experience their cultural identities and adjust to American culture. There are even many studies showing that religious engagement even has strong and long-term consequences for personal health. This course looks at the ways that religious engagement or disengagement impacts these varied aspects of life. We also look at bigger questions such as: Why is the US so much more religious than other Western Democracies? Is religion in America and the rest of the world in decline?  Are religion and science in conflict? If so, how has this changed over time? Also, why are people religious, anyway? We will examine the works of leading sociologists and social theorists who have sought to address these questions. We will also engage in frequent discussions about these many questions. By the end of the course students will not only have a broader understanding of the ways that religious engagement and disengagement shapes both their own lives and broader American culture but they will also be able to think critically about both the theoretical and practical reasons for and consequences of individual religious engagement. 

Required Texts

 Our course readings will be available through the class Blackboard page. No additional book purchases will be required.

Grading policy

The course will have three in-class exams including a comprehensive final. The exams will account for 75% of your final course grade. 20% for the first exam, 25% for the second, and 30% for the comprehensive final. The remaining 25% of course grades will come from group and individual in-class assignments and quizzes.  

 

SOC S308 • Capital Punishment In America

88277 • Summer 2013
Meets MTWTHF 1130am-100pm CLA 0.102
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Description:

Why does the United States continue to use the death penalty when nearly every other industrialized Western nation in the world has abolished its use? What explains the persistence of America's contentious commitment to capital punishment? These questions will guide our exploration of American capital punishment's past, present and future. Using various historical, legal and social perspectives, we will examine the shifting rationales and nature of contemporary death penalty debates; public opinion; racial disparities and the historical legacy of lynching; US Supreme Court decisions; its efficacy as a criminal punishment and its personal impacts; and contemporary problems with its current application.

Required Text:

Required Readings: There is no formal text for the course. All required readings will be posted on Blackboard under Course Documents. All reading should be completed prior to class. Students will be required to purchase an i<clicker from the University Co-op.

Sample Readings:

Smith, M. D. (2000). "Capital punishment in America". In J. F. Sheley (Ed.), Criminology: A contemporary handbook (3rd Ed.) (pp. 620-643). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Donohue, J. J. & Wolfers, J. (2006). "The death penalty: No evidence for deterrence". The Economists’ Voice, 3(5), Article 3.

Grading Policy:

The course requires students to complete two exams, an individual project, a group project and in-class assignments for participation.

Exam 1                        20%

Exam 2                        20%

Individual Project           20%

Group Project                20%

Participation                  20%

SOC 308 • Religion And Gender In America

45645 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm WAG 420
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Description:

America is an extraordinarily religious country.  Demographic changes in immigration trends, combined with a legal ethos of religious tolerance mean that the U.S. is arguably the most religiously diverse as well.  Religious beliefs are a hotly contested area of public debate, with individuals on both sides often depicted in overly simplistic, cartoonish forms. Religious involvement, especially in recent decades, has also become the basis of radically different political stances on current issues such as abortion, gay rights, access to contraceptives, public school sexual education, and women’s right to work. This course examines the complex relationship between religious involvement and gender and sexuality in American society. We will look both at the historic relationship between religious engagement and women’s movements as well as more contemporary issues. We discuss several of the major religious traditions in the U.S today, including Evangelical Christianity, Catholicism, and Judaism, but we will also examine smaller religious groups seeking to tackle the complex and sometimes contradictory relationship between gender roles and belief, such as goddess worship and Wicca.   Relying on themes, concepts, and theories derived from the study sociology we will examine such topics as the impact of religious involvement on fertility and the transmission of STD and STIs, on men and women’s gender roles, and the political, medical, and legal discussion of LGBTQ rights.  Throughout the course our emphasis will be on developing a nuanced understanding of the motivations of individuals and groups and separating cartoonish depictions from factual reality. Because the topics at the heart of this course are both highly contested and deeply personal, our emphasis will be on respectful discussion and exploration of all beliefs.

Texts:  

Readings pulled from a variety of books and academic works will be posted on Blackboard. No text purchase will be required.

Grading:

3 written assignments (3-5 pages)  45%

2 exams 45%

Participation quizzes 10%

 

SOC F308 • Capital Punishment In America

88513 • Summer 2011
Meets MTWTHF 1130am-100pm BUR 134
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Description:

Why does the United States continue to use the death penalty when nearly every other industrialized Western nation in the world has abolished its use? What explains the persistence of America's contentious commitment to capital punishment? These questions will guide our exploration of American capital punishment's past, present and future. Using various historical, legal and social perspectives, we will examine the shifting rationales and nature of contemporary death penalty debates; public opinion; racial disparities and the historical legacy of lynching; US Supreme Court decisions; its efficacy as a criminal punishment and its personal impacts; and contemporary problems with its current application.

Required Text:

Required Readings: There is no formal text for the course. All required readings will be posted on Blackboard under Course Documents. All reading should be completed prior to class. Students will be required to purchase an i<clicker from the University Co-op.

Sample Readings:

 Smith, M. D. (2000). "Capital punishment in America". In J. F. Sheley (Ed.), Criminology: A contemporary handbook (3rd Ed.) (pp. 620-643). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Donohue, J. J. & Wolfers, J. (2006). "The death penalty: No evidence for deterrence". The Economists’ Voice, 3(5), Article 3.

Grading Policy:

The course requires students to complete two exams, an individual project, a group project and in-class assignments for participation.

Exam 1                        20%

Exam 2                        20%

Individual Project            20%

Group Project                 20%

Participation                   20%

 

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