Erika D Grajeda
M.A., The University of Texas at Austin
SOC 307C • Amer Families Past And Present
44490 • Fall 2015
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am CLA 1.106
This course focuses on families in the contemporary U.S. It will introduce you to how sociologists study families and along with them, ideals about gender, love, marriage, parenthood, sex and sexuality. A central theme will be diversity and change, as we consider the many ways families have changed over the last 60 years in the U.S., and the myriad forms of family diversity that surround us. We begin with the big questions like “what is a family?” and “what does it mean to look at the family from a sociological perspective?” We will then examine theoretical frameworks for understanding the family, particularly the ways in which gender, race, class, and sexuality intersect to shape different – and often unequal – experiences of family life.
During the first part of the course, we consider the history of U.S. families from the 19th century to today, focusing on the influence of marriage and changes in family organization over time. We also discuss sociological theories and methods used to study and understand families, including theories of gender and sexualities. In the second part of the course we focus on family experiences, including those of same-sex couples, childless-by-choice marriages, immigration in families, and alternative pathways to parenthood including surrogacy. Specific attention will be given to marginalized family types, including LGBT families, immigrant families, and interracial families. Throughout the course, we will explore, discuss, and debate several key questions:
1) What is a “family”? How has the definition of family changed over time? How does the meaning of family vary within American society?
2) How do definitions of the family shape family policy in the United States, and how does family policy shape meanings and experiences of family?
3) What is the relationship between family diversity and family inequality?
- Sarkisian, Natalia and Naomi Gerstel. 2012. Nuclear Family Values, Extended Family Lives: The Power of Race, Class, and Gender. Routledge.
- Risman, Barbara J. (Editor). 2010. Families as They Really Are. Norton.
- Various articles, available on Canvas (http://canvas.utexas.edu)
Two exams (2 x 25 points) 50 points
In-class pop quizzes 25 points
Group presentation 15 points
In-class participation 10 points
Exams (25 points each): Exams will be short answer format. Make-up exams will be given only to those absent for university-approved reasons, and must be taken within one week of the exam date. Arrangements for a make-up exam must be made prior to the test date. About one week before each exam, I will hand out a review sheet with possible exam questions. The actual exam will consist of questions selected from the review sheet. Exams are on [insert two dates here].
In-Class Quizzes (25 points): Periodic in-class pop quizzes will be given, usually based on the reading for that week, at the start of class. These are meant to encourage your attendance and completion of the readings, and will be graded as check, check plus, or 0. These quizzes will not be announced in advance, and you must be present in class the day of the quiz in order to take it. Missed quizzes cannot be made up.
Group Presentation (15 points): Students will be assigned to groups of 4-6 and each group will be given a date on which they will give a short (7-10 minute) presentation of an example of “diversity in American families” found either in popular culture or the news. More detailed information about the presentation will be handed out a few weeks into the course.
In-Class Participation (10 points): The success of this class depends upon the participation of its students, and the quality of our in-class discussions will depend on each of you. Participation includes attending class, demonstrating that you have read and thought critically about the assigned readings, contributing productively to class discussion, and asking relevant questions. Our discussions are a vital part of the learning in this course; a class cannot be made up simply by coping a classmate’s notes.
Final Grades: These are based on the standard scale set by the university:
A = 93–100
A – = 90–92.9
B + = 86–89.9
B = 83–86.9
B – = 80–82.9
C = 73–76.9
C + = 77–79.9
C - = 70–72.9
D+ = 67–69.9
D = 63–66.9
D - = 60–62.9
F = 60 and below
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