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Robert Crosnoe, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Amina Zarrugh

SOC 307T • Punishment And Society

44530 • Fall 2015
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am CLA 0.102
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Course Description

Power is all around us – it determines where we live, which schools we attend, what types of jobs we perform, with whom we make friends and partners, and, importantly, how we perceive the world. In this course, we will develop a sociological understanding of power to consider how particular forms of behavior are deemed punishable by society. In the process, we will study how power influences norms of social behavior and determines the consequences for failing to observe such norms. We will explore key foundational texts in sociology to understand how power, and by extension forms of punishment, have shifted historically from primarily visible, physical forms of repression (incarceration of the body) to invisible, ideational forms of control (incarceration of the mind). Attention will be paid to how power operates in the legal system and contributes further to the production of inequalities based on gender, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexuality. A clear and nuanced understanding of how power functions and where it is located is an important point of departure for understanding how it affects our daily lives, a focus that will grow throughout the course.

This course will engage a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives including sociology, anthropology, and critical literary studies to better understand the relationship between power and punishment. The following questions will guide us throughout the course:

  • What is power, who has it, and how is it exerted in society?
  • What are social norms and what is deviance?
  • What is punishment and what social function does it perform?
  • What relationships exist between norms, punishment, and key sociological categories such as gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and age?

The course will address the issue of punishment comparatively in both the U.S. context and in other settings across the world. We will discuss a range of topics related to different types of laws and norms (such as anti-sodomy laws), punishment (such as forced disappearance), and forms of incarceration (such as immigration detention centers).

Grading and Requirements

Everyone is expected to regularly attend class and engage as much as possible with the course material. The course will utilize and address many forms of learning; information will be communicated through lecture, discussions, multimedia, and in-class group work. Your final grade will be determined by your participation, your performance on in-class examinations, and writing assignments that encourage you to apply key concepts discussed in class to contemporary events. 

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