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Fall 2018

ISF Courses

ISF 10 Enduring Questions and Great Books in the Western Tradition
  • TTH 9:30-11 AM
  • Bhandari
  • EVANS 3
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 24505

This course is a broad survey of major canonical works (“Great Books”) emphasizing the Premodern traditions of Western Civilization since the Greeks. These texts offer responses to central questions that, across the disciplinary divides, continue to inform contemporary work in the social sciences and the humanities.  Indeed, the “disciplines” or departments as we know them on campus are of relatively recent invention, compared to the millennia of treatises, poetry, plays, literature, sacred writings, histories and philosophical inquiries that sought answers to the questions later asked by the disciplines themselves in the humanities and social sciences.  

This course is not a history of the disciplines, nor is it an attempt to find precursive texts for each discipline  -- we do not seek to construct disciplinary canons or genealogies.  Instead, it is an account of the enduring questions of western civilization that later found homes in the disciplines, but whose origins lie in a “pre-disciplinary” world.  While we choose the framework of the disciplines to present these texts, and to ask recurring questions that can today be found in separate disciplines, we seek to problematize the history of disciplinary knowledge.  In this course, we investigate how contemporary concerns about modern social problems have a deep, but also an interdisciplinary, history.

ISF 100 A Introduction to Social Theory and Cultural Analysis
  • MWF 2-3 PM
  • Xu
  • MULFORD 159
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 21782

ISF 100A engages and analyzes the selected foundational texts of social theory from its classical roots to its contemporary branches. Social theory seeks to explain change in society—how it develops, what factors facilitate and inhibit it, and what results from it. Looking at foundational texts across disciplines, we will consider the principal ideas offered by leading theorists of the last two centuries and how those ideas relate to the social and intellectual contexts in which they were produced. More importantly, we will consider their relevance for ongoing issues we face today.

Through an examination of works of the “classical roots,” by Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Simmel, and of the “contemporary branches,” by Bourdieu, Goffman, Edward Said, Herbert Marcus, Walter Benjamin, and David Harvey, we will explore central issues in contemporary debates concerning the nature of the socio-economic order, the modalities of power, and the process of cultural production. We will examine selected original sources in depth. In addition, we will explore some reflections, elaborations and criticisms of this work in the context of significant contemporary issues.

ISF 100 F Theorizing Modern Capitalism: Controversies and Interpretations
  • TTH 12-2 PM
  • Bhandari
  • WHEELER 202
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 32363

The focus of this course will be on the various ways the nature and trajectory of modern capitalism has been interpreted. Our stress will be on post-Marxist works of analysis. The initial focal point will be on the work of Max Weber and Joseph Schumpeter, as well as important current debates in economic history and social theory generated by their work. Both Weber and Schumpeter display a strong fascination and elaboration with the work of Marx. The way they analyze Marx is very revealing about the way contemporary analysts seek to understand the capitalist system. We will also consider a number of current efforts that look at the systemic nature of capitalism. In particular, we are interested in how economic historians now see the the development of capitalism. We also want to examine the Weberian tradition in terms of the role of culture in shaping economic behavior. Debates about the nature of globalization will also be considered as well as analysis of the changing nature of work.

ISF 100 J The Social Life of Computing
  • TTH 3:30-5 PM
  • Kelkar
  • BARROWS 20
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 25474

The time we live in is often called the “information age” or the age of computing. Some analysts have likened it to a third Industrial Revolution: the first one happened in the 18th century in England and involved the use of water and steam power in the manufacture of textiles; the second happened in the 19th century United States and involved the rise of the railways, electricity grids and the managerial corporation; the third Revolution is ostensibly happening through the increasing development and use of computer networks. In this class, we will look at computing as a “social” phenomenon: to see it not just as a technology that transforms but to see it as a technology that has evolved, and is being put to use, in very particular ways, by particular groups of people. We will be doing this by employing a variety of methods, primarily historical and ethnographic, oriented around a study of practices. We will pay attention to technical details but ground these technical details in social organization (a term whose meaning should become clearer and clearer as the class progresses). We will study the social organization of computing around different kinds of hardware, software, ideologies, and ideas.

ISF 189 Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research Methods
  • MWF 10-11 AM
  • Xu
  • EVANS 4
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 22019

This class is an introduction to research methods, leading students through different units built around specific learning goals and practical exercises.  The course is designed to teach a range of research skills, including (but not limited to) the ability to formulate research questions and to engage in scholarly conversations and arguments; the identification, evaluation, mobilization, and interpretation of sources; methods and instruments of field research (interviews, questionnaires, and sampling) and statistical thinking; and the construction of viable arguments and explanation in the human sciences.   At the same time, the course is designed to help students identify their own thesis topic, bibliography, and methodological orientation in preparation for ISF 190.

ISF 189 Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research Methods
  • MWF 12-1 PM
  • Quamruzzaman
  • EVANS 2
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 22020

This class is an introduction to research methods, leading students through different units built around specific learning goals and practical exercises.  The course is designed to teach a range of research skills, including (but not limited to) the ability to formulate research questions and to engage in scholarly conversations and arguments; the identification, evaluation, mobilization, and interpretation of sources; methods and instruments of field research (interviews, questionnaires, and sampling) and statistical thinking; and the construction of viable arguments and explanation in the human sciences.   At the same time, the course is designed to help students identify their own thesis topic, bibliography, and methodological orientation in preparation for ISF 190.

ISF 189 Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research Methods
  • TTH 9:30-11 AM
  • Kelkar
  • EVANS 4
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 24837

This class is an introduction to research methods, leading students through different units built around specific learning goals and practical exercises.  The course is designed to teach a range of research skills, including (but not limited to) the ability to formulate research questions and to engage in scholarly conversations and arguments; the identification, evaluation, mobilization, and interpretation of sources; methods and instruments of field research (interviews, questionnaires, and sampling) and statistical thinking; and the construction of viable arguments and explanation in the human sciences.   At the same time, the course is designed to help students identify their own thesis topic, bibliography, and methodological orientation in preparation for ISF 190.

ISF 190 Senior Thesis
  • TTH 2-3 PM
  • Kelkar
  • EVANS 65
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 17098

The ISF Senior Thesis requirement is the capstone experience and final product of the ISF Major.   The thesis is a sustained, original, and critical examination of a central interdisciplinary research question, developed under the guidance of the ISF 190 instructor.  The thesis represents a mature synthesis of research skills, critical thinking, and competent writing. As the final product of a student's work in the major, the thesis is not the place to explore a new set of disciplines or research problems for the first time, but should develop methods of inquiry and bridge the several disciplines that students have developed in their Course of Study.

ISF 190 Senior Thesis
  • MW 2-3 PM
  • Quamruzzaman
  • EVANS 4
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 17099

The ISF Senior Thesis requirement is the capstone experience and final product of the ISF Major.   The thesis is a sustained, original, and critical examination of a central interdisciplinary research question, developed under the guidance of the ISF 190 instructor.  The thesis represents a mature synthesis of research skills, critical thinking, and competent writing. As the final product of a student's work in the major, the thesis is not the place to explore a new set of disciplines or research problems for the first time, but should develop methods of inquiry and bridge the several disciplines that students have developed in their Course of Study.