Beyond Sociology 101
June 14, 2021 6:22 AM   Subscribe

 
I wish there were more books and less articles; articles are more important for scholars to read and respond but I think books are easier to understand as an outsider. It's interesting to see who made it into the Theory list though. Thanks anotherpanacea!
posted by subdee at 6:40 AM on June 14


Great resource! Forwarding to my nearly graduated Sociology majoring child :)
posted by erebora at 6:53 AM on June 14


I wish there were more books and less articles; articles are more important for scholars to read and respond but I think books are easier to understand as an outsider.

They are lists of readings that PhD candidates are required to read all of in preparation for a major test that determines whether they continue on in their PhD program or not. So yeah, it's for scholars, which means even the books on the lists are likely more technical and not so much aimed at a general audience. And judging from the one list I looked at, if more of the items were books instead of articles, that would take, like 10 years just to prepare for one of the early steps that determines whether students can even continue on to a more specialized study and research topic!

But it is cool to have more scholarly directed reading lists like this available for everyone, including folks who don't have access to participating in a formally organized program of study. In particular, just randomly picking up books or resources on a topic that look interesting means one is more likely to not get a complete or balanced overview of the main ideas in an area of study.
posted by eviemath at 7:48 AM on June 14 [15 favorites]


That's a freaking massive department - there's pages and pages of professors! Compare to a US institution, there'd be one page of professors, then an (invisible) list of the hundreds of adjuncts that actually teach.
posted by RajahKing at 9:43 AM on June 14


It's also a massive school. 93,000 students (graduate and undergraduate) across three campuses.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:56 AM on June 14 [4 favorites]


And judging from the one list I looked at, if more of the items were books instead of articles, that would take, like 10 years just to prepare for one of the early steps that determines whether students can even continue on to a more specialized study and research topic!

The books (on the gender list anyway) are mostly the introduction or specific chapters. For example, it's true that unless it's your thing, you don't actually need to read all of Female Masculinity, Halberstam makes his theoretical point in the introduction, which is pretty typical of academic books.

I participated in a feminist theory reading group last summer, coming in with a fairly weak background. There were times when things got into the weeds of different factions within philosophy where it was useful to have someone who knew that stuff around, but the articles we read were generally accessible, so I don't necessarily know that I'd believe books are more accessible anyway, especially when we're talking about academic books.
posted by hoyland at 9:57 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I'm glad they're doing this.

Academics had an opportunity in the late 90s, early 2000s to share more of their stuff on the web. Then the LMS/VLE came in and drove much of it into silos.

(grumbles)
posted by doctornemo at 11:01 AM on June 14


There are pros and cons to putting these sort of curricular materials on the open web. Pros around open information dissemination. Cons related to the anti-intellectual turn and attacks on specifically departments such as sociology from right wing/conservative groups. The cons are probably less onerous for a department as large as this one at UToronto than they would be for smaller departments or departments that do not receive as much institutional support from their universities.
posted by eviemath at 11:19 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


These lists can be tremendously contentious to put together because of compromises to keep the length down, because they're perceived to create arbitrary disciplinary boundaries or because of concerns that they misrepresent the program in one way or another. They're also often in constant flux. I checked my own program's list, and it's not public at the moment, presumably because the committee is editing it once again.

For what it's worth, in my area of expertise (which overlaps with the Sociology of Crime and Law list) I think U of T Sociology has done a pretty good job.
posted by sfred at 11:22 AM on June 14 [5 favorites]


There are pros and cons to putting these sort of curricular materials on the open web...

Certainly, and more pros and cons. Copyright and other IP issues, privacy, maintaining content over time, dealing with changing software formats and tools... On the other hand, improving public information, helping marginalized learners, etc.

My point is that the LMS/VLE movement pushed that option away for many.
posted by doctornemo at 4:47 PM on June 14


I love stuff like this. Thank you!
posted by peepofgold at 3:49 AM on June 15


Cons related to the anti-intellectual turn and attacks on specifically departments such as sociology from right wing/conservative groups.

Surely the whole point of a university is to open ideas to criticism and challenges. So as to strengthen arguments on both sides.

Raises the interesting question, are there conservative sociologists? The LSE seems to suggest not. Not my field, but should this absence not be a matter of concern for the club?
posted by BWA at 6:16 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Surely the whole point of a university is to open ideas to criticism and challenges.

University administrators frequently disagree. University governing boards almost universally disagree.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:51 AM on June 15


Surely the whole point of a university is to open ideas to criticism and challenges. So as to strengthen arguments on both sides.

Have you been living under a rock and have somehow managed to be unfamiliar with Turning Point's Professor Watchlist and targetted harassment of university faculty deemed (accurately or not) leftist; the Harper government's attempts to destroy records, eviscerate Statistics Canada, or oppose any academics they view as "commit[ing] sociology"; or the more recent politically motivated program cuts and layoffs at Laurentian University (to mention a couple Canadian-specific example, since the list came from the sociology department at the University of Toronto); attempts by Republican controlled state governments in the US to suppress teaching of critical race theory or anything they erroneously think falls under the label by discussing systemic racism in any way or suggesting that the US might not perfect on race issues; state attempts to systemically oppress transgender students and employees; or basically the entirety of the Trump administration?

Harassment and political repression are not academic "criticism and challenge" and most definitely are not designed or intended to "strengthen arguments on both sides".
posted by eviemath at 7:51 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Also, a lot of these "criticisms" are just basically cover for horrible people being horrible, but, y'know with science. There was a "woke studies" paper that got a lot of attention a couple years back (for some reason, this was uncritically and unironically presented on Metafilter as "This post is not a hoax") that got a lot of people excited. Finally, here was something that showed that those dastardly SJWs were undermining the real science with their fantasies about "fluid gender identity" and "systemic racism." To people like Yascha Mounk, who had (and still have) a vested interest in harassing people with "reasonable" sounding bigotry to try and silence their voices while simultaneously crying about free speech, they finally had what they thought was a smoking gun.

Unsurprisingly, it turned out that the paper wasn't anywhere near a good-faith criticism (or even ethically sound), but rather just a way to try to cloak the ever-so-subtle white supremacy and anti-LGBTQ sentiments of the authors in the so-called hard sciences. All three authors, and a good number of their more well-known supporters have since gone fully mask-off (see also: pretty much every signatory to the "Harper's Letter"), and I believe one of them actually ended up being booted from their university position.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:21 AM on June 15 [5 favorites]


The insincere nature of most calls nowadays for so-called free and open debate aside, academics being more open about what our jobs generally involve (eg. the other recent FPP about the historian who ended up having to explain this to a courtroom so they could understand why the murderer's claims to the dead guy were fraudulent and why his lies in trying to cover his tracks were untrue) is likely an important part of helping inoculate more people against right wing claims or conspiracy theories about academia.
posted by eviemath at 8:49 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


It's also a massive school. 93,000 students (graduate and undergraduate) across three campuses.

In general Canada tends to do really big Universities.
posted by srboisvert at 12:33 PM on June 15


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