Topic outline

  • General

    Anti-Disciplinary Studies: Responding to Social Complexity


    SSC530, Fall 2010

    Tuesday/Thursday 8:30-9:50; Dalrymple 34

    Gearoid Millar

    Office: Dalrymple 27

    Gmillar@marlboro.edu 451-7140

    Office Hours, Wednesday 8:30-10:30

    Course Description: This class will introduce students to the theoretical, methodological, and practical differences between six social science disciplines. We will investigate the different approaches taken by anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, History and economics to two complex social problems, urban youth violence and international development. Students will learn to critique scholarly articles, policy recommendations, and the practical application of theory in the modern world. They will also learn to integrate diverse perspectives in the pursuit of realistic and holistic solutions to complex social problems. Students are expected to engage each week with scholarly articles from a particular discipline pertaining to one of the two complex social problems. They will learn to compare and contrast between approaches and outcomes, and to evaluate both the quality of particular analysis and proposed solutions, and the disciplined nature of modern policy formation and application. Prior exposure to two or more introductory social science courses and an interest in scholarly critique will be very important for success in this course. Prerequisite : Two introductory social science classes

    Format: Class meetings will generally combine informal lecture with class discussion of the readings. As a class the readings will be investigated and critiqued and students must come to class prepared to communicate clearly about the literature. There will be two small papers and one final paper that ask that students to formulate interdisciplinary solutions to complex social problems. As such, students must be fully engaged with the readings and the diverse perspectives they describe, in order to formulate their own proposals.

    Assignments:

    Class Participation – 10%

    As a discussion class of this nature functions best when everyone participates and contributes, class attendance is mandatory and active participation will be graded. Participation grades will reflect thoughtful comments regarding the readings and your peer’s ideas and thoughts. It is expected that all communication will be respectful and attentive to the thoughts of others, while clearly expressing your ideas and opinions to the class as a whole. Students are allowed 3 absences throughout the semester. Each additional absence will result in a 2% drop in the overall final course grade unless there are extreme circumstances (death in the family, extreme sickness, etc.)

    Forum Posts – 10%

    Each Tuesday students must submit a 250 word post immediately after class. These forum posts must reflect on the class readings for that day and your thoughts about them. They must be turned in by the end of the day on Tuesday or they will not be counted.

    Project Updates – 20%

    Throughout the second half of the semester students are responsible for a 700 word project update paper every Thursday. These papers must describe your progress towards finishing your paper, show how the readings you are doing, both assigned and chosen, are relative to your chosen social problem, or be early drafts of sections of your final paper. These papers are due every thursday, the same day for which you will choose a final paper specific reading. They should be well thought out and express ideas clearly and concisely. Each of these papers should start with a citation and a short summary of the article you chose to read for that day.

    Paper – 60%

    There is one large paper due for this class. However, throughout the semester the paper will be constructed through 5 smaller assignments, each accounting for a small portion of the full 60%. This will allow each student to break the task into manageable pieces and complete the task on time. The paper will be an analysis of a complex social problem in the community. Each student may define 'community' as they wish, but the more engagement the student can have with the problem, the more fine grain an understanding will be possible and the more pertinent a solution the student will eventually describe. The paper must provide a description of the ongoing problem, the actors involved, the relationship between the actors and their orientation toward the problem, past attempts to find a solution to the issue, and the students own solution. The solution should take account of the various perspectives of the parties, as well as the varying approaches of the pertinent disciplines. The paper must make use of, and correctly cite, at least 10 books or scholarly articles in addition to any class readings that might be used.

    The graded portions of the paper project are as follows;

    300 word abstract - Due on September 16th - 5%

    1000 word sketch - Due on September 30th - 5%

    The 1000 word sketch of your ideas for the final paper is intended as a bridge between the 300 word abstract and the half draft due November 2nd. It is intended both to inspire your early investigation of your subject and as a way for me to ensure that everyone is moving in the right direction towards completing a successful paper. I expect to see four things included in these short papers.

    First, I expect you to briefly summarize any readings you have completed on your chosen subject.

    Second, I expect you to discuss the new ideas you have had regarding the subject, or how the ideas expressed in your abstract have evolved and been refined.

    Third, I expect you to describe the next steps you will take in investigating your subject, articles or books you plan to read, people you plan to interview, newspaper or magazine articles you will read, documentaries you will watch, etc. In addition, you should describe what you expect to learn in these new materials and how they will help your investigation of the subject.

    And fourth, I hope that each of you will also provide a brief suggestion of what solutions you are currently considering. These do not need to be final, but should show that you have been thinking of possible solutions and also about class material and how it might be applied to your subject.

    These papers are due prior to class on Thursday morning. I expect them all to be turned in on time.

    Annotated bibliography - Due on October 14th - 5%

    An annotated Bibliography is a list of citations followed by a short 150 to 200 word description of the importance or relevance of the work cited. For some basic information go to: http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill28.htm.

    For this particular project I expect each annotated bibliography to include sources relevent to your project and for your annotations to describe why each given source will help you complete your project. I expect to see that each of you has put significant effort into the project thus far, so each annotated bibliography should include at least 5 significant scholarly articles, or 5 significant pieces of such length, wether they be book chapters, reports, legal documents, court transcripts, e-mail exchanges, etc.

    One book will not suffice. If you have read an entire book I expect that to be supplemented even at this early point with at least 2 other significant pieces. If your investigation of your subject has been primarily through newspaper articles your annotated bibliography should include the number of citations that would be similar in length and significance to 5 scholarly journals.

    Remember please that this is a fully graded assignment. If it is not on time the rules for late grades apply. This assignment is designed not only to grade a piece of paper turned in, but to grade your progress in investigating your subject thus far. Please try to show, in your annotations, that you have read these pieces and have thought clearly about how they apply to your subject. I expect all assignments to be turned in on time.

    3000 word draft - Due on November 2nd - 5%

    6000 word draft - Due on November 18th - 10%

    6000-7000 word final paper - Due on December 7th - 30%

    Paper Formats: All assignments in this class can be e-mailed to me at Gmillar@marlboro.edu. There is no reason to print and hand in physical copies. I will return comments similarly by e-mail, with tracked changes style comments.

    Learning Differences: This class will honor all necessary accommodations for students with documented learning differences. If you have a learning difference or believe you may have a learning difference that requires specific accommodation, please contact Megan Littlehales, Coordinator of Disability Services, at mml@marlboro.edu. Megan will let me know what accommodations would be appropriate.

    Academic Integrity: Students in this class will abide by Marlboro’s commitment to academic integrity (see http://www.marlboro.edu/resources/handbook/academic/disciplinary_action/). As members of an academic community we each have a responsibility to cite all ideas and words that are not our own. Any student caught plagiarizing in my class will receive a failing grade. If you are unsure what does and does not need to be cited, please ask me or make an appointment with the Writer’s Block to ask for assistance. You can read more on the subject at http://abacus.bates.edu/pubs/Plagiarism/plagiarism.html.  In addition, for the final paper students must follow the citation guidelines provided at http://akbar.marlboro.edu/~jsheehy/sources/, which describe how to cite, and provides examples of citing various kinds of materials. Examples of how to cite interviews, personal letters and court transcripts are not included. Therefore, if you use any of these sources please cite them as follows. Pretending, for example, that you are citing a letter, interview, or court transcripts with your teacher, the citation and bibliography for that source would look like this:

     Gearoid said "I hate plagiarism" (Millar, 2009).

    Millar, Gearoid (2009) Telephone interview, August 4th

    Gearoid wrote "Always cite primary sources" (Millar, 2010).

    Millar, Gearoid (2010) Personal letter, August 4th

    Gearoid responded "No I did not commit plagiary" (Millar, 2011)

    Millar, Gearoid (2011) 1st District Court Hearing, Brattleboro, August 4th

    Late Work: Because I try to provide feedback on each assignment and maintain an ongoing assessment of each student’s coursework, I cannot allow students to turn in late work. Deadlines for all class assignments are, therefore, non-negotiable, barring extreme circumstances similar to those noted above under Attendance and Class Participation. If you regularly run over deadlines, please set yourself deadlines for class work in advance of the official class deadline. Assignment grades will be lowered by 5% for each day they are late.

    • Topic 1

      READINGS

      PART I - Interdisciplinarity and Complexity

      September 7th - The Imperative to Measure and Control

      For this first class we will read some of James C. Scott's "Seeing Like a State." This is the only reading for today. Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 2

      September 9th - The Changing Nature of Knowledge

      For this class we have two readings. We will first read Joe Moran's Introduction to ""Interdisciplinarity," and then a piece of Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." Both shed light onto the politics of disciplinarity within the structures of knowledge production.  Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between the two. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 3

      September 14th - Compex Social Problems and Interdisciplinarity

      For this class we have two readings. First we will read Julie Thompson Klein's "Interdisciplinarity and Complexity: An Evolving Relationship," and then we will read Jack Meek's "The Practice of Interdisciplinarity: Complex Conditions and the Potential of Interdisciplinary Theory."  Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between the two. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 4

      PART II - Disciplined Approaches to Violence

      September 16th - Economic Explanations for Violence

      This is the first class investigating violence on America. The first disciplinary perspective we will examine is that of Economics. Please try to question the readings critically as you read them and consider the questions articulated in the course descrption. For this class we have three readings. We will first read two very short pieces which display common characteristics of economic's articles. These are Glaser and Glendon's "Who Owns Guns? Criminals, Victims, and the Culture of Violence" and Donohue and Levitt's "Guns, Violence, and the Efficiency of Illegal Markets." The last piece is  significantly longer, more descriptive, and displays another common form of economic argument regarding violence.  It is called "Urban Poverty and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from a Randomized Housing-Mobility Experiment" by Ludwig, Duncan, and Hirschfield. Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged. In addition, 300 word abstracts are due TODAY before class begins.

    • Topic 5

      September 21st - Economic Explanations for Violence II

      For this class we have three readings. These three look at very different issues, but through an economics lens. First we will read Farmer and Tiefenthaler's "An Economic Analysis of Domestic Violence," then Leung and Ferris's "School Size and Youth Violence," and lastly, Jen's Ludwig's "Concealed-Gun-Carrying Laws and Violent Crime: Evidence from State panel Data." Each looks at violence from a different angle and the last directly gets to the issue Zach brought up in the last class. Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 6

      September 23rd - Psychological Explanations for Violence

      The second disciplinary perspective on violence that we will examine is that of Psychology. Please try to question the readings critically as you read them and consider the questions articulated in the course descrption. For this class we have three readings, each is rather short. We will read Guerra et. al.'s "Community Violence Exposure, Social Cognition, and Agression Among Urban Elementary School Children," Roy F. Baumeister et. al.'s "Self-Esteem, Narcissism, and Agression: Does Violence Result from Low Self-Esteem or from Threatened Egotism?" and Loeber and Loeber's "Development of Juvenile Aggression and Violence: Some Common Misconceptions and Controversies." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 7

      September 28th - Psychological Explanations for Violence II

      For this class we have three readings, each is rather short. We will read Carnagey and Anderson's "The Effects of Reward and Punishment in Violent Video Games on Agresseive Affect, Cognition and Behavior," Bushman and Anderson's "Media Violence and the American Public: Scientific Facts Versus Media Misinformation," and Mohanan's "Mental Disorder and Violent Behavior: Perceptions and Evidence." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 8

      September 30th - Sociological Explanations for Violence

      The third disciplinary perspective on violence that we will examine is that of Sociology. Please try to question the readings critically as you read them and consider the questions articulated in the course descrption. For this class we have two readings. We will read Ronald Kramer's "Poverty, Inequality, and Youth Violence," and Vowell and May's "Another Look at Classic Strain Theory: Poverty Status, Perceived Blocked Opportunity, and Gang Membership as Predictors of Adolescent Violent Behavior." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged. In addition, 1000 word sketches of paper ideas are due TODAY prior to the beginning of class.

    • Topic 9

      October 5th - Sociological Explanations for Violence II

      There is only one reading for today's class, a longer ethnographic sociological study of gang activity, Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh's "The Social Organization of Street Gang Activity in an Urban Ghetto." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 10

      October 7th - Anthropological Explanations for Violence

      The last disciplinary perspective on violence that we will examine is that of Anthropology. Please try to question the readings critically as you read them and consider the questions articulated in the course description. For this class we have two readings. We will read Marysol W. Asencio's "Machos and Sluts: Gender, Sexuality, and Violence among a Cohort of Puerto Recan Adolescents," and Julia Hall's "Canal Town Boys: Poor White Males and Domestic Violence." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 11

      October 12th - Anthropological Explanations for Violence II

      For this class we again have two readings. We will read James Diego Vigil's "Group Processes and Street Identity: Adolescent Chicano Gang Members," and Setha M. low's "The Edge and the Center: Gated Communities and the Discourse of Urban Fear." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 12

      October 14th - The Little Village Project

      For this first class we will read two articles that approach youth violence from an interdisciplinary perspective. We will first read Levitt and Venkatesh's "An Economic Analysis of a Drug Selling Gang's Finances," which is a look at gang violence and economics through a combination of economic and sociologica methods. We will then read Spergel and Grossman's description of a project to undermine a youth gang problem. The article is called "The Little Village Project: A Community Approach to the Gang Problem. Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged. In addition, the first Interdisciplinary Solutions Paper is due next class, October 21st. Please work over the break time and have these papers ready before class begins on the 21st. In addition, annotated bibliographies for the final paper are due TODAY prior to the beginning of class

    • Topic 13

      October 21st - Student Solutions

      For this first class we will read Lloyd G. Humphrey's "Limited Vision in the Social Sciences," and the first of your own project update papers. This is the first class for which each student must submit a 700 word project update paper. These project update papers are described in the syllabus and should be submitted like they are forum posts. Please choose a reading carefully and complete these papers on time.

    • Topic 14

      PART III - Disciplined Approaches to Development

      October 26th - Economic Approaches to Development

      This is the first class investigating International Development. The first disciplinary perspective we will examine is that of Economics. Please try to question the readings critically as you read them and consider the questions articulated in the course descrption. For this class we have two readings, Dani Rodrik's "Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion? A Review of the World Bank's Econcomic Growth in the 1990's," and Hugh G. Petrie's "Do You See What I See?." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 15

      October 28th - Economic Approaches to Development II

      For this class we have one required reading, Rajan and Subramanian's "Aid and Growth: What does the Cross-Country Evidence Really Show?"   Each student is also expected to choose a reading of your own, relevant to your project, and to submit the second of your 700 word Project Update Papers, which should be submitted as if it were a forum post, but it is significantly longer. There are no forum posts due when you have a Project Update Paper due, but you should come to class ready to discuss both the required reading and your Project.

    • Topic 16

      November 2nd - Political Science Approaches to Development

      The second disciplinary perspective we will examine is that of Political Science. Please try to question the readings critically as you read them and consider the questions articulated in the course descrption. For this class we have two readings, Carles Boix's "Democracy, Development, and the Public Sector" and Diana Rhoten's "Interdisciplinary Research: Trend or Transition." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged. In addition, the first draft of final papers, 3000 words in all, are due TODAY prior to the beginning of class.

    • Topic 17

      November 4th - Political Science Approaches to Development II

      For this class we have one assigned reading, Engerman and Sokoloff's "Debating the Role of Institutions in Political and Economic Development: Theory, History, and Findings." Each student must also choose a reading relevant to their own project and submit a Project Update Paper.

    • Topic 18

      November 9th - Anthropological Approaches to Development

      The third disciplinary perspective we will examine is that of Anthropology. Please try to question the readings critically as you read them and consider the questions articulated in the course descrption. For this class we have two readings,  Tania Murray's Li's "Compromising Power: Development, Culture, and Rule in Indonesia," and Zachary Stein's "Modeling the Demands of Interdisciplinarity: Toward a Framework for Evaluating Interdisciplinary Endeavors." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 19

      November 11th - Anthropological Approaches to Development II

      For this class we have one required reading, Elliot Fratkin's "Pastoralism: Governance and Development Issues." Each student should also choose one reading relevant to their own project and submit another 700 word project update paper.

    • Topic 20

      November 16th - Historical Approaches to Development 

      The last disciplinary perspective on violence that we will examine is that of History. Please try to question the readings critically as you read them and consider the questions articulated in the course description.  For today's class we will read excerpts from Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies," and Marjorie Pryse's "Critical Interdisciplinarity, Women's Studies, and Cross-Cultural Insight." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum, either about one of the readings or about the relationship between them. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

    • Topic 21

      November 18th - Historical Approaches to Development II

      For today's class we will read Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson's "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation." This is one of the few readings that does not quite fit with the format of the course, because it is technically an economic analysis of historical forces, done by economists. It is also, however, a very popular and well cited article, so I felt it should be included. There is no forum post or Project Update Paper due because  the second draft of your final paper, 6000 words in all, is due TODAY prior to the beginning of class.

      • Topic 22

        November 30th - Towards Critical Globalism

        For this class we will read Jan Nederveen Pieterse's "The Development of Development Theory: Towards Critical Globalism" and Tony Becher's "The Significance of Disciplinary differences." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

      • Topic 23

        November 2nd - Interdisciplinary Solutions

        For this class we will read George N. Curry's "Moving beyond Postdevelopment: Facilitating Indigenous Alternatives for 'Development'" and Ivanitskaya et. al.'s "Interdisciplinary Learning: Process and Outcome."  Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged.

      • Topic 24

        PART IV - Conclusion

        December 7th - Concluding Ideas

        For this class we will read Julie Thompson Klein's Conclusion to "Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory, and Practice," which is titled "The Integrative Core," and the final two chapters of James C. Scott's "Seeing Like a State." Each student should submit a 250 word reading reflection to the forum. Comments and discussion about the readings, or about each other's reflections, are encouraged. Final papers, 6000 to 7000 words, are due on this day prior to the beginning of class.