SOC 331 Urban Ethnography (3 credits)
Cities are fascinating places to study. They provide rich variation across their spaces – you can move from an upper-class WASP neighborhood characterized by single homes and century-old oak trees; to a working-class neighborhood where Trinity rowhouses are cheek-by-jowl with empty manufacturing buildings which used to be humming with activity; to a central business district busy with suits during the day but a wasteland at night; to a struggling poor neighborhood holding on to dignity and social order by stringing lines of colorful triangles across the narrow street from house to house, sprucing up amidst the rowhouses with vacant eyes. Cities are by no means monolithic spaces that one can sum up in a generalizing sentence unless it is a sentence that recognizes this rich variation.
Though it is certainly useful to analyze cities with numbers and statistical analyses, one can perhaps best capture life within cities through ethnography. Ethnography allows the researcher to dig deep and analyze any number of social settings. Ethnography encompasses several different methods, but in this course we will concentrate on observation and writing field notes. Both sociologists and anthropologists use these methods in their research. In this course, you will not only learn to practice ethnography, but you will also read and critique several urban ethnographies.