Seton Hall University
Department of Sociology/Anthropology


SOCI 1101 Understanding Society, Intersession, 2001
Prof. Philip M. Kayal



A syllabus is an outline of a course. It reviews course content, goals, and assignments. It is a guide to what is expected of each of you as contributors and participants in this course. Familiarize yourself, therefore, with this syllabus, taking note of its approach and expectations. Do the same with each project, reading, and assignment. Note the pace you need to set for yourself to keep up with the readings, discussions, and general workload.

Unlike other courses, this one is designed to help you understand yourself, albeit sociologically. Everyone needs to know how social forces have shaped their own lives. For a sociologist, individuals reflect the social world around them. To understand this process your active participation in the course is required. This means reading the required text chapters and articles, thinking about what you read and learned, doing the projects assigned on time, participating in class, taking relevant notes that you can study from, and self-assessing your progress in understanding and utilizing sociology to make sense of how society (its institutions and organization) affects your life.

Course Objective: Our collective concern, as students of sociology, is group life. Our goal is to understand how we live with others because we believe that to be human is to be social. The groups we belong to determine who we are and all our relationships, life-chances, and interactions with one another, whether we are female, male, gay, "straight," lesbian, Asian, Black, poor, Jewish, Moslem, Christian, old or young, etc. How these groups relate to one another in a society is our focus. How groups are organized and influence behavior and how our membership and position in different groups affects our identities, world-views, knowledge, values, and ability to relate to others, etc., are some of the questions we are interested in as sociologists.

Method: We will learn how to be sociologists together by actually doing sociology, that is, applying what we learn to ourselves or to some research question.

N.B. Obviously, all answers in this course to any questions will be sociological in nature, that is, they will identify how social forces or variables like social norms, values, expectations, social structure (organization), etc., affect us. Answering questions sociologically means employing a specific type of vocabulary (one which you have already started to learn from just reading this syllabus) and not by using another (like from psychology or theology).You can start to develop this vocabulary by listening to the way this professor expresses his thoughts, interprets Areality, and thinks about and responds to questions or issues brought up in class. You could also compare what is emphasized in this class and how topics are approached by your other teachers and courses. Take notes as to how they differ. This way you will learn how sociology differs from other disciplines.

Teacher Expectations: You are being asked to explain human behavior. Among other things, that means discovering how humans engage in "world building" or "reality construction," and how they or we learn to live with one another. We will explore how sociologists approach this question.. You need not agree with or accept this perspective, but you should learn how to utilize it, see the sociological point of view, and ask for explanations and reasons why sociologists perceive and think about behavior the way we do. You can do sociology without accepting its "truth," but you need to know what sociologists do and be able to do it yourself. I expect you to be able to think and express yourselves sociologically (use sociological concepts) by the end of this course.

Most importantly, you should also try to formulate your questions, complaints, disagreements, etc., in such a way as to be CRITICAL. This means making informed evaluations rather than just stating an opinion. A judgment is a reasoned conclusion, drawn from evidence and grounded in knowledge. It can be based on intuition, experience, or fact, but it needs support and evidence. Your questions and responses, likewise, should be specifically sociological, that is, reflect a sociological frame of reference.

You can begin developing this skill by reading your assignments carefully, becoming aware of the POINT of VIEW, the ASSUMPTION, and the PROCEDURES used in each specific article and assignment. Imagine what it is your teacher, or the author, or the project wishes you to learn. The same is true in your personal relations. What do people really mean when they speak to you? What kinds of people say which kinds of things under which kinds of circumstances? Look for the subjectivity and objectivity and/or relativity in all social phenomena. Look for patterns, identify how and why your interpret symbols the way you do.

Again, one of the best ways of learning sociology is to do sociology, especially a sociology of "the self" (yourself), that is, a review of your own experiences and assessment of your own behavior as influenced by other things, like situations or relationships you find yourself in (as, for example, a child, friend, student, worker) and by people (bosses, parents, teachers) you interact with. Be both an object and subject to yourself, that is, see yourself as a product of social interaction and social arrangements.

Tonight, examine yourself sociologically. That is, think about what social or demographic characteristics differentiate or define you? How do these characteristics affect how your opportunities and world view? What symbols do you use to let others know something about yourself? This will help you think sociologically and to use the concepts below to help you understand yourself. Always try to use the language of sociology throughout the course and in all your assignments.

To use this vocabulary (or sociological concepts) more effectively, write down each concept or term when you hear them in class or come across them in your readings. Your text book Riddles defines all these terms as they appear at the bottom of each page.

Course Requirements

Each student is expected to have a functioning e-mail account operative by the second week of class. Do not delay or hesitate. You are also expected to be familiar with "surfing the web." In this class, we will search out sociological topics relevant to the course. Hopefully by the time this course is over, you will be savvy Internet users. . . among the best on campus. However, you cannot do anything on the NET until your account is in order. Your e-mail or account ID allows you entrance into all campus wide information systems. Immediately attend to establishing an account. All account difficulties can be resolved in the basement of Corrigan Hall or by calling the help desk at ex. 2222.

The following books are required for this course. They can be purchased in the bookstore.


Charon, Joel. Ten Questions. 4th edition. New York: Wadsworth, 2001.

Schwalbe. Michael. The Sociologically Examined Life. Calif: Mayfield., 2001


While some articles will be distributed to you in class, the following are on reserve in the library and will be assigned during the semester:

Caplow, Theodore. "The American Way of Celebrating Christmas."

Travis, Carol and Alice Baumgartner, "How Would Your Life Be Different."

Marx, Gary.  "Unintended Consequences of Undercover Work"

Minor, Horace. "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema"

Davis, Kingsley. "A Case of Extreme Isolation."

NOTE BENE: This course is logical and orderly. We will integrate the chapters from Charon with those from Schwalbe. Stay current and match the readings to the topic. We only have about 13 days of class. One day cut equal 3 class days Do NOT cut.

The following list of concepts are central to the sociological enterprise and to these projects. You are expected to be familiar with them by the end of the course. Learn their meanings and use as many of them as you can in any and all assignments.

CONCEPTS: culture, cultural relativism, folkways, socialization, social group, upward mobility, interaction, anomie, primary group, secondary group, authority, identity, social control, the self, self-system, reference group, goals, role conflict, false consciousness, social class, social stratification, institution, mores, social values, boundary maintenance, achieved status, charisma, stereotype, negative sanctions, positive sanctions, ascribed status, deviance, routinization, peer group, rite of passage, the world-taken-for- granted, civil inattention, social structure, impression management, manifest and latent function, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.


You grade is ultimately determined by yourself. However, the professor will exercise discretionary power depending on the student's classroom performance and etiquette (classroom behavior, lateness, tardiness in handing in assignments, professionalism, ability to follow instructions, inexcusable delays, problems, etc.). Deportment matters: NO CELL PHONES.

Objectively, your grade will be based on several factors: a) class attendance and participation, b) accuracy in examinations, and c) successful completion of projects. Generally, examinations will carry the most weight. There will be two or three official examinations and an occasional spot test via e-mail or in class quiz. Depending on their importance, projects will account for a significant part of your grade.

A) Cutting: Attending classroom lectures is required by this professor. Missing class without an excuse is not permitted. Continuous cutting will result in a reduction of grade in proportion to the amount of classes missed. Excessive cutting can result in a Failure.


Students are expected to do their reading assignments on time and to participate in informed classroom discussions on the material presented in lectures and readings. It is expected that each student read at least 30 pages of the text or reader each evening. This is in addition to any web based assignments that are given.

B) Examinations: All examination dates will be announced in time for you to prepare. There will be no trick questions. A grade of "A" is reserved for those students whose answers accurately reflect the readings and lectures the most. An "F" grade is reserved for those students whose answers are opinions or are irrelevant. Students are welcomed to discuss their grades with the professor. No make-up exams are permitted without the professor's permission before-hand, that is, student knows s/he cannot take test or hand in an assignment on the assigned day and informs me before hand!.

Term Project:

One of the purposes of the course is to make you literate in the language of sociology. In a sense this means learning a new language. To do this in this brief semester, take 30 of the concepts above, look up their definition, that is, their sociological meaning and application and use them in a sentence as if you were explaining the concept to someone. Try not to use a standard dictionary. Find the concepts either in the text books, articles or sites listed below and use those definitions, meanings and applications as your source of inspiration.

Everything submitted must be stapled.

Some Useful Internet Sites"

World Wide Web Resources for Sociology

Explore Sociology on the Web:

Excite Social Results for Sociology


What is Sociology

Dead Sociologists Society

Durkheim- Social Facts

Martineau - On Women=s Work

Socialization and Human Development

Zip Code Sites (First site leads to others)



Statistical Abstract of the United States

Differential Association Theory (Crime, etc.)

Excite: Relationships (sexuality)

The Existence of Social Stratification



Back Home