Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.

—Rosa Luxemburg

If [one] wishes to escape from prison, the first thing [one] must do is realize that [one] is in prison; without that realization no escape is possible.


How do you perform your gender? What’s up with gay marriage? Is America really getting over the racial divide? What is the reality behind the American Dream? These are the kinds of questions we address in this course. Ultimately, we will focus on social stratification: institutionalized inequality in the distribution of social rewards and burdens. The underlying question regarding stratification is, “Who gets what, when, and how?” Individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds—in terms of, for example, race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, age, etc.—receive unequal portions of wealth, power, and prestige within our society. When these dimensions of stratification overlap, the issue becomes even more complicated.


Because of the complexity of stratification, this course focuses primarily on two broad areas: (1) the intersections of race, ethnicity, and class and (2) the dimensions of gender and sexuality. In the last section of the course, we will look at additional dimensions of stratification, how we can address social inequality, and the social policy implications of a stratified society.

Topics Included:

  • Social Stratification & the Sociological Imagination
  • Intersectionality & the Matrix of Privilege and Oppression
  • The Social Construction of Reality
  • The Social Construction of Sex & Gender
  • Controlling Images & the Media
  • Gender Expressions and Trans(gressions)
  • The Social Construction of Sexuality
  • Stigmatization & Queer Identity
  • The Social Construction of Race & Ethnicity
  • Structural & Cultural Perspectives on Oppression
  • White Privilege
  • Identity Formation & Race
  • Addressing Racial & Ethnic Tensions
  • Conflict Theory & Social Inequality
  • Ideology, the “Culture of Poverty,” & Blaming the Victim
  • Economic Inequality & the Concentration of Wealth
  • Empowerment & the Domains of Power

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