BSO101 | Sociology I

Course Information

  • 2023-24
  • BSO101
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.)
  • I
  • July 2023
  • Core Course


Who are we? How did we come to be this way?

We open up the introductory course in sociology and social anthropology (Sociology I) in response to these two provocations. A network of social relations and reciprocity in these relations help us situate ourselves as well as others in social (collective) context. Hence, in the introductory sociology course in the BALLB (Hons.) program, we seek to grapple with the three most basic constituents i.e., culture, power, and history. These forces, we believe invariably shape our understanding of the Self and Other and the peculiar entanglements between these that shape our social and cultural lives, and further, as we elaborate in the second course Sociology II, shape our relations with state formations and state power.

How do we understand the many ways in which our lives are shaped by culture, power, and history? We ask, a few questions in the introductory course, that lead up to showing how we are shaped by the forces of culture, power, and history. 1) How do different forms of interaction and human behaviour serve to reinforce or change the dimensions of society and culture? 2) How do dominant social structures and institutions impact individual and group behaviour? 3)What constitutes the basis for something or someone to be considered problematic or observed to be desirable for society? 4) How do social taboos emerge and what work do they do in maintaining social schema and structure? 5) What are the procedures and techniques which social scientists use to describe, explain, and predict human behaviour and socio-cultural change? And lastly, 6) How does a historical view of societal change and continuity help us in understanding our current selves and social formations? This course aims to address some of the most relevant and elementary questions related to imaginative foundations of society, social structure, and fundamental bases of human social, economic, and political life.

Culture: The course sets off by introducing the conceptualization of ‘universal’ and ‘particular’ as two forms of labelling that further invoke categories of ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ in the first week itself. We go on to study the ethnographic method, its use, and ethical complexities in the following week. Here, we deliberate upon how ethnographic fieldwork as the process of immersing oneself in aspects of everyday lived experience of people, in order to study their behaviours and interactions, as deployed by sociologists and anthropologists. In the third week, the course introduces some of the key concepts and theories that delineate the interaction between society and individual, the social processes of process of integrations and alienation form social institutions.

Power: The fourth week onwards, we slowly understand how power works in shaping social relations. The fourth week will situate this between insider-outsider dyad that transcends physical boundaries and yet creates boundaries that define social, bodily and cognitive positionality of individual as well groups. Building upon the texts introduced and discussions in previous classes, fifth and sixth weeks will focus on engaging with the texts that elucidate conceptual analysis of processes of difference/differentiation. Lectures and class room activities in these two weeks will deal with some of the key concepts and theories related to gender, race and caste. We especially, spend a couple of classes and introduce texts from the sociology and anthropology of religion.

History (of our present): The seventh week onwards, we move to understanding the modern time, especially, the moment in which we are currently located. We introduce texts that will set out to provide a thoughtful critique of colonial cultural anthropology as a discipline and practice complicit in creating colonial categories of knowledge. The eighth week of the course will deal with concepts of modernity, nation-state and decoloniality. The texts used in this week will also offer a prelude to the discussion on globalization in the ninth week. The texts and discussions in eighth and ninth week will not only familiarize students with ways to comprehend the contemporary world, global institutions and social, economic and political structures that constitute notions of modernity, but also provide an assessment of modernization as a mechanism of dominant knowledge production. The final week will focus on exploring forms of resistance that challenge the hegemonic designs embedded in the formation of the current world, especially, questions of centres and margins. We will ultimately provoke the student into thinking about how the world might be experienced when certain locations and networks are unavailable to communities at the margin.

Overall, the rationale of the course is to acquaint students with discourses on processes of differentiation, social construction, cultural relativism, knowledge production as power and so on, in order to enable them to critically evaluate social realities and structures. It is also designed to shake certain commonplace assumptions of students about the nature of the world, and their location in it. We will wrap up the course, taking these themes back to our first provocation – who are we? How did we come to be this way?

Pedagogic Strategy: Each week, we meet over three two-hour sessions. The readings allotted in the syllabus for each week will be spread over the first two lecture sessions. The third session in every week will be allocated for writing in class on the Online Sociology Forum, and for more expansive discussion on the week’s themes and readings. Instructions for the forum will be given in the first class.



Dr. Atreyee Majumder

Associate Professor, Social Sciences

Dr. Aniket Nandan

Assistant Professor, Sociology

Dr. Sudheesh R C

Assistant Professor, Social Sciences

Dr. Karthikeyan Damodaran

Assistant Professor, Social Sciences

Dr. Dhivya Janarthanan

Assistant Professor (AY 2023-24)