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S S 301 • Honors Social Science

42370 • Keating, Elizabeth
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM SAC 5.102
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 I. Rationale 

Anthropology is unique in the way it provides knowledge about the human experience from many points of view. Anthropologists learn about other ways of life by living among people with very different lifeways and lifeworlds, and being a participant observer in these worlds. The challenge of anthropology is to describe, in terms that can be understood cross-culturally, how different groups of people organize their lives and beliefs, for example, relationships, dress, conversation, ritual, stories, how they define what is sacred, and in general make sense of the human condition. This course will explore the anthropological approach, especially focusing on the role of language and everyday symbolic systems in creating and sharing unique cultures. We will read in depth about several different communities in different world areas. We will discuss social theories that have contributed to anthropological research, and explore how anthropology can be used to understand many issues about behavior, such as the persistence of social inequalities, the adoption and spread of new technologies, conflict and misunderstandings, rites of passage, and global flows of expressive forms. We will emphasize the diverse groups that make up the United States and other world communities, as their distinctive experiences are made manifest through such ideas as gender, the self, social status, age, identity, and power. 

II. Course Aims and Objectives 

Course Objectives: At the end of the semester, each student should be able to: 

 Understand and describe the basic ideas of social theory that have led to current understandings of culture. 

 Distinguish among and critique ideas about the role of human symbolic systems in creating and maintaining coherent belief systems and worldviews. 

 Discuss and critique methods that have been brought to bear on the study of issues such as cultural difference, social inequality, interpretation of behavior, and cultural change. 

 Discuss the impact of innovations such as technologies on individuals, families, and communities. 

 Define a number of key concepts in culture, language, and human expressive forms. 

 Gain an understanding of human diversity. 

This course may be used to fulfill the social and behavioral sciences component of the university core curriculum and addresses the following four core objectives established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: communication skills, critical thinking skills, empirical and quantitative skills, and social responsibility. 

III. Format and Procedures: The course is structured around lectures and class discussions based both on the readings and on other materials used for illustration and teaching purposes. Students are encouraged to participate in discussions. 

IV. Main Topics to be Covered: Worldview; Space; Time, History, Meaning, the Cross-Cultural Encounter; Identity; Socialization & Rites of Passage; Relatives and Relations, Reciprocity; The Body, Culture and Nature; Art and Aesthetics; Belief; Power; Translatability; Cultural Change 

Feedback: During the course I will be asking for your feedback on your learning both formally and informally. 

V. My Assumptions: In anthropological research the assumption is that all languages and cultures are equally rich and complex symbolic worlds and that there are no “primitive” cultures or languages. At the same time it is very common for people to view other people’s practices as primitive, peculiar or immoral, a situation that deserves our attention in a time of enhanced connection between cultures due to technology and globalization. 

VI. Course Requirements: 

Class attendance and participation policy: 

Class participation is encouraged. Since it’s difficult to generalize about culture, given the range of human diversity, examples shown and used in class are important for understanding the concepts discussed in the books and readings. 

No laptops, or ipads, cell phones or similar devices may be used during class period. Please take your notes with paper and pen/pencil. Although a great tool, laptops can compromise your attention and those seated around you and your responsibilities as members of the class group. 

Religious Holy Days 

By UT Austin policy, you must notify me of your pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, I will give you an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence. 

Course Readings/Materials: 

(a) Required Books: 

Delaney, Carol. 2011. Investigating Culture, Wiley-Blackwell 

Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1986. Veiled Sentiments. University of California Press 

(b) Also required reading: articles and chapters mentioned on the syllabus, most of which are journal articles available through UT Libraries online. If not available online, they are available on the class website. 

Assignments, Assessment, and Evaluation 

Class preparation and participation: 

 Read course material for the week prior to Tuesday’s class in order to contribute to the week’s class discussions on the materials. 

 List one significant idea in each reading and bring this list of significant ideas (can be a few sentences on each) with you to class (for class participation grade), and turn it in each Tuesday. 

Project work: 

 A final project which will be detailed in class and which will be turned in in outline form first 

 Final comments shared with the class about your project 

Exams: There will be two exams. They will each count for 25% of the class grade, a total of 50% for the exams. Exams are designed to check your understanding of vocabulary, theories and concepts we are working with. Make up exams are only allowed with a note from the doctor (after the exam), or a formal written appeal to the professor (before the exam). Makeup exams are different exams. There is no final exam, rather there is a class project. 

Grading: The two exams will count for 50% of the grade, assignment 1 for 20%, the final project 20%, and the significant ideas handed in each week for 10% of the grade. Plus and minus grades will be given. Projects and exams are graded primarily on content and not on style of writing. Grade is based on details included (rather than overgeneralizations) and depth of analysis (not just a cursory job). 

About the Professor: 

I am a linguistic anthropologist who studies culture and communication. I am especially interested in investigating the impacts of technology on language and the role of language in maintaining social inequality. I completed my Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1994. I am currently a Professor in the Department of Anthropology and in the past have been Director of the Science, Technology and Society Program in Liberal Arts.

I just published a new book: Words Matter: Communicating Effectively in the New Global Office
University of California Press (co-authored with Sirkka Jarvenpaa)

See more about the book at

I have a wide range of research interests in linguistic anthropology, including language and social hierarchy, virtual environments, societal impacts of technologies, visual language, multimodality, and language practices in the cross-cultural work place. I am currently conducting research on (1) cross- cultural misunderstandings among engineers collaborating virtually from four continents, (2) computer gamers’ emerging skills and use of language as they participate in multiple environments, and (3) language, culture and identity.


S S 301 • Honors Social Science

42360 • Domjan, Wendy
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 220
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NOTE: Students who have already taken an introductory PSY 301 course either at UT or another institution will not be permitted to enroll in this section of SS 301; students who have credit by exam for PSY 301 will be allowed to enroll.

Description: Psychology is a discipline that is broadly concerned with the ways in which people perceive, understand and interact with the world. As such, it addresses questions that range from the micro level of perception within the eye to the macro level of social interactions among people. The SS 301 in psychology is designed to introduce students to a representative range of the topics subsumed within this discipline. We will be taking a levels-of-explanation approach, in which we will simultaneously explore the biological, environmental, and cultural aspects of each of the selected problems. We will also specifically consider the ways in which psychology investigates these problems, in terms of both methodology and epistemology. The hope is that students will leave the SS 301 with an understanding not only of what psychology studies, but also of how and why.


Schacter, Gilbert & Weber.Psychology

Marcus. The Norton Psychology Reader

Keith. Cross Cultural Psychology

Requirements: This class contains a substantial amount of writing and will involve both papers and exams. Students will write a series of four short (3-5 pages) reaction papers. For each paper, students will choose one of about five alternative questions, related to what is currently happening in class, to address. These papers are intended to involve analysis and opinion, not factual recitation. There will also be a midterm and a final exam. Both of these exams will have a short answer/short essay format, and will be take-home exams.

Final grades will be computed on the following basis:

Exams:                 50% (25% each)

Papers:                 40% (10% each)

Participation:         10%


Example paper topics:

  • An inevitable trade-off exists in research between control and ecological validity. This trade-off can be seen in a wide variety of ways in psychology: a lab versus a natural location for research, a randomly chosen versus a naturally occurring group of subjects, focusing on a limited set of factors at the expense of the diversity of influences on any behavior. In your view, how should psychology deal with this issue? For example, is psychology a science? Should it be? Should it adopt the same constraints (control) as natural sciences? You can make a strong argument for one approach or the other, or present a balanced middle ground.
  • The argument has been made that, in principle, it would be impossible for human beings to fully understand the nature of their own brain. What is your view of this argument, and why?
  • The current zeitgeist in psychology is to find the neurological mechanism associated with a given cognition, emotion or behavior. Does finding such a mechanism constitute an explanation for the given cognition/emotion/behavior? Why or why not?
  • A major issue in psychology, practically since its inception, has concerned the relative influence of genetics and environment. Originally, this was seen as an either-or question, later as a matter of degrees of influence, and most recently in terms of the components of an interaction. Though it is rarely asked, it is worth considering whether this is really an important question, and why? What is your position on this issue?
  • The research on hemisphere specialization led to the popular conception of people who are right-brained or left-brained. In light of what you have learned about hemisphere specialization, do you find this to be a useful concept? Why or why not?

About the Professor: Wendy Domjan has a Ph.D. in psychology from The University of Wisconsin, with specialties in perception and cognition, and currently has a major focus on psychology of religion and positive psychology.


S S 301 • Honors Social Science

42365 • Aiken, Abigail
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GAR 2.112
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This course will provide you with an overview of the field of reproductive health and rights and help you to develop the skills required to analyze, evaluate, and advocate for evidence-based reproductive health policy. We will focus primarily on the aspects of reproductive health that relate to fertility control: unintended pregnancy, contraception,
and abortion. The struggle to gain control over fertility has a controversial history, both in the United States and around the world, and is no less divisive in today’s political and social climate.
Like many other policy areas you will encounter, the policies pertaining to reproductive health and rights we see today have been shaped by multiple disciplinary perspectives and a wide variety of players and stakeholders. To become adept at evaluating, designing, and arguing for responsible and just reproductive health policy, you must build a strong foundation of knowledge and develop the skills necessary to apply and communicate that
knowledge. This class is designed to help you to do both those things.

By the end of the semester you will have had the opportunity to:

1) Understand the evolution of family planning programs and develop an appreciation of the inequities ingrained in historical trajectory of reproductive health policies.
2) Get comfortable with the biological processes underpinning human capacity for reproduction and fertility control.
3) Become familiar with the most important research in key reproductive health and rights topic areas and develop in
-depth knowledge of your particular area of interest.
4) Critique and synthesize evidence to evaluate reproductive health policies and apply your knowledge to make policy recommendations.
5) Practice writing effectively on a reproductive health issue, both for a policy audience and for the general public.
6) Master the art of testimony––i.e. presenting oral arguments in favor of or against a policy under legislative or judicial consideration––to design and deliver a concise, compelling, and scientifically supported case for your point of view.

The course is divided into three parts –– two shorter sections and one longer section.

In the first part of the course (the first of the short sections), we will conduct a broad overview of the disciplinary origins of contemporary reproductive health policy; from the population control programs of demographers, to the health- promotion goals of public health practitioners, to the reproductive rights concerns of feminists and reproductive justice advocates.

In the second shorter section, we will learn the key biological principles that govern how the menstrual cycle creates windows of opportunity for pregnancy, how contraceptive methods operate to prevent pregnancy, and how abortion takes place to disrupt pregnancy.

In the third longer section, we will explore key areas of reproductive health policy in detail, focusing on a different topic each week. We will review the important evidence on each topic ––some classic and some brand new–– and synthesize this evidence to evaluate current policies both in United States and internationally.

Weekly readings will be posted to the course web page, which is available through the UT Canvassite ( Occasionally we will use videos and website links, which are embedded in
the syllabus
We will use one textbook during the course: Contraceptive Technology(20th edition) by Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Nelson A, Cates W, Stewart F, Kowal D, Policar M. New York NY: Ardent Media, 2011.
Copies will be available frommy office and assigned chapters will be posted to Canvas.

To keep up to date with recent policy developments in reproductive health, you can also sign up for
policy updates from the National Partnership for Women and Families:

Attendance: Attendance is expected at every class. If you anticipate needing to be absent, please contact me at
least a week in advance to discuss making up that week’s classwork.
Weekly Readings: The most important contribution you make to this class (and the best favor you can do yourself) is to prepare for each class by reading the assigned reading and spending some time giving it some careful thought. A large fraction of what you will learn in this class will be learned outside the classroom on your own. You learn by thinking, interacting, and thinking some more, not by being told the answer.

All of the reading assigned each week is required. At the same time, I recognize that you also have required reading for other classes, and that you have lives outside of school. For that reason, the reading requirements for this course are not arduous and should be manageable for honors undergraduates. I have  the expectation that you will engage fully with the readings for each week and come prepared to discuss them in class. If you would like further readings on a topic of particular interest, please ask and I will be happy to provide them.

Readings may include research articles, journalistic pieces, and book chapters. My advice is to read each article through once and summarize its main points. Then read it through again, considering its strengths, weaknesses, and contributions. Finally, think about the ways it may support or refute current policy on the topic and what further research it might stimulate.

Class Discussion: I expect everyone to actively participate in the class discussion and activities. Rather than having
discussion leaders for each week, everyone will read the assigned reading and come prepared to ask and answer questions on what they have read. Please come prepared to contribute at least one question or observation on each reading and one over-arching question or observation taking all of the readings into consideration.

Mid-term and Term Papers
You will write a policy memo (1000-word's maximum) on an assigned topic and an op-ed (800 words maximum) on any reproductive health policy topic of your choice.  Your memo and op-ed must be word processed and submitted by email. Late papers will result in a one-letter grade penalty for each day beyond the due date. You must prepare your
own memo and op-ed and all work must be your own. The purpose of writing both a policy memo and an op-ed
is to allow you the opportunity to practice two very different skills that you will need in the research, policy and communication arenas. The first is to communicate facts clearly, accurately, and concisely to policy-makers and to make recommendations based upon the best available evidence. The second is to write persuasively about your informed opinion for the general public.
We will also discuss the expected elements of each assignment during class well in advance of the due dates.

On the last class day, you will deliver a pre-prepared short oral testimony on a reproductive health policy topic of your choice. This topic can be the same as the one you are planning for your op-ed or a different topic.
You will have a maximum of 5 minutes to deliver your testimony to the class, with an additional 2 minutes during which class members can ask you questions. We will talk more about testimony during the semester. Some useful tips can also be found here:

Your final grade for the course will be determined as follows: 30% policy memo; 30% Op-ed; 30% class participation; and 10% testimony. The class participation portion of your grade will be determined by attendance
and your contributions to the discussion each week. The written and oral assignments will be graded holistically, but I will distribute a guide to the key elements on which you will be assessed in advance of each assignment.

This course is geared towards building the knowledge and expertise necessary to evaluate and communicate reproductive health policy. It is also designed to provide a broad overview of the origins of reproductive rights, the essential biomedical knowledge underpinning reproductive health, and the key conversations surrounding reproductive health and rights taking place in society today. No prior knowledge of any of the above course
elements is assumed. All that is required to succeed in this course is an interest in the topic and a willingness to put in the time and effort required to complete the readings and assignments and contribute to the weekly discussions. 
The policy memo and op-ed assignments are designed to improve both your writing and critical thinking skills. If you have never written either of these types of pieces before, don’t worry: this is a great opportunity to learn. To ensure that you have access t resources and support, you will be asked to make an appointment with the Undergraduate WritingCenter:
You are welcome and encouraged to attend office hours (TBA). If you feel you are struggling with course expectations
or with any aspect of the class, please make an appointment to see me right away.

Classroom Etiquette
In any course on public policy, we should expect a variety of perspectives and opinions among class participants. A diversity of view-points is a vital component both of academic enquiry and of policymaking. Every class member
is entitled to their own opinions. However, any opinions you choose to share must be expressed respectfully and other class members have the right to respectfully challenge your opinion. Offensive or hateful language will not be tolerated. Anyone who uses such language will be asked to leave the classroom.

Some of the issues we will discuss may be sensitive or may trigger upsetting reactions for some people. If this happens to you, please feel free to leave the classroom and take a break at any time. Please also feel free to let me know your feelings either during one of the breaks or after class. UT Counseling Services also have resources available for further support:
If you choose to use a laptop to take notes in class, use it only for that purpose. Checking email, being on social media, or devoting your attention to other internet distractions is disrespectful of everyone else’s time and effort. It also prevents you from getting the best out of the class.
About the Professor:
  • Ph.D., Public Policy, University of Texas at Austin
  • MPH, Harvard University
  • M.D., University of Cambridge
  • B.A., University of Cambridge
Research Areas
  • Reproductive Health
  • Health Policy
Teaching Areas
  • Social Policy

Abigail R.A. Aiken held postdoctoral and lecturer positions at the Office of Population Research and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University before joining The University of Texas in 2016. She is currently an assistant professor of public affairs at the LBJ School and a faculty associate at the Population Research Center. Her research focuses on reproductive health and spans several disciplines, combining backgrounds in biomedical sciences, public policy, demography and public health. Her current projects include: examining women's experiences obtaining self-sourced abortion in contexts where legislative barriers prevent access to safe, legal abortion through the health care system; evaluating programs and policies designed to increase access to contraception in the postpartum and postabortion setting; and investigating the determinants and impacts of unintended pregnancies through a health equity and reproductive justice framework. Her work has recently been published in the BMJ, The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, Social Science & Medicine, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Contraception, and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others.


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