In addition to introductory sociology courses, I have taught courses on international migration, divided cities, globalization, and research methods in the social sciences. Here are short descriptions of each of my courses:
This 3000-level course introduced students to foundational texts and theories within international migration studies, allowing them to engage with the work of leading migration scholars who have helped shape and extend our understanding of why and how international migration occurs. For the first half of the course, students explored a different question relating to international migration each week e.g. Why do people leave their home countries? Who actually makes the migration decision? How do migrants decide which country to move to? Through these questions, they explored the role played by individual-level factors, households, networks, and governments in shaping the migration decision.
Given the interdisciplinary nature of migration studies, students read from economics, political science, anthropology, geography, and sociology to help them appreciate the different perspectives and methods that each discipline adopts. Given the global nature of international migration patterns, the readings also presented case studies from around the world to provide a comprehensive view of different streams of contemporary migration.
During the second half of the course, students were exposed to the literature on select categories of migrants (e.g. labor migrants, trafficking victims, refugees/asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, highly-skilled migrants, etc.), giving them an opportunity to understand the specific issues faced by each migrant sub-population pre- and post-migration. Throughout the course, broader questions relating to international migration policy and theory were repeatedly raised and discussed. Do people have a fundamental right to migrate? Should migrants be granted the same rights as citizens? What responsibilities do origin countries have towards their overseas citizens? Once a migrant, always a migrant?
As long as there have been cities, there have been social divisions within them. These divisions mark sharp differences in income, political rights, and quality of life. In the contemporary city these disparities are so great that scholars have even talked about the ‘dual city.’ Contemporary political and economic circumstances have intensified these divisions, such that in many cities there is now extreme and seemingly insurmountable social polarization. How and why do such differences arise? In what way are these divisions expressed in, and reproduced by, the city’s social institutions, spatial arrangements and physical morphology? What can and has been done about such divisions? The course inquired into the important and persistent social divisions evident in cities and did so by way of a range of examples, including: The ghetto, past and present; Immigration, race and segregation; Class, poverty and wealth, including processes of gentrification; Gender; and Conflict and Security. Students taking this elective were introduced to several themes of central concern to urban studies, sociology, anthropology, political science, and public policy. They were also introduced to a range of qualitative and quantitative social science methods used to measure and represent social and economic division. Finally, students were exposed to divisions in cities from around the globe, including North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Methods in the Social Sciences
Social scientists are increasingly expected to be conversant in multiple methodologies and be able to assess the appropriate research method to answer a given research question. Even when they choose to specialize in a particular method, social scientists are still expected to be able to understand and critique relevant research findings that rely on a range of methods. To that end, this course equips students with basic skills in both quantitative and qualitative research approaches. Students will be introduced to various research methods in the social sciences, focusing on five primary techniques: Survey methodology, quantitative data analysis, participant observation, in-depth interviewing, and textual analysis. This will be essential preparation before students embark on their final-year capstone projects and will provide a strong foundation for more advanced methodology courses they may take in subsequent semesters.
Globalization on the Ground
The term globalization began to gain currency in the 1980s and has become associated with various other processes — modernization, standardization, concentration, movement, mobility, connectivity, diffusion, transformation, and disruption — that appear to be emblematic of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Globalization tends to be studied as primarily an economic and technological process, sidelining the social, cultural, and political circumstances from which it arose and in which it is fully embedded. Various theories about the causes and consequences of globalization have been put forward but they are often at so abstract a level that it is hard to adjudicate between them or test their veracity. To address this imbalance, this gateway course takes an ethnographic and “emic” approach to the study of globalization, focusing on how the lived meaning of globalization for individuals, families, communities, spaces and places around the world can look very different “on the ground.” Over the course of the semester, students read about different manifestations of globalization, including the McDonaldization of society, the worldwide popularity of Japanese culture, the international labor migration industry, global cities, and anti-globalization social movements. Particular emphasis is given to the material culture of globalization, and the objects that embody and enable globalization to occur. The course is divided into six two-week units and, within each unit, students will read a book-length ethnographic account of a particular aspect of globalization. Through these books, students explore an interpretive approach to the study of globalization, one that privileges the voices of individuals and their stories of their lives in the age of globalization. Students also hone their own ethnographic skills by conducting their own semester-long investigation into a particular aspect of globalization in Singapore.