SOCI 210: Sociological Perspectives

Term Fall 2020
Location Online
Time Tue and Thu 4:05pm–5:25pm
Instructor Peter McMahan
(; (514)398-6839)
Office hours Mondays 1:00pm–2:30pm
CampusWire and Zoom
Teaching Assistants Narjes Hashemi ()
Winnie Yang ()
Vahid Rashidi ()


This course provides an introduction to sociological analysis. Sociology is a remarkably diverse field of study, and materials covered will by necessity of time not provide a comprehensive view of the discipline as a whole. Rather, the coursework has three specific aims: (1) to introduce students to many of the substantive subjects commonly studied by sociologists, (2) to familiarize students with different perspectives of sociological theory, and (3) to help students read and think critically about social issues.

Tools and resources

We will use a number of online tools to facilitate an engaging and student-focused remote-learning environment:


To help students engage with the course readings and to prevent students from falling behind, we will use the online tool Perusall for all readings. Perusall is a reading platform in which students annotate texts collaboratively alongside one another. More information on how Perusall works and how it is integrated into the course is available here. Students should access Perusall through MyCourses, by navigating to Content > Perusall (readings) > Perusall, and then clicking the “Open Link” button. This will take you to the Perusall site and automatically register you as a member of the course. If you are having any trouble accessing the readings through Perusall contact the instructor right away.


Course communication (with the instructor, TAs, and general discussion) should be done through Campuswire, an online discussion and messaging tool tailored to an educational environment. Campuswire will allow students to receive answers to their questions quickly and to help one another with their coursework. An invitation will be sent to students’ McGill email address before the course begins that will allow you to sign up for the class. If your are having trouble accessing Campuswire, email the instructor as soon as possible.


For the class periods and office hours, a Zoom room will be made available for lectures and small-group discussions. Although camera and microphone access can help with conversations, neither is expected of students. Scheduled Zoom meetings can be accessed through the ‘Zoom’ tab in MyCourses.


While most of the content of the course will be provided through the syllabus or the tools listed above, MyCourses will be used for small-group registration, turning in group work, and disseminating and collecting the final exam.

Other tools:

Because this course emphasizes small-group discussions, students should prioritize finding a good way to communicate with their group members early on. The best option will depend on a number of factors (time zones, computer and internet access, (dis)ability, personal preference, etc.), and will vary from group to group. Some options and suggestions to facilitate group conversation are listed on a separate webpage (link)

Scheduled class periods

Class periods will be hosted on Zoom, and will consist of presentations by the instructor, small-group discussions among groups of 4–5 students, and class discussions with all participants. Starting September 17, class periods will be devoted to facilitating small-group discussions around assigned worksheets. The instructor and some TAs will be available on Zoom for support and to answer questions during all scheduled hours of the course.

To participate in class, students should log on to the course page on MyCourses, click the “Zoom” tab at the top of the page, and click on the appropriate session.


Students will be expected to (1) closely read the assigned texts and view the recorded lectures, (2) participate in weekly group discussions and worksheets, (3) evaluate their group members participation, and (4) complete a final take-home examination. Each of these expectations is detailed below.


The assigned readings are the core of the course material, and students are expected to carefully and critically read each required text before class. To facilitate students’ engagement with the reading and to help prevent students from falling behind, we will use the online tool Perusall for all required readings. Perusall is a reading platform in which students annotate texts collaboratively alongside one another. More information on how Perusall works and how it is integrated into the course is available here. All readings will be freely available, either through Perusall or a link provided on the syllabus.

To access Perusall through MyCourses, navigate to Content > Perusall (readings) > Perusall, and then click the “Open Link” button. This will take you to the Perusall site and automatically register you as a member of the course. If you are having any trouble accessing the readings through Perusall contact the instructor right away.

Readings will be graded as either complete (1 point) or incomplete (0 points). Student responses must demonstrate a thoughtful and thorough reading of the entire assignment to receive credit. At the end of the semester, the four lowest reading grades will be dropped from the assessment. Reading assessments will contribute 10% to the final grade for the course.


All lectures and slide presentations will be pre-recorded and made available on Microsoft Stream. Lectures will be about 10-15 minutes each, with multiple lectures for each class period. Although viewing lectures is not part of the course grade, the content of the lectures will be necessary to do well in the course.

Slides (PDF format ) and recordings (streamed online ) will be available at least 48 hours before each class.

Group discussions

Starting on September 17, scheduled class time will be devoted to small-group discussions and collaborative composition of discussion responses. By the third week of class, students will be responsible for forming groups of 4 or 5 using MyCourses. Each class period, groups will work together to discuss the readings and draft responses to a provided worksheet of discussion questions. These worksheets will be due at 8pm the day after class. It is strongly recommended that students meet during the scheduled class time to discuss the reading, as the instructor and teaching assistants will be available to answer questions and clariify concepts.

Each week, one of the two discussion responses of each group will be chosen at random to be evaluated. The responses will be evaluated out of 10 possible points according to the following rubric:

9 – 10

Responses demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the reading and link ideas from the text to themes, theories, and other topics from class.

6 – 8

Responses demonstrate a basic understanding of the reading but may miss important implications or connections.

2 – 5

Responses demonstrate a superficial understanding of or engagement with the reading or contain numerous fundamental misunderstandings of the concepts.

0 – 1

Responses are cursory, or not submitted at all.

Marks for worksheet responses will be given to all members of the group. At the end of the semester, groups will perform peer evaluation that will adjust each participant’s discussion grade up or down by as much as 15%.

Group discussions will contribute 50% to the final grade for the course.

Completing peer evaluation of group members will contribute 5% to the final grade for the course.

Final exam

At the end of the semester, students will be required to complete a take-home exam, due at the time scheduled by the exams office. The exam will be distributed 72 hours before it is due.

You should use formal academic citations in your exam. See the course page on references and citatioin styles for more info.

The final exam will contribute 35% to the final grade for the course.


The evaluation components for this course (described above), and the dates they are set for, are non-negotiable.

Readings 10% of final grade
Group discussions 50% of final grade
Completing group peer evaluations 5% of final grade
Final exam 35% of final grade


Students in need of accommodation (due to disability or other barrier) are encouraged to contact me with their concerns—I will make every effort to accommodate individual circumstances. Students with disabilities in need of formal accommodation may contact the Office for Students with Disabilities (, phone 514-398-6009) to arrange alternate assessment plans.

Academic integrity

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see for more information).(approved by Senate on 29 January 2003)

L’université McGill attache une haute importance à l’honnêteté académique. Il incombe par conséquent à tous les étudiants de comprendre ce que l’on entend par tricherie, plagiat et autres infractions académiques, ainsi que les conséquences que peuvent avoir de telles actions, selon le Code de conduite de l’étudiant et des procédures disciplinaires (pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez consulter le site

Lanugage of evaluation

In accord with McGill University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, students in this course have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded. (approved by Senate on 21 January 2009)

Conformément à la Charte des droits de l’étudiant de l’Université McGill, chaque étudiant a le droit de soumettre en français ou en anglais tout travail écrit devant être noté (sauf dans le cas des cours dont l’un des objets est la maîtrise d’une langue).

Grade appeals

Instructors and teaching assistants take the marking of assignments very seriously, and we work diligently to be fair, consistent, and accurate. Nonetheless, mistakes and oversights occasionally happen. If you believe that to be the case, you must adhere to the following rules:

  • If it is a mathematical error simply alert the instructor of the error.
  • In the case of more substantive appeals, you must:
    1. Wait at least 24 hours after receiving your mark.
    2. Carefully re-read your assignment, all guidelines and marking schemes, and the grader’s comments.
    3. If you wish to appeal, you must submit to the instructor a written explanation of why you think your mark should be altered. Please note that upon re-grade your mark may go down, stay the same, or go up.


Introduction and foundations

Thu, Sept 3

Administrative, syllabus review, motivation

Thu, Sept 10

Discussion of race an policing (optional) #ScholarStrike

Tue, Sept 15

Social methodology and theoretical anchors

  • Little (2016), chapter 2

  • Little (2016), section 4.2

  • Erikson (2017), Coming to Terms with Social Life

  • Ellis (2018), Marxism! (video)

Thu, Sept 17

Modern Society

  • Little (2016), section 4.1

  • Barker and Lowman (n.d.)

  • Erikson (2017), Worlds Beyond

  • Curtis (2020), Anishinaabe block roads to stop moose trophy hunting in wildlife reserve

Race, ethnicity, disability, and gender

Tue, Sept 22

Race, ethnicity, and nationality

  • Little (2016), sections 11.1–11.3

  • Bolnick et al. (2007), The Science and Business of Genetic Ancestry Testing

  • TallBear (2013), Genomic articulations of indigeneity

  • Panofsky and Donovan (2017), Genetic Ancestry Testing among White Nationalists

Thu, Sept 24

Multiculturalism and immigration

  • Little (2016), sections 11.4–11.5

  • Mahtani (2002), Interrogating the hyphen-nation

  • Leroux (2010)

Tue, Sept 29

Social construction of disability

  • Wendell (1996), Chapter 2: The social construction of disability

Thu, Oct 1

Gender and Socialization

  • Little (2016), Sections 5.1 and 5.2

  • Westbrook and Schilt (2014), Doing gender, determining gender

Tue, Oct 6

Gender and intersectionality

  • Little (2016), Sections 5.3 and 5.4

  • Gilchrist (2010), ‘Newsworthy’ Victims?

Class and inequality

Thu, Oct 8

Cultivating difference: class and culture

  • Little (2016), chapter 22

  • Lamont (1992), prologue and chap. 1

Movie of the week:
They Live (Carpenter 1988)

Tue, Oct 13

Inequality and stratification in Canada

  • Little (2016), section 9.2

  • Erikson (2017), Creating Divisions

Thu, Oct 15

Global inequality and mobility

  • Beck (2010), Remapping Social Inequalities in an Age of Climate Change

  • Piketty (2017), Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Introduction

  • Pemberton (2019) Capital in the Twenty-First Century (documentary film based on Piketty’s 2017 book)

Populations and states

Tue, Oct 20

Population: theories of demographic dynamics

  • Little (2016), chapter 20

Thu, Oct 22

Demography and family

  • Little (2016), sections 14.1 and 14.2

  • Thornton (2001), The developmental paradigm, reading history sideways, and family change

Tue, Oct 27

States and authority

  • Little (2016), chapter 17

Thu, Oct 29

Democracy and political participation

  • Haney (1996), Homeboys, Babies, Men in Suits

Social change

Tue, Nov 3

Social change and collective behavior

  • Little (2016), chapter 21

  • Wilson and Sonenstein (2020): In Defense of Looting (Episode of Beyond Prisons podcast, featuring an interview with Vicky Osterweil (2020))

Thu, Nov 5

Social movements

  • Mische (2003), Cross-talk in Movements

Groups and institutions

Tue, Nov 10

Studying relations

  • Crossley (2013), Interactions, Juxtapositions, and Tastes

Thu, Nov 12

Networks and collective mobilization

  • Gould (1991)

Movie of the week:
Clue (Lynn 1985)

Tue, Nov 17

The structure of organizations and groups

  • Little (2016), chapter 6

Thu, Nov 19

Institutional analysis

  • DiMaggio and Powell (1983), The Iron Cage Revisited

  • Star and Griesemer (1989), Institutional Ecology, ‘Translations’ and Boundary Objects

Technology and the Internet

Tue, Nov 24

Technology and media in social life

  • Little (2016), chapter 8

Thu, Nov 26

Identity and interaction online

  • Tolentino (2019), The I in the Internet

  • Marwick and boyd (2011)


Tue, Dec 1

Review and final exam info



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Gilchrist, Kristen. 2010. “‘Newsworthy’ Victims?” Feminist Media Studies 10 (4): 373–90.

Godin, Mélissa. 2020. “Indigenous Groups Are Taking on Governments over Coronavirus Failures.” Time, May 29, 2020, sec. World.

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