NUS “Must-Take” Sociology Modules
Five semesters in, I finally feel like I belong with Sociology. Much has to do with the way I constitute ideas. I don’t rush into asking questions, making judgments, or finding formulas. I prefer to tackle readings on a clean slate and allow them to settle into the subconscious, until it becomes necessary to link them together. Call it lazy – not entirely wrong – but this is my way of keeping an open mind.
The following list of recommendations is thus greatly conditioned by my own tastes, from module selection to curriculum to assessment to lecturing style. Not performance, though; my grades for these modules range from A+ to C. (!) As I don’t believe in pet topics or pet theorists, I am drawn rather unusually to more “methodological” modules. By this, I mean modules which contain an identity of their own that significantly stretches what I understand by Sociology.
Before I proceed, I should give shoutouts to certain modules I didn’t take. SC2212 Sociology of Deviance by Prof Ganapathy is arguably the tour de force of pet topics among my peers. SC3225 Social Capital by Dr Vincent Chua is an increasingly pertinent concept in modern life and a module I regret not taking. Finally, SC3208 Religion in Society and Culture is the module whose readings I most desire to read.
Here are my positive reviews:
# SC2211 Medical Sociology (AY14-15 Sem 2)
Lecturer: A/P Paulin Straughan / Tutor: Mr Quek Ri An
This was the first Sociology module in NUS that intrigued me. Prof Paulin provided my 1st Sociology lecture at the Open House, so I was very eager. She was armed with an ensemble of 4 supporting tutors, and explained their strengths upfront. Just the kind of introduction to blow your mind… not that I utilized such resources. Ri An’s tutorials remain my most engaging; he brilliantly probed us towards a balance between Sociology and Nursing perspectives. The optional field trip to KTPH was an eye-opener, as were the health log term paper and readings on medicalization and sociological imperialism. I believe anyone, in any year of study, can learn a lot about the value of Sociology from this module.
# SC2216 Emotions & Social Life (AY15-16 Sem 2)
Lecturer: Dr George Radics
Without doubt, the most well-designed curriculum I have encountered. The first half was theory, moving from philosophy to classical sociological theory (i.e. 3 thinkers; see SC3101) to a stunning array of theories on emotions, from symbolic interactionism and dramaturgy, to power/status, stratification and exchange theories. The second half was sorted into 5 emotions – anger, love, fear, pride/shame, humour – with each taking up a week. This is the one module I didn’t have to slowly figure out, but which enthralled me with the sheer breadth of content that reminds me that theory cannot be divorced from emotion. I posted my critique on “emotionless” assertions at SG here.
*# SC3101 Social Theory & Social Thought (AY16-17 Sem 1)
Lecturer: Dr Manjusha Nair
I can’t believe I’m including this. This is a compulsory introduction to the 3 key thinkers: Marx, Durkheim, Weber. The readings were progressively harder to decipher – Marx is entertaining; Weber is dry – but I learned the virtue of rereading when doing my Durkheim essay. Durkheim is easy to criticize for his positive-ist view, but I found myself retracting all my superficial criticisms as I reread his (translated) essays. Everyone, certainly those who like to namedrop Marx, should read and reread the original words of these 3 great classical thinkers by taking this module, before applying them to modern life, including everyday situations like doing online surveys or finding motivation to study.
^ SC3209 Data Analysis in Social Research (AY16-17 Sem 1)
Lecturer: A/P Paulin Straughan / Tutor: Ms Athel Jenell Hu
I am not kidding; statistics is fun! I admit I am the kind of weird nerd who used to love math, but anyone can benefit from Prof Paulin’s charisma in this module. In case she isn’t reason enough, understanding social statistics is imo the most important skill today to be an informed participant in democracy. Too many keyboard warriors dismiss any data incompatible with their worldviews. Worse still, the rest of us can’t – and don’t bother to – discern good from bad data, and determine whether an interpretation makes good sense. I learned that I need to feel no remorse for rejecting unethical market surveyors. We gotta make statistics cool again, to make our societies great again – starting here!
^ SC3213 Ethnographic Analysis of Visual Media (AY15-16 Sem 2)
Lecturer: Dr Ivan Kwek / Tutor: Mr Rafael Martinez Garcia
This may well be my most debatable pick. I have heard qualms from many over Prof Ivan’s open-ended style. What won me over is the reflexive nature of the assignments. Some may lament the lack of theory, but I believe it is essential to step out from the protective shadows of theory to appreciate the difficulties and nuances of interpreting cultures, even when captured in visuals. A lot of tutorial participation was expected, and I struggled. But the continual effort helped me write interesting reflexive essays. If SC3209 represents mainstream sociology, this module takes the spirit of anthropology. I’d argue that this is an equally “practical” module; in terms of becoming more empathetic to differences in cultures.
Other Modules I’ve Taken (from AY14-15)
* SC1101E Making Sense of Society (AY14-15 Sem 1)
* SC2101 Methods of Social Research (AY14-15 Sem 1)
SC2210 Sociology of Popular Culture (AY15-16 Sem 1)
# SC2213 Childhood and Youth (AY16-17 Sem 1)
# SC2217 Sociology of Tourism (AY14-15 Sem 2)
SC2220 Gender Studies (AY14-15 Sem 2)
SC3204 Sociology of Education (AY15-16 Sem 1)
# SC3207 Cultures of Kinship (AY15-16 Sem 1)
SC3214 Sociology of Life Course and Ageing (AY14-15 Sem 2)
* Compulsory modules
^ SC3209, SC3213, and SC3221 Qualitative Inquiry are methodology courses; Sociology majors must complete at least one of them.
# Recommended for the selection of readings.
Do look out for changes in lecturers or course formats when making your own picks.