Back to: Sociology major Sociology major

Sociology engages with central dimensions of life in contemporary societies, from transformations in the life course, contemporary families, gender relations, ethnic, racial and sexual identity, and the body, through to media, new technologies and globalisation. It engages with emerging patterns of social inequality and new forms of social problems, and the ways in which people and societies confront these new challenges. Sociology also explores emerging questions of action and identity – from new social movements to subcultures to forms of action evident in contemporary social transformations.

Careers

  • Academia
  • Community development
  • Government
  • Policy development
  • Research
  • Sociology

Subjects you could take in this major

  • This subject explores the motivations underpinning particular types of criminal behaviour. It begins with an overview of various definitions and ways of measuring crime and then looks at the causes of specific offences ranging through graffiti, to animal cruelty, to armed robbery, to illicit drug use, to terrorism. Wherever possible, the words and rationales of offenders are used to give a more grounded insight into the reasons for criminal behaviour. Overall, the course has been designed to facilitate: discussion of criminal events which feature prominently in the public mind and/or the popular media; discussion of the relationship between the perceived causes of crime and responses to criminal offending by police, courts and corrections; and discussion of the implicit models of personhood, choice, gender, economic position, geographic location, peer group dynamics and other variables underpinning particular theories of criminal behaviour and formal and informal mechanisms for controlling such behaviour.

  • Law in Society introduces students to theories, concepts, forms and practices of law in contemporary Australian society. It will provide a foundation both for socio-legal studies subjects in later years and for subjects in disciplines such as politics, criminology and law. In preparing students to engage critically with law, the subject looks at the ways that "harm" is constructed as a legal category. It encourages students to ask who is able to name something as either harmful, or not worthy of state intervention, and how this capacity to name effects socio-political relations. To develop this analysis, the subject discusses the norms that underpin the capacity to name particular practices as harmful, and engages critically with certain historical and current harms. Examples of such harms might include treachery, riot and disorder, terrorism, payback, the Northern Territory Emergency Response, torture, sado-masochistic sex acts, or female circumcision.

  • This subject will undertake a critical analysis of the structure and behaviour of work and occupations in modern society. It will engage with the theoretical debates and empirical research that focus on the organizational development and work and occupations in society more generally. The class will focus on how work and occupations are structured, evolve over time and replicate and reinforce existing inequalities. The course will provide a range of sociological perspectives on the subject.

  • This subject explores our contemporary society through sociological perspectives. Students will be encouraged to develop what C Wright-Mills describes as a 'sociological imagination', which seeks to understand the ways in which our identities are formed by social structures and historical patterns. Society in the 21st century is shaped by global flows of people, culture and finance, potentially challenging national sovereignty. New technologies are redefining who we are, work patterns are continually changing, and new social problems are emerging. In this context selfhood is in a process of rapid and uncertain transformation and categories such as gender, class and the family are becoming unstable, leading to new and difficult-to-chart experiences and new forms of inequality. This subject critically examines these changes using a number of key concepts including social change, power and conflict, inequality, identity, risk, individualisation, and networks. Drawing on these key concepts, the subject closely examines the relationship between the individual, the collective and key social institutions in the context of seeking to understand the complex and dynamic nature of human society.

  • The subject studies Australian indigenous politics in the comparative context of settler societies. First, it explores their historical dispossession and exclusion that left Indigenous people as citizens without rights, and economically and socially marginalized in their own country. Second, it evaluates the ongoing processes of recognition and inclusion, including anti-discrimination measures, land rights, state and federal policy measures, social policy and Indigenous initiatives that have marked the uneven path to reconciliation and recognition of the full rights and entitlements of Indigenous people, including special group rights and compensation.

  • This subject introduces students to the fundamental analytic skills that are used in social science research. It provides an introduction to the theoretical and epistemological foundations of social science research, familiarises students with the different methods of inquiry in the social sciences and provides an overview of key historical and contemporary debates and trends. Different theoretical approaches and their associated methods of inquiry will be introduced through practical examples in order to show their strengths and limitations.

  • This subject introduces students to the evolution of multiple paradigms of development, considers the strategies used to pursue development in practice, and identifies the key trends and issues of development in the 21 st century. We examine the theories promulgated about the developing world - of modernization and ‘catch-up’, of structuralism and dependency, of human development, ‘alternative’ and ‘post-development’. Students will be encouraged to understand the diverse trajectories of development by close analysis of specific case studies. We explore the phenomenal developmental success of countries in East and South-East Asia and the BRICs and draw lessons for other developing countries. We also review key issues of relevance to the developing world such as poverty and inequality, health, globalization, industrialization, religion and conflict.


  • Ethnicity and nationalism are of special concern to anthropologists, especially in instances where anthropology becomes part of nationalist discourse. This subject considers ethnicity and nationalism through the in-depth analysis of a case study from the developing world, but draws on comparative material from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Pacific. Students will examine different theoretical approaches to ethnicity, nationalism and ethnic nationalism, in particular the relationships between the formation of nation states and processes of 'development', 'transition' and 'underdevelopment'; the roles of actors, from political actors to ordinary people, in the construction of national projects; the relationships between historic and contemporary processes in the construction of national projects; how national projects are constructed, enforced and culturally maintained and the relationships between globalisation, migration, transnationalism and ethnic nationalism in the modern world.

  • Contemporary cultural and political conflicts are increasingly articulated with the body, bodies, gender and sexuality at the heart of their concerns. This subject brings insights from contemporary theory and social research to our understanding of how and why this occurs. The subject begins by examining ways to think about the gendered body. It then moves to a consideration of the links between gender, sex, sexuality, cultural difference, class, popular culture and politics.

  • This subject introduces a wide range of anthropological interests in the human body from a comparative ethnographic perspective. It considers topics such as body image and eating disorders, gendered bodies, body modifications and decorations, consciousness and the body/mind continuum, commodified bodies, disabled bodies and body healing. We will investigate how the human body is individually and culturally constructed and socially experienced through a critical examination of a range of ethnographic and theoretical literature, as well as through exploratory field research.

  • Law, Justice and Social Change examines the ways in which law can be seen as both an instrument of positive social change and yet also as a means of confirming existing social arrangements and resisting social change. It considers what access to justice entails, investigating a series of case studies and theoretical perspectives concerning the struggles for access to justice and involvement in legal processes and institutions by particular groups and individuals. It looks at a selection of issues such as gender politics, ethnicity, race, disability, indigenous politics, non-English speaking background, class and economic struggles, sexual orientation and social dissent. Students choose a current law reform issue to consider in light of the issues discussed in the course and interview a staff member from a community legal centre or government body involved in writing a report or submission that advocates for legal change. These issues and organisations have in the past included the Disability Discrimination Act (The Office of the Public Advocate), Racial and Religious Vilification (Victorian Office of Multicultural Affairs), the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (Department of Justice Victoria), Same Sex Relationships and the Law and Reproductive Technology and Adoption (Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria), Homelessness and Poverty (Public Interest Law Clearing House), Electro Convulsive Therapy (Mental Health Legal Centre), Unfair Dismissal Protection for Casual Workers (JobWatch), Refugee Rights (Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre), Child Custody Arrangements (Women's Legal Service Victoria), a Children and Young People's Commission (Youth Affairs Council of Victoria), Right to Silence (Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service).

  • This subject is primarily concerned with the ideas about society that have anchored the disciplines of sociology and social theory in the 19th and 20th centuries. It critically assesses these ideas through an examination of the works of key social theorists. Students completing this subject should have developed an understanding of the central ideas of key thinkers in the social-theoretical tradition, among them, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Simmel and Freud, and developed an understanding of some central issues and themes about society such as power, culture, structure and self through a critical engagement with the work of these thinkers.

  • This subject analyses the nature of social order and how need for order brings an inevitable consequence that deviance and non-conformity will result. Classical and contemporary sociological and criminological theories are explored that help explain the nature of social order and crime and deviance. Each theory is developed through grounded examples that can illustrate both its strengths and weaknesses. Topics covered in the course include suicide, industrial disasters, religious cults, sexual assault, racism, terrorism and the witchcraze of the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe.

  • This subject examines the role of the media in the contemporary politics of Australia and similar countries. Topics covered include theories of the media in democratic politics, how news is manufactured, the power of news media to set the public and political agenda, the impact of television and media on politics, and PR methods used by politicians and pressure groups to manage the media, and case-studies of how politics is represented.

  • How do sex and gender operate in the world today, and what are their possible futures? Indeed, do these concepts have a future? Can they adequately capture the breadth, range and fluidity of contemporary and global sexed and gendered lives? Key themes explored in this subject include: current theories and experiences of sex and gender in the world today; the increasing instability of the concepts of sex and gender and their transformations; gender fluidity; the persistence of gender inequality; gender as a cultural category versus gender as lived bodily experience; and the uses and abuses of the gender concept. The subject culminates by considering imagined futures of everyday gender practices and of sexualities. These themes will be explored in a global and cross-cultural context.

  • This subject involves the study of theory and empirical research in social and political relations, culture and ideology, and human subjectivity and action. Students who complete this subject should possess an awareness of the ways in which social theory can provide a critical perspective on standard approaches to the study of politics, and knowledge of a repertoire of social theory concepts and approaches which can be drawn upon to analyse political processes.

  • This subject aims to think critically and rigorously about the relationship between social and natural worlds. Its primary purpose is to question the idea that the environment exists outside of, and independent from, the realms of science, culture, politics and economy. Students will be introduced to different conceptual frameworks for understanding the environment as a social entity; to the processes by which capitalism and science structures social and environmental relations; and to alternative modes of living in, and thinking about, the environment. These broad themes will be addressed through engaging examples from Australia and beyond. Particular attention will be given to the concept of 'wilderness'; the postcolonial nature of the zoo; ecotourism; the politics of visualising nature (e.g. through wildlife documentary); the 'new natures' of genetic modification; and ideas about 'environmental justice' and ‘climate crisis’.

  • This course introduces students to the sociological study of culture. Exploring topics such as art, sport, food, religion, music, social media and cultural memory, we will examine how culture can reproduce, organise, and challenge particular social values and structures. To put this study into context, the course also traces the rise of cultural sociology in the late 20th century; a time when sociologists became increasingly interested in popular culture and everyday life, and cultural critics began to consider the sociological context of literature, art, and film. Using these innovative studies as a framework, each week we will analyse an aspect of contemporary culture and consider its sociological importance. On completion of the course, students will have an understanding of the cultural dimensions of social life and the key theories and methods that can be used to critically analyse cultural experience.

  • Youth is a period in which adult identities are shaped and through this society’s institutions and cultural beliefs are either reproduced or remade. For this reason young people and their attitudes and actions fascinate and create anxiety for broader society. The sociological study of youth is also the study of broader continuity and change. This subject introduces major classical and contemporary sociological approaches as they apply to the study of youth. It locates young people's experience in a context of social change, investigating the ways in which employment, education, family, gender, social class, youth culture and geographic location shape the meaning of youth in different ways in the early 21st Century than they did in the century past. It explores the new ways in which young people approach learning, work and relationships and examines the impact of the digital revolution, globalisation, and the coming ‘Asian Century’ on young lives. On completion of this subject students will have deepened their knowledge of the major sociological approaches to youth, including the study of transitions to adulthood, youth cultures and generational change.

  • This subject examines the various dimensions of terrorism and its manifestations. This includes the nation state's capacity to authorise and to create the conditions for the practices known as terrorism. In this subject we interrogate the role of the nation state and the rhetoric/s of anti-terrorism that both produce and contain acts known as terrorism. We look at the psychology of both the nation state and the terrorist through different anaytical approaches. To this end we examine the function of different terrorist acts - including suicide bombing in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, London and New York, assassinations and bombings in Northern Ireland and England, and practices of state terror in the context of acts of genocide, disappearance and torture. All of these examinations are used to assist in trying to think about a new way of conceptualizing violence performed by the state, the individual and the group.

  • This subject introduces ideas developed in feminist theory about the social and political construction of areas of experience relating to the body, gender and sexuality. Issues analysed in the subject include transsexualism, reproduction, eating disorders, pornography, sex work, sexual violence and sexual orientation. Students who complete this subject should be able to understand the ways in which issues connected with the body and sexuality are socially and politically constructed, understand the ways in which the construction of masculinity and femininity affects the learning and regulation of such areas of experience, and apply a variety of feminist approaches to the analysis of these issues.

  • This subject provides students with training in applied social science research methods. Students will learn how to connect a research question with appropriate research design and methodology and acquire practical skills in utilising different research methods and tools, including analysing data and presenting results. The subject will enable students to develop a critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods and the practical skills to carry out social science research.

  • This subject is an opportunity to study Australian politics over historical time, by examining points of crisis and conflict in our history, as well as by assessing the apparent resilience of our political structures. Wars and economic crises send shudders through political systems, but ours has been relatively stable, although the party system has had its ruptures. Aspects covered will include the development and current state of the mass party system, and the shifting relationships of both federalism and of executive government. We will also examine how the political system has responded, or failed to respond, to significant social changes such as the development of a multicultural society, and recognition of our geographical location in the Asia-Pacific, and to the challenges of social movements such as the women's, indigenous and environmental movements. Can our political system adapt, or is it broken? Is the party system dead, or just changing? Are our political traditions and ideologies exhausted, or are they morphing under new conditions? The subject is based on the proposition that one fruitful way to tackle such questions and assess our present is to understand the historical trajectories of key features of the Australian political system.

  • The subject examines major approaches and debates within contemporary sociological theory, and the different research directions that emerge from these approaches. Beginning with an overview of the classical foundations of sociological theory, the subject explores contemporary sociological theories which engage with questions of power, social order, and conflict. The subject also examines contemporary sociological approaches to critical issues including globalization, individualization, and identity. As the subject proceeds, we will examine how researchers construct, evaluate and modify theory to respond to transformations in social relations and practices. In this way, it will become evident that sociological theory is in a constant process of interaction with everyday social structures, relations and experiences. Students will complete the subject with knowledge of key approaches and debates in contemporary sociological theory, and with the capacity to use sociological theory to construct social research questions.

  • This subject focuses on the transforming power of creative arts and communicative technology in social history, with specific empirical reference to modern Indonesia. Students will closely examine the profound social transformation brought about by art, print, broadcasting and social media at a time of global invasion of electronic high technology. Contemporary politics, popular cultures, social networks, urban spaces and creative enterprises will be some of the key issues in the subject.

  • This subject analyses the crimes and harms of the powerful. The subject examines the relationship between government, business and law both theoretically and through a series of case studies to explore why business harms and crimes are so difficult to tackle. These case studies of corporate and white-collar crime include complex financial fraud, industrial disasters, professional misconduct, tax avoidance and corruption in the context of business. This theoretical and case study material is used to demonstrate the challenges associated with deciding whether harmful behaviour by the powerful should be defined as crime and the difficulties inherent in using criminal law to curb such activities. Students will explore a range of criminological theories that can help explain the harms perpetuated by the powerful as well as the techniques employed by the state in regulating white-collar and corporate misconduct.

  • The aim of this subject is to introduce students to and critically examine the major debates in contemporary critical theories from Western Marxism to postmodernism. These critical theories include the German Frankfurt School, French poststructuralism, the Budapest School, post-Marxism and feminism, all of which are set against the background of the Enlightenment and the Romantic and Heidegerrean responses to it. On completion of the subject, students should have developed an understanding of the central issues and ideas of the critical theorists covered in this course and be able to convey this understanding through a critical engagement with the issues and theories in the written assessment of the course.

  • This subject is an exploration of how digital technology informs everyday life. As digital technologies and communication continue to change rapidly so too does the social landscape. Social media and communicative technologies facilitate new types of self-expression and interactions online; however, at the same time, new digital tools and platforms enable different ways of tracking and marketing personal information, interests and communicative behaviours. This subject pays particular attention to how digital technologies present both social possibilities and the social problems. Students will study these tensions through the analysis of sociological studies, news events and hands-on digital engagement.

  • This subject explores the ideologies and actions associated with contemporary social movements that operate on a global scale and have attracted international attention, such as anti-globalisation, indigenous, labour, women's rights, green, human rights, radical Islam and anti-war movements. It examines the conflicts in which these movements are engaged and interrogates the extent to which their grievances are caused or inspired by globalisation. It analyses the impact of globalisation on transnational social movement strategies and tactics, and assesses the role of global social movements in transforming politics and society.

  • This subject offers an examination of the relationships between indigenous people and the major systems of social control such as the criminal justice system, education, welfare and health. It explores the experiences and outcomes of Indigenous exposure to selected agencies within those systems. It considers different theoretical perspectives on the processes of Indigenous marginalisation, criminalisation and victimisation, and examines specific issues such as exclusion, racism, differential policing, over-representation and access to justice. It explores and evaluates institutional reforms designed in partnerships with relevant communities to redress Indigenous disadvantage.

  • Law in Social Theory builds upon issues introduced in Law in Society, and Law, Justice and Social Change. It examines the theories of the function and role of law propounded by a range of social and legal theorists and movements, including Habermas, Luhmann, Critical Race Theory, Feminist Legal Theory, and others. Students examine these different theories of how law works and law's role in relation to society. Each week these theories are considered in light of and tested against contemporary criminological and socio-legal problems selected by the students and the lecturer. Students conceptualise their chosen case study through the perspective of particular theorists. Case studies in the past have included the David Hicks trial, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, closure of live music venues, Aboriginal customary law in the courts, corporate manslaughter, criminal record legislation, sex discrimination in the workplace, the use of art experts in the courtroom, prostitution legislation. The purpose of the course is thus two-fold: to become familiar with different theories of the function of law in relation to society, and to consider the insight these theories bring to different criminological and socio-legal problems.

  • For good practical and theoretical reasons, risk and uncertainty have emerged as central themes in social science. More flexible labour markets, greater freedom to divorce, cohabit and re-partner and greater diversity in lifestyles erode the certainty with which people can map out their futures. Step-changes in the complexity and scale of technological innovation enable rapid rise in living standards, and, at the same time, bring the possibility of major catastrophes closer. Unexpected disasters, from the Challenger Space Shuttle to Chernobyl, from the Herald of Free Enterprise to Exxon Valdez remind us of the limits to our capacity for control. This subject will give an overview to interdisciplinary and sociological approaches to risk and a better understanding why we are concerned about risks and how we can deal with risks and uncertainty as a society but also individually in everyday life. It will show the limits of objectivist understandings of risk and will explore the involvement of values, power, knowledge and emotions in the realm of risk.

  • This subject focuses on two areas, namely the location of a particular study of popular culture within the broader study of cultures, and questions of aesthetic and political values with specific reference to Indonesian contexts. Students will examine critically selected analyses of different genres of popular cultures in Indonesia. The subject will refer to theoretical texts on ideology, cultures, hegemony, identity politics and resistance. Issues of gender, ethnicity and religion will be of importance.

  • What sorts of inequalities are intensifying in the contemporary world? What dynamics are producing those intensifications? And how have anthropologists historically conceptualized the inequalities with which they gain firsthand experience through long-term fieldwork? Growing numbers of political and economic anthropologists are committed to exploring the ideological and material means by which systems of inequality are created, sustained, misrecognized, and challenged. Drawing principally on Marxist anthropology, post-structuralism and post-colonialism, this subject looks cross-culturally to explore the interrelationships between diverse forms and sources of power, the roles of colonialism and corporate globalization in configuring and sustaining local relations of inequality, and the rise of resistance movements that explicitly challenge exclusions based on class, gender, and ethnicity. Special attention will be paid to the effects of multinational corporations on local power relations and patterns of inequality throughout the world via brand marketing, legal reform, and corporate social responsibility. Case studies will be drawn from Latin America, North America, Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia.

  • Psychoanalysis has informed and influenced contemporary social theory in manifold ways. Psychoanalysis has been central to theorising the decentred subject, it has radically affected conceptualisations of ideology, thrown reason under radical suspicion and has contributed to a better understanding of identities. including identities of nation, race, gender and ethnicity. This subject investigates these issues in the context of a consideration of texts by Freud, Klein, Lacan, Kristeva, Adorno, Fromm, Habermas, Zizek, Mitchell, Giddens and Althusser. Students who complete this subject should gain a sound knowledge of some major traditions in psychoanalytic theory, particularly Freudian, Kleinian and Lacanian, and should come to possess an awareness of why social theory has been drawn to psychoanalysis in order to analyse subjectivities, group processes, intergroup relations, ideological formations, and forms of reason.

  • Science provides innumerable benefits in our lives but poses just as many urgent questions. The aim of this subject is to explore the role of science in our society by drawing on recent scholarly work in sociology and philosophy of science. The first part of the course will introduce several conceptions of scientific knowledge, and of the role of scientists and their knowledge in society. The second part of the course will apply these intellectual tools to some of the pressing questions about contemporary science. What is the relationship between science, technology and the market? To what extend should science be directed by values? What role do or should scientists play in policy decisions? What role should ‘the public’ play in setting research priorities? What is a scientific expert? Why do we disagree about climate change? Has science shown that race is a social construct?

  • Contemporary societies are characterized by social differences and inequalities. Many differences are linked to social categories such as social class, gender, ethnicity, age, religion and disability. They indicate not only different life style decisions but fundamental inequalities of life chances and are responsible for systematic inequalities in income, health and life expectancy. Many of these inequalities are seen as unjust even though they continue and sometimes even increase. This subject will give a comprehensive overview about central social inequalities on a national and international level. It will discuss major sociological approaches to understand the existence and reproduction of these inequalities and how the understanding and theorizing of social inequalities has changed in recent decades.

  • This subject aims to prepare students for more specialised studies in Japanese society and culture. The subject offers interdisciplinary views of the political, economic, religious and cultural ideologies which foster inequality between different social groups in Japan. Students should become aware of the heterogeneous aspects of Japanese society, as well as the public and private institutions that deal with these issues, such as ethnicity, caste and disability. The subject will also include an examination of the relevant institutions (such as the family registry system, employment protection laws and social welfare programs) which promote or attack prejudice against heterogeneous social groups.

  • In this subject a student, under academic supervision, undertakes a sociological research project or prepares a portfolio of work in an organisation outside the university, such as a trade union, social movement, women's organisation, social service provider, government or non-government organisation or business organisation. The project will be determined jointly by the student and the organisation concerned.

    If primary research is carried out during the internship, ethics approval is the responsibility of the host organisation.



Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Arts Extended pages.