NIHIL ULTRA: Nothing Beyond

Department of Sociology (B.A.)

Prof. Shoma Choudhury Lahiri M.A., Ph.D.
Head of the Department
The relatively young department of sociology has been successfully able to carve a niche for itself in a short span of time since its inception in 2001. The department of Sociology aims to engender analytical and critical thinking among its students and has continuously endeavoured to incorporate the most contemporary debates in Sociology in its academic curriculum. After the college was granted autonomy (2006), the entire syllabus was restructured in light of changing trends in sociology both at the conceptual and methodological level. It was felt that the changes could not b affected without parallel changes in he curriculum. So while the monological method of teaching continued, it was supplemented with various kinds of practical exposures. Village trips were therefore organized for every batch of students so tat students learn how to relate theory with facts, not only that the village exposure helps the students to develop a perspective which they would not have attained otherwise.

It is a conviction that students are capable of creative thinking. To encourage the creativity in the students and also enable them to think critically, dissertation writing was made compulsory component of the curriculum. The students benefit immensely from their research work. This also enables them to become an independent thinker which stands them in good stead once they finish their graduation.

The results are palpable as students get through various national; and international institutions of higher education on the basis of competitive examination. Their achievements are bringing recognition to the department.
 

Recently the department formed the Xaviers Sociological Society to create a space for debates, discussions and film screenings on contemporary issues with the aim of bridging the gap between theory and practice of the discipline of sociology.

Apart from these efforts to benefit the students, the department got a UNICEF funding to act as a centre for their annual summer program on rural sanitation in 2008. The department is also engaged in establishing a partnership with College of St. Benedict and St. Johns University, Minnesota, USA. a group of twelve students are coming in January 2011 for a whole semester to do various credit based courses here and thereby get an exposure to a socio-cultural system that is different from theirs in every respect . The purpose of their education abroad is to widen and enrich their exposure and understanding of a fast changing world. It is hoped that students will be able to get similar exposure and thereby enrich their learning.

The department is making every effort to establish itself in a way where students not only enrich themselves but also stand out in whichever field they wish to pursue.

Objective

Sociology being a fundamental discipline in social sciences, it was important, from the beginning to build up the Department in a way that would enable students to develop matured and critical thinking. It was a challenge to the Department to instill in the students perspectives that would enable them not only to qualify for all kinds of professions and occupations but also to do so successfully. It was also hoped that the students would be able to pursue the quest of sociological understanding not only academically but also in practical application; and this too, not from a narrow sectarian point of view but from a critical and matured point of view.

Features

With the advent of autonomy, the Department of Sociology formulated a syllabus that combined classical sociological insights with themes and issues of contemporary relevance. In so doing, it also introduced new methods of teaching so as to inculcate among students the habit of textual reading of all kinds including live ones to enable them to develop critical thinking. Under the new syllabus, students at the end of the course are required to do a 50 mark full-fledged dissertation on a topic of their choice. The Department from its inception has been organizing a three-day village exposure trip for each batch, which enables them in developing fieldwork strategies and research skills. The Department has been organizing seminars, talks and interactive sessions and screening of movies and documentaries pertaining to topics taught in class. Academic exercise apart, the Department organizes a departmental social where the students of all the three years enjoy an evening of song, dance, good food and camaraderie.

Performance/ Placement

Students have been consistently performing well not only in the pre-autonomy days under Calcutta University but also under the autonomous system. This is further reflected in majority of them opting to do Masters in the subject. Many students qualify for outside universities as well and perform successfully. Even those who opt for various professions have been achieving excellence.

Future prospects

The department having established itself as a leading one in the college is looking forward to expanding to Post Graduate level; the purpose is to bring in more relevant and innovative courses that have greater prospects. With the advent of autonomy for the College, the Department of Sociology has developed a radically new syllabus that retains classical sociological insights as well as high contemporary relevance. It has also introduced a new method of teaching.

Syllabus

In terms of the curriculum the syllabus is divided into 16 modules and each module is headed by a particular teacher who also has a tutor or teaching assistant. The students are given some basic and essential readings or texts. From the very beginning, the habit of textual reading is inculcated so that the students are able to imbibe the language of social science and start exploring new readings on their own. Such a method also helps in the development of critical ways of thinking. This habit of textual reading is abetted by regular tutorials where discussions take place and clarifications are made. Feedback taken time to time from students on (a) the relevance of the contents taught (b) the method of teaching and (c) the readings given have been very encouraging. Students are also given assignments such as writing term papers and book reviews and are encouraged to make presentations on contemporary themes of their choice. The Department from its inception has been organising a three-day village trip for each batch. It is a village exposure programme where the students stay and interact with the villagers to know more about village social, political and economic life. After the trip the students are expected to submit a substantial report on their experiences. This programme has helped students enormously in developing fieldwork strategies and skills and also with the course on dissertations. Under the new syllabus students are required to do a 50-mark full-fledged dissertation as an independent module. Our past experience is that since we allow students to take up dissertation topics of their choice, they enjoy doing it. Moreover, with proper guidance they develop the skill of independent project work  a skill that has great employment potential for students. Further, each student makes a 15-minute presentation on her dissertation which is followed by a short discussion. Some of the best dissertation themes include gender, sexualities, body, feminist movements, child sexual abuse, identities and identity politics, youth politics, euthanasia, parent-child relationships, children and reality shows, adda, durga puja, T-shirts, trust, courtesy, friendship, music, dance, FM radio. Additionally the Department has also been organising seminars, talks and interactive sessions and screening movies and documentaries pertaining to topics taught in the class. Some of the eminent speakers have been Prof. Andre Beteille, Prof. Virginius Xaxa, Dr. Deepak Mehta, Dr. Manisha Dasgupta, Ms Valerie Mason John. Some of the movies and documentaries screened include Hidden Half, The Circle, Ram Ke Naam, Father Son and Holy War, Roshomon. As new comers to the autonomous mode, with a lot of apprehension and trepidation we have made this humble beginning.

Course Structure

With the opportunity to frame the syllabus that came in the wake of autonomy, a study was undertaken of some of the major Sociology syllabi of different universities, both national and international, including the model UGC syllabus. Priority, of course, was given to the syllabus of Calcutta University, our parent University. In drafting the syllabus, therefore, an attempt was made to provide a comprehensive overview of the discipline of Sociology. Contextualising the discipline against the historical space of Renaissance and Enlightenment, in short, in terms of modernity, the disciplinary ideas and concepts were mapped out through the writings and theories of the pioneering luminaries of the discipline. In laying out the parameters, then, the interactional, relational and institutional dimensions of these modern, developmental and contemporary disciplinary discourses were spelt out. To create awareness of the applicability of these ideas in practical terms, the attempt was made to provide the students with tools and skills of research. The purpose has been to inculcate among the students the spirit of enquiry that is so important for the analysis of everyday social life systems. Translated in terms of modules, the above ideas have been developed in the following way:

Module 1: Introducing Sociology

Module 2: Introducing India

Module 3: Classical Sociological Thinkers I

Module 4: Social Interaction and Social Relationships

Module 5: Classical Sociological Thinkers II

Module 6: Body, Culture and Cultural Contestations

Module 7: Social Institutions I

Module 8: Social Theory I

Module 9: Social Institutions II

Module 10: Social Theory II

Module 11: Research Method I

Module 12: Social Stratification

Module 13: Research Method II

Module 14: Social Challenges and Movements

Module 15: Change, Development, Globalisation

Module 16: Dissertation.