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About SOC 154 A

Comparative examination of sociocultural adaptations to mortality with special attention to family, medical, legal, religious, and economic responses to fatal illness and death in contemporary society. Prerequisite: Three hours of Sociology.


Minimum sophomore standing

Section Description

This course offers students the opportunity to overview the history and sociology of dying, death, loss, and end of life care. Remember that all traditional taboo experiences – such as death, sex, madness, or drugs – elicit cultural fear and the ritual desire to control. The immediate sociological consequence of this reaction is the widespread generation of myths (explanatory narratives) and the rapid exploitation of those myths by vested interests. This course will encourage a critical examination of this historical and political traffic inside our personal experiences of death and dying. We will review how these universal experiences have changed during the span of human history, culture, economy, demography, and epidemiology. We will discuss how our understandings about the human experiences of dying and loss are shaped by the kinds of disciplines that have studied it. Key topics include: cultural and historical influences on death and (conversely) how facts about death shape societies; key features of dying conduct and experience; current models of end of life care; recent debates about the nature of death and consciousness; fashionable theories about grief and bereavement; and the adversarial nature of theories on mystical experiences at the end of life. Our aim is to employ epistemology, political economy, and the sociology of knowledge as critical tools to unpack, and then scrutinize, the medicalization and secularization of modern death. 1 COURSE OBJECTIVES The 7 objectives of this course are as follows: 1. To provide students with a broad overview of the history, sociology, social psychology, and medical understandings of death, dying, care, and grief. 2. To familiarize students with the basic sociological and clinical perspectives on death, dying, care & grief. 3. To gain critical insights into popular understandings and contemporary debates about euthanasia, brain death, organ donation, key models of care for the dying, and contemporary mystical experiences. 4. To enhance skills for inquiry, analysis, communication, and collaborative learning. 5. To foster critical and independent thinking 6. To encourage an informed existential reflection with scholarly input. 7. To encourage a sociological imagination - gaining experience in connecting these types of personal experiences to recent social changes and the public issues of the day.

Section Expectation

This course will revolve around fixed lectures and some discussion sections. Lectures will be didactic in overall style mixed with socratic style questioning and discussion. Particular lecture sessions will be entirely devoted to class discussion. There will be weekly readings


Attendance will be assessed periodically but most the the formal assessment will be based on three written assignments including a final, major essay. There are no examinations in this course.

Course Dates



Billings - Ira Allen Mlk (View Campus Map)


to on Tuesday and Thursday

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