Teaching

My teaching philosophy is based on three simple principles: First, everyone can understand anything if complexity and context are unpacked in effective enough ways. Second, every student contribution to classroom discussions and every essay is potentially interesting, if in more or less obvious ways. And finally, the more we treat each other with respect and grant each other serious intellectual consideration, the more enlightening the conversation. The same goes for reading and discussing the work of authors past and present.

To see what I am currently teaching at Columbia, click here

Empirical Research Seminar

At Princeton and Columbia, I have taught the Empirical Research Seminar, a two semester graduate course during which all participants write an empirically focused research paper publishable in a journal. The course helps students to find an interesting question, a way to answer it rigorously, and a mode of communicating the argument to fellow sociologists that these might find worth paying attention to. The seminar builds valuable research and professional skills and, in many cases, provides students with a jump-start for their dissertation research and a first published paper.

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Comparative Ethnicity, Race, and Nationalism (CERN)

At UCLA, Princeton, and Columbia, I taught a graduate course in comparative ethnicity, race, and nationalism. The course is based on the assumption that ethnicity, race, and nation belong to a broad family of similar forms of cultural understanding, social organization, and political contestation, all based on ancestry based social categories. Each week’s readings includes texts more specifically focused on ethnicity, race, or nationhood. Each week is dedicated to five broad theoretical approaches, emphasizing (1) political modernization and state-building; (2) economic competition and uneven development; (3) the construction of boundaries, categories, and identities; (4) rational choice and micro-mechanisms; (5) sociobiological, primordial, or psychological roots.

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Contemporary Sociological Theory

For undergraduates, I have been teaching a contemporary theory class at both UCLA and Columbia. The lecture class opens with a discussion of the dominant postwar paradigm, the functionalism of Parsons, and then proceeds to dramaturgical and ethnomethodologal approaches, rational choice and exchange theories, network theory and analytical sociology, feminism and critical race theory, world polity and world systems analysis, Bourdieu and Foucault, neo-pragmatism and actor-network theory, various cultural theories as well as post-colonialism. At the end of each class, the theory is examplified with empirical research on the same topic: dating, romantic love, or intimate relationships. By maintaining an equidistance to all theoretical traditions, the class teaches students how to think creatively and playfully with the tools of sociological theory and to understand how theoretical assumptions shape the empirical world we can (and can't) observe. 

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Historical Approaches in the Social Sciences

This is a new class developed for Columbia. It is designed for sociologists, political scientists, historians, and anthropologists interested to familiarize themselves with major theories and methods of studying history comparatively. 

 

In the first part, the course surveys major theoretical approaches and methodological traditions. Examples of the former are classic comparativist work (e.g. Skocpol’s study of revolutions), historist approaches (such as Sewell’s), or the study of legacies (e.g. Mahoney or Nunn). In terms of methodological approaches, we will discuss Millean small-N comparisons, Qualitative Comparative Analysis, process tracing, actor-centered modeling, quantitative, large-N works, and causal inference type of research designs. 

 

In the second part, major topics of the macro-comparative tradition are examined, from empire and slavery to the origins of democracy or gender inequality. Throughout the course, students will become familiar with the long-term historical development of major cases from each Continent (e.g. China, Japan, Sudan, France, etc.)

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Globalization and diffusion

This course introduces students to the literature on globalization and the diffusion of culture and institutions. It covers literatures in sociology and political science as well as some anthropology and history. The first part surveys major theories of the global diffusion: world polity theory, global field theory, the policy diffusion literature, etc. The second, much shorter part is dedicated to select topics, such as the role of local power relations in diffusion processes or how social media shape the global spread of ideas. 

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