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    Applying social theory to public issues and learning to use sociological knowledge to intervene in public debates.

    What is the public role of sociology? How might public debates benefit from engagements with sociological theory and methods? How can sociology reach those involved in social justice campaigns? In this paper, students will consider these questions by examining the history of sociology’s public life, exploring how sociological theory and methods have intervened in public issues, and imagining how the discipline of sociology might evolve to shape public discussions on the most pressing social issues of our era, from economic inequality and mental health to mass incarceration and the social effects of climate change. Students will engage in debates on what constitutes the public sphere and how it has evolved under capitalism, assess how sociological conceptions of class, race, gender, and sexuality can shape public knowledge, and investigate the relationship between public sociology and the state, especially in Aotearoa New Zealand. Students will also critically assess examples of public sociology in action, such as workers’ inquiry, abolitionist practices, and wellbeing initiatives, as well as envision contemporary public debates that could benefit from sociological interventions, such as those around the futures of work, care, migration, and housing. This paper will interest students who are eager to apply their sociological training outside of the university, including in policy analysis, the NGO sector, and social movements and social justice campaigns.

    About this paper

    Paper title Public Sociology
    Subject Sociology
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    18 200-level SOCI points
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music
    May not be credited together with SOCI304 passed between 2012-2014.

    Teaching staff

    Coordinator and Lecturer: Dr Neil Vallelly

    Teaching Arrangements

    One 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial each week.


    No textbooks required. Readings will be made available on Blackboard and eReserve.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised

    Communication, Critical thinking, Research, Teamwork, Lifelong learning, Self-motivation, Global perspective, Scholarship and Ethics.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will:

    • Learn to apply sociological theory and methods outside of the university
    • Understand the history of the public role of sociology
    • Think critically about the inequalities involved in the forming of the public sphere
    • Imagine how contemporary and future social issues can benefit from sociological intervention
    • Evaluate and compare the effectiveness of the use of sociological theory and methods in examples of public debates on social issues
    • Cultivate written and verbal skills to articulate their research findings to non-academic audiences


    Semester 2

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    L1 Tuesday 15:00-16:50 29-35, 37-42


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    Attend one stream from
    A1 Friday 13:00-13:50 29-35, 37-42
    A2 Friday 14:00-14:50 29-35, 37-42
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