Understanding Society

Subject 166-130 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 1 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 1, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Two 1-hour lectures and a 1-hour tutorial per week
Total Time Commitment: 3 contact hours/week , 5 additional hours/week. Total of 8 hours per week.
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Dr Millsom Selina Henry-Waring


Dr. Millsom Henry-Waring
Subject Overview: This subject explores our contemporary society through sociological perspectives, which seek to understand the ways in which we are socially constructed through the complex processes of identity and social change. Students will be encouraged to develop C Wright-Mills describes as a ‘sociological imagination’ when investigating the social world. Society in the 21st century is overcome by global flows, national identity appears to have become less of a foundation for social life. Stable identities such as family and class are giving way to new and difficult-to-chart experiences. New technologies are redefining whom we are, work patterns are continually changing, and new social problems are emerging. As a result, selfhood – understood as both the way in which we relate to ourselves and the way we relate to others – is in a process of rapid and uncertain transformation. These changes in society create new forms of power, conflict and creativity and also lead to new questions for sociology. This subject critically examines these using a number of key concepts. These are: Social change, Power and conflict, Inequality, Identity, Risk, Uncertainty, Individualisation, Networks, The symbolic, Embodied experience. Drawing on these key concepts, this subject will closely examine 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. It looks closely at the following key themes in the contemporary social world: Population and migration, Power and inequality, Difference and otherness, New family forms, Emerging patterns of work, Media, communications and other technologies, Consumption and identity, Deviance and subcultures, New social movements, Religion, sport and dance cultures. As a result, this subject provides an important pathway for students to engage with key sociological concepts and perspectives and to develop a sociological imagination which will prove to be an exciting lens to view human society in all its diversity.
  • have an introductory knowledge of sociological approaches to contemporary social change with a focus on globalisation, teh social and self-identity;
  • have an introductory knowledge of main frameworks in contemporary sociology;
  • have a knowledge of issues of ethics in social research;
  • be able to use sociological frameworks to explore dimensions of contemporary social life relating to family, work, and subcultures;
  • have an introductory ability to read and interpret data in table form;
  • have an introductory ability to use the internet for social research;
  • have an introductory ability to design and carry out a fieldwork project to explore a sociological question.
Assessment: Essay of 500 words 15% (due early-semester), Tutorial Quizzes of 500 words 15%, a Research Essay of 2,000 words 40% (due mid-semester), a Take-home Test of 1000 words 30% (due in exam period).
Prescribed Texts: A subject reader and/or a key text will be available.
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • Research Skills – developing a range of research skills, from library to internet-based research.
  • Thinking Theoretically – learning how to critically engage with the theoretical approaches introduced in this subject both in written assessments and tutorial discussions.
  • Thinking Creatively – constructing questions, developing arguments, and exploring ideas beyond that which is presented in lectures and reading material.
  • Analytical Skills – developing basic reading and analysis skills through weekly tutorial quizzes on assigned reading material.
  • Written Communication – developing writing skills through essay preparation and composition.
  • Oral Presentation and Co-operative Learning – building the confidence to participate in the context of group discussions.
  • Time Management and Planning – learning how to manage and organise workloads for recommended reading, essay and assignment completion and examination revision.

Formerly available as 166-130 Globalisation, the Social and Identity. Students who have completed 166-130 are not eligible to enrol in this subject.

Available as a breadth subject.

Related Course(s): Diploma in Arts (Development Studies)
Diploma in Arts (Sociology)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Development Studies Major
Sociology Major

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