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[SI0134] - Sociology of Culture

Module Code: SI0134
Module Leader: Bella Dicks
Year: 2
Semester: Both
Number of Credits: 20

Teaching Method: Lectures and seminars.
Assessment: Coursework (essays) 3500 words (50%) - Autumn Semester; Written examination 2 hours (50%) - Spring Semester
Degree Schemes: Social Science; Sociology; BPS Social Science


Module Aims

From X Factor to opera, from museums to theme parks, everything seems to qualify as 'culture' today. But what is culture? Students following this module will understand there is no single or easy answer. Instead, they will gain  the theoretical and analytical skills and knowledge to appreciate the complexity of culture in society today.

The module will introduce students to a range of theoretical and analytical approaches to the study of culture and its relation to society. It will draw attention to the implications of viewing culture as both the lived experiences of social groups and as a discursive field of representations.


Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Comprehension

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key theoretical debates on culture.
  • Show understanding of the difficulties of defining culture

Skills (Application and Analysis)

  • Relate the study of culture to key sociological concepts.
  • Analyse  examples of  cultural  practice and apply theoretical knowledge to them.

Understanding (Synthesis and Evaluation)

  • Distinguish different theoretical  traditions and assess their relative merits.
  • Understand the major schools of thought on culture and how they have evolved and changed;
  • Grasp the relationships between culture, social organisation, politics and the economy.

Transferable Skills

The module will contribute to the development of the following transferable skills: Analytical Skills, generation of structured arguments, criticism, comparison, textual analysis, advanced reading and comprehension.


Synopsis of Module Content

Part 1: Foundations of culture in social theory:

  • Culture as function: culture and civilisation; Durkheim: ritual, function and structure; Culture and anthropology: culture and ethnography.
  • Culture as domination: Marxism, theories of ideology; Weber and legitimating culture.
  • Culture as action: the self; symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology.

Part 2: The linguistic turn

  • Culture as signification; semiotics and social semiotics , structuralism and poststructuralism, discourse theory.

Part 3: Culture, consumption, identities (selected cultural analyses)


Opportunities for Formative Assessment

Students will have the opportunity to complete a piece of non-assessed coursework at the end of the first semester.


Arrangements for Feedback on Work

Feedback through face-to-face meetings, on  Learning Central and through written comments.


Indicative Reading

Szeman, I. and Kaposy, T. (2011)  Cultural Theory: an Anthology. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell

Hall, J.R., Neitz, M.J. and Batlani, M. (2003) Sociology on Culture, London and New York: Routledge

Jenks, C. (1993) Culture  London & New York: Routledge

Kendall, G. and Wickham, G. (2001)  Understanding Culture. London: Sage.

Smith, M.J. (2000) Culture, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Smith, P. (2001) Cultural Theory An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.

Storey, J. (1997)  Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader 2nd Edition.  London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Storey, J. (2001)  Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction 3rd Edition.  Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.