UPCES Sociology Courses

Here you'll find the full list of UPCES courses related to Sociology. Please note that course offerings are subject to change or cancelation based on faculty availability and student enrollment. All course subjects must be approved by your home institution for departmental credit.

Each course includes a detailed description, any cross-listed subjects, and a downloadable syllabus.

Central Europe: Shaping a Modern Culture 


This course discusses the emergence of major modernist movements and ideas in the three Central European cities: Prague, Vienna and Budapest. In the period between the late 19th century and the beginning of WWII, these cities were the main centers of the disintegrating Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, later, the capitals of three independent states—Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary, respectively. Despite the political turmoil, all the three cities became a watershed of ideas that remain to be the sources of Western culture even today, including the dominant trends in the current North American culture. Thus, we shall see how dominant ideas in the fields as diverse as religion, philosophy, science, economics, psychology, art and architecture that have shaped the 20th century culture in the West can all be traced back to the works of the Austrian, Czech or Hungarian intellectuals such as Franz Brentano, Sigmund Freud, Adolf Loos and Georg Lukács. We shall have the extraordinary opportunity to study the fermentation of these ideas “on site,” in the very places in which these ideas originated.

Central Europe and its Transitions: The Czech Lands


This course aims to introduce students to the historical, as well as the contemporary, issues of Czech Society and Culture from an interdisciplinary perspective. Based on several ethnographic case studies, among other literary, academic and visual sources, we will make connections between memory and history, narrative and experiences, change and continuity, and past and present. By the end of the course students will be able to: recognize and analyze the most important events, symbols, and personalities of Czech history, demonstrate how myths, symbols and traditions make the identification of people as members of the Czech nation, describe the characteristics of life under the Socialist system in former Czechoslovakia, and explain how this system has been transformed into its present-day form in relation to the process of Europeanization and Globalization and what kind of anthropological research these changes have stimulated  (traditions, situation of minorities,consuming habits, food, family structure, the media, gender roles…).

Collective Memory in Central and Eastern Europe


The course will offer a set of conceptual tools for understanding multiculturalism, ethnicity and collective memory in Central and Eastern Europe since the 20th Century to the present. From an anthropological perspective and the analysis of some relevant ethnographic case studies, some of the questions that will be discussed in class are: What is the relationship between ethnicity and other types of identity? What is collective memory? How do ethnic groups remain distinctive under different social, economic and political conditions? What is Multiculturalism and its relation to the process of Globalisation? In which ways can collective memory be important in the creation of ethnicity? Is nationalism always a form of ethnicity?  What ethnic conflicts do we face in contemporary Central and Eastern Europe? What can be the roots of ethnic differentiation and therefore, potentially, ethnic conflicts: religious, political, economic, linguistic or “racial”? Memory, silence and forgetting; how we should deal with the past in order to advance with the project of Europe.

Czech Culture and Society: Literary Perspective


The objective of this course is to help students understand Czech culture and society from 1918 to the present. Students will learn about history and culture of this era from the perspective of life and work od Václav Havel (1936-2011), Czechoslavak and Czech president (1989-2003), the most important and influential personality of modern Czech history and culture. Using my extensive experience as an editor of Václav Havel´s Collected Writings and also my personal contacts with him and with many important Czech writers and artists of modern era, I have prepared a series of thirteen lectures on twentieth-century Czech culture and society, based on Václav Havel’s life and cultural and political activities, friends, family, and associates, and wide range of interests. Together these themes present modern Czech culture in its complexity, with its many links to world literature, culture, and politics. They provide a deeper and broader understanding of modern Czech culture and society in the historical and cultural perspective. In this course, lectures are combined with interactive discussions and tutored readings from essential texts. Further contact with the subject matter will be provided through excursions to places of direct relevance for our topic and through historical documents (musical recordings, photos, films). A further aim of the course is to bring students into personal contact with important figures of Czech public life (writers, critics, politicians, artists, translators) whom I have known and worked with for decades.

Film as a Mirror of History, Ideology, and Individual Freedom


This lively and original course is open to students who have an interest in studying the social and political transition in Central Europe through an understanding of its cinema. This is not a traditional film course: We will focus on the films’ social, political and historical contexts. Films produced behind the Iron Curtain were not considered only commercial products. They were instruments of artistic expression and ideology, and also of protest and testimony. The stories of the postwar Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian film industries – the fate and the moral dilemmas of their most talented artists and their specific and strong film language before and after the political changes in Europe of 1989 – will be a discovery for those seeing the films for the first time (as well as for those already familiar with them but who wish to enlarge their knowledge).

Gender and Minorities in Post-Socialist Europe


This course aims to introduce students to historical and contemporary issues of gender and “minorities” in post-socialist Central/Eastern Europe. In recent years the territorial frontiers of the European community towards the outside and the internal political frontiers between the community and its member states have been shifting significantly. Based on ethnographic work, among other sources, we will analyze how the project of Europe is trying to guarantee the coexistence of different ethnic, religious and political forms across national borders based on the principle of cultural diversity and cosmopolitan tolerance.

Literature and Society: Central European Writers


This course of selected works in English translation will sample significant contributions of 20th Century writers from Austria, the former Czechoslovakia (and its successor states), Germany, Hungary and Poland. It will introduce students to the major ideas and themes that have made Central European literature a distinct and vital genre in the pantheon of world literature, one that in particular has left a lasting mark on modern consciousness vis-à-vis the moral answerability of individuals and societies.

Sociology as the Surrealistic Prague Experience
[SOCIOLOGY, 3 credits]


This course offers a broad introduction to the field of sociology through in-depth focus onthe analysis of local society, as well as other interrelated issues such as social inequality, different human systems, and how people create meanings particularly when working together in a group.
Students will be acquainted with sociological terminology and key issues such as sexuality, class, race, gender, education, health care, religion, globalization, the media, deviance and crime, as well as environment from both the local and global perspectives to better interpret the surrounding world and different structures which shape our lives.
Students will build their sociological experience by embracing, what I would call, the Kafkaesque experience which is so often – and, indeed, very aptly – associated with the city of Prague and the life in the Czech Republic in the past and presence permeated with a stream of different revolts. The memory plays here an important role: starting with the nation-building stage in the 19th century, to the present-day globalization imbued with conflicting values with those established by the nation’s forefathers.
We will examine the cultural heritage of the city marked with the traces of past centuries which witnessed the monarchy, fascism, communism, and the present day democratic capitalism. This will involve some visits to different sites in Prague, which are significant for their social and historical context, as well as cultural institutions and museums.

Story of Religion in the Most Secular Country


This course aims to introduce students to the paradox concerning religion: though the historical visage of Prague is very religious, Czech society is currently classified as one of the most atheistic in the World. Through excursions to interesting religious sites we will interpret various historical roles of religion and in class discussions we will explore the roots of such a high degree of secularization today. The course will provide students with an understanding of the role of religion in western societies and of interactions between religion, culture and politics. We will also examine potential prospects for the future.

Surveillance and Society
(originally: Surveillance in Central and Eastern Europe: Social Control Methods Before and After Communism)


This course offers an interdisciplinary introduction to the topic of surveillance in Central and Eastern Europe covering Pre-and-Post Communist realms of everyday life. The class dialogue will be focused on the analysis of historical rhetoric of surveillance and its wide range of tools used to gain social control and that of its individual members. We will focus on the comparative analysis of different methods of social control practice employed by select former communist states (mainly Czechoslovakia, Poland, and East Germany) during communism and after its fall. As it may appear that the communist organs of state surveillance, namely: StB in Czechoslovakia, Stasi in East Germany, and SB in Poland, ceased to exist with the fall of the totalitarian system, one could argue that the new mechanisms of social control continue to emerge, but this time offering no visible borders for one to easily escape from. Indeed, the faces of post-communist surveillance will be discussed from more inclusive perspective, touching upon the global resonance of 9/11, when surveillance has been legitimatized as a tool of social order and also openly questioned by individuals such as Edward Snowden. Moreover, surveillance today and the invasion of one’s privacy faces threats from many “little brothers” rather just only the state itself. Therein this course will probe several issues emerging from different types of relationships between the latest technologies and our society, as they may be used by those in power to cultivate the culture of social control, fear, and empowerment.

Urban Anthropology of Central European Cities


The goal of the course is to introduce the main concepts of urban anthropology, emphasizing the urban life and culture of Central European cities. Central European cities have been undergoing rapid social and economic change, which has had major effects on their physical make-ups. It has also affected the ways in which people – urbanites as well as non-urbanites – perceive these cities and urban life in general. This course aims to investigate how, in the post-communist context, city dwellers perceive, define and use this rapidly transforming urban space, as well as how they try to shape and appropriate it. We will focus on the urban experience in the post-communist period and contrast it with the communist period, i.e. the ways people have lived their urban lives and how they have lived through the changes. Other topics the course will deal with are urban landscape, urban culture, property issues, social cleavages, class divisions, city migration, and transnationalism. Students will have a chance to learn more about the cities they will explore on their trips: Prague, Krakow, and Cesky Krumlov. Students learn how to look at cities through an anthropological lens and do field projects analyzing some aspects of city behavior. We will look at the strategies people use to cope with the demands posed by urban environments. The approach will be comparative, drawing on research mainly focused on Central and Eastern Europe.