Coordinator: Meyer Kestnbaum | 301.405.6431 | korzen [at] umd.edu
Globalizing Theory is a unique specialty area that brings together faculty and students who are involved in critical thinking about the interaction between social theory and global processes. Participants in this area understand theory as an evolving body of thought on social interaction shaped by time and space. We seek to theorize about processes of “globalization,” but also to understand how a “global” perspective requires us to revisit some fundamental assumptions of the social sciences. Besides offering regular classes, this area promotes the collaboration of faculty and graduate students in research working groups, organizes colloquia and conference every year around a central theme, and encourages inter-disciplinary dialogue across the campus. The Globalizing Theory area builds on existing strengths in the Sociology Department at the University of Maryland in sociological theory and comparative sociology, yet combines these strengths in new and synergistic ways. Scholarship in this area employs a range of methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative. Both types of work draw on interviews, archival documents and texts for interpretation: quantitative work additionally relies on surveys and national accounts, and qualitative work also pulls in ethnography and other ways to assess lived experience. What binds this wide range of work together is a focus on the case: but while case-based research lies at the core of comparative scholarship, our area theorizes “cases” as involving phenomena or processes that unfold within or across complex wholes—e.g., the globe, world-systems, the system of states.
Our faculty and graduate students focus on many different phenomena—global patterns of inequality; the construction of identities around nationalism and race; the relationship between the global and the local and homogenization and heterogenization; the development of national states, war-making and citizenries; shifting patterns of civil society and the construction of power and resistance; and processes of sexual, racial and national differentiation. A wide range of courses is offered by a core group of four faculty members all of who contribute to the literature and several of whom are national and international leaders in theory and in the study of globalization. These courses encourage students to assess critically central areas of dispute and consensus among key theoretical approaches and the study of global processes. The program offers a thorough overview of the classical contributions to theory as well as recent and current sociological contributions to theory, such as feminism, intersectional theory, world-systems analyses, postmodernism, and theories of globalization and consumption. We learn, and teach, how to analyze theory for its logical, interpretive, and empirical adequacy, how to construct new theory, and how theories function practically, ideologically, and discursively in the larger society.
The core faculty members currently participating in the program on theory include Patricia Hill Collins, Dana R. Fisher, Meyer Kestnbaum, Roberto Patricio Korzeniewicz and George Ritzer. Other faculty members of the Sociology Department have interests and/or occasionally teach courses that are relevant to this area, and might eventually join the area as core members. In addition, there are several faculty in the University whose interests intersect in significant ways with the focus of Globalizing Theory (some of these include Ernesto Calvo, Virginia Haufler and Karol Soltan in Government and Politics; Janet Chernela and Judith Freidenberg in Anthropology; Martha Geores in Geography; David Andrews in Kinesiology and International Programs).
Graduate Student Research Opportunities and Employment
Graduate students in theory develop their skills for the primarily academic jobs they seek through collaboration with faculty on research and through teaching assistantships in the department. A large number of publications have been jointly authored by faculty and both present and past graduate students. Students are encouraged to participate in research projects sponsored by faculty in this area of concentration. The area makes a sustained effort to enhance access by students to professional opportunities in our discipline and related fields of study. For example, we encourage our students to attend and participate in the Junior Scholar Conference that is held in conjunction with the ASA meeting every year.