The class meets on Thursdays, from 3:00 to 4:30, in 422 Thompson at Teachers College

Class notes are available by clicking on the date for the class meeting.

Reserves: Information about where to get the readings is also available here.


Introduction: the continued relevance of families

1/23 -- What is happening? What do we talk about when we talk about "family"? Cultural landscapes of the family: patterned controversies and dueling hegemonies?

Whitehead, Barbara "Dan Quayle was right." Atlantic Monthly, April 1993.

Bumpass, Larry "Social Change and the American Family." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1038, 1: 213-219. 2004


1/30 -- Politics and policies of family: Discursive continuities

Moynihan, Daniel P. The Negro family: The case for national action Office of Policy Planning and Research, United States Department of Labor March 1965 (also in The Moynihan report and the politics of controversy. Edited by L. Rainwater and W. Yancey, 41-124. Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press 1967 [1965])

Wilson, Julius Wilson More than race: Being Black and poor in the inner city. New York: W.W. Norton 2009 (Chapters 1 & 4)


2/6 -- Nature? Sociobiology and its challenges

Daly, Martin and Margo Wilson The truth about Cinderella: A Darwinian view of parental love. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

Hrdy, Sarah, B. Mother nature: Maternal instincts and how they shape the human species. New York: Balentine Books. 1999 (Chapter 12)


  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude "The family." in Man, culture and society, Edited by H. Shapiro, pp. 261-285. New York: Oxford University Press 1956
  • Murdock, George "The Nuclear Family" in his Social structure. New York: Macmillan. 1949
  • Parsons, Talcott "The family" in T. Parsons R. Bales Family, socialization and interaction process, pp. 5-33. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press. 1955

2/13 -- The culturing of nature: Historical and cross-cultural issues

Lévi-Strauss, Claude The elementary structures of kinship Chapters 1,2,3 Tr. by J. Bell and J. von Sturmer. Boston: Beacon Press. 1969 [1947].


The family and the life cycle

2/20 -- Inheritance

Goody, Jack Production and Reproduction: A comparative study of domestic domains. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.


2/27 -- The labor of birth: The social construction of biological processes

Jordan, Brigitte. Birth in Four Cultures. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1993. (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 6, 7)


3/6 -- Infancy and language acquisition: Learning, participation and the children's struggle as they play and resist

Ochs, Elinor and Bambi Schieffelin "Language acquisition and socialization: Three developmental stories and their implications." in Culture theory. Edited by R. Shweder and R. LeVine, 276-320. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984


  • Kulick, Don, and Bambi Schieffelin "Language socialization." in A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. Edited by A. Duranti, 349-368. New York: John Wiley &Sons, 2004

3/13 -- The sociology of childhood: Childhood, caretaking and nannies

Boon, James "Anthropology and nannies." Man 9: 137-39. 1974

Drummond, Lee "Transatlantic nanny: notes on a comparative semiotics of the family." American ethnologist 5: 30-43. 1978


  • Netting, R., R. Wilk, and E. Arnould "Introduction" and Chapter One (in Households, ed. by Netting, R., R. Wilk, and E. Arnould. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1984


3/27 -- The dilemmas of adolescence: Courtship and sentimental education

Canaan, Joice "Why a 'slut' is a 'slut': Cautionary tales of middle-class teenage girls' morality." in Symbolizing America, ed. by H. Varenne, 184-208. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 1986.

Holland, Dorothy, and Debra Skinner "The cultural models behind Americans' talk about gender types," in Cultural models in language and thought, ed. by D. Holland and N. Quinn, 78-111. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1987


4/3 -- Schooling and social reproduction: Class struggles through families and schools

Varenne, Hervé Families, education and the State in America. New York: IUME, Teachers College, Columbia University (Introduction, Parts I and II


  • Lewis, Oscar "Introduction" to La vida: A Puerto Rican family in the culture of poverty--San Juan and New York. New York: Random House. 1965

4/10 -- Love and divorce: Cultural possibilities in America: expansions and change

Weston, Kath Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, kinship. New York: Columbia University Press. 1991


4/17 -- Couples with children: everyday life, disability and disease

de Wolfe, Juliette

Varenne, Hervé "Talk and real talk: The voices of silence and the voices of power in American family life." Cultural Anthropology 2: 369-394. 1987


  • McDermott and Varenne

4/24 -- Old age and death

Kaufman, Sharon ...and a time to die: How American hospitals shape the end of life. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 2005


5/1 -- Cycles of exchange: The extension of family and its possible functions in the modern world.

Furstenberg, Frank, et al. Managing to make it: Urban families and adolescent success. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. 1999 -- Chapters 1, (2), 4, 5, 6, 7


5/8 -- Family policy in the United States: Independence, control, resistance, regulation

Varenne, Hervé Families, education and the State in America. New York: IUME, Teachers College, Columbia University (Part IV)


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If the outstanding work is not completed within one calendar year from the date of the close of term in which the grade of Incomplete was received, the grade will remain as a permanent Incomplete on the transcript. In such instances, if the course is a required course or part of an approved program of study, students will be required to re-enroll in the course including repayment of all tuition and fee charges for the new registration and satisfactorily complete all course requirements. If the required course is not offered in subsequent terms, the student should speak with the faculty advisor or Program Coordinator about their options for fulfilling the degree requirement. Doctoral students with six or more credits with grades of Incomplete included on their program of study will not be allowed to sit for the certification exam.