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The Critical Social Studies program focuses on social, cultural, and political theories and their interrelationships. Its orientation is critical. Even as there are vibrant debates over what theory is, the approach of the CSS program begins from an understanding of the rootedness of critique and theorization in everyday lives.

Critical Social Studies recognizes theory as connecting diverse endeavors into a common project of critical engagement with the world. Students in the program participate in increasingly demanding theoretical dialogues. These dialogues aim, first, to reflect on the “common-sense” assumptions, practices, and identities that inform everyday life; to reflect on the practices, assumptions, and representations that constitute the common sense of academic disciplines; and to reflect on the consequences and implications of these. Critical Social Studies dialogues aim, second, to deal critically and historically, in social, political, and economic contexts, with those “common-sense” attitudes that constitute everyday and academic life. Our dialogues aim, third, to encourage reflection on the social, cultural, and political implications of such critical activity, that is, to wrestle with the question “what is to be done?”

The Critical Social Studies program offers a rigorous interdisciplinary major and minor. In consultation with a program coordinator, students assemble a structured set of courses focused on a Critical Social Studies theme. Themes include (but are not limited to):

Privilege, class, and capital
Protest, autonomy, and organization
Revolution and utopia
Solidarity and difference
Subject and discourse
Visual culture and performance

interdisciplinary, 11 courses
All majors must pass BIDS 200. Majors also work with a program coordinator to choose 10 additional courses that meaningfully engage with theory to form a coherent program. No more than 2 courses may be at the 100-level. No more than four courses may be in one department. No more than seven courses may be in one division. Students will work with a program coordinator to design their capstone experience (typically an extension of their work in BIDS 200).

interdisciplinary, 6 courses
All minors must pass BIDS 200. Minors also work with a program coordinator to choose five additional courses that meaningfully engage with theory to form a coherent program. These courses must be at least at the 200 level. No more than three courses may be from one department or division.

BIDS 200 Dialogues in Critical Social Studies We use social and cultural theory in our everyday lives but rarely very consciously. This course investigates ways in which hegemonic "common sense(s)" are constructed and changed, both in society and the academy, and the purposes they serve. The aim is to heighten awareness of personal, practical, and policy implications of social theory, and develop critical responses to it. (Fall)


Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, NY 14456
(315) 781-3000

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