Course: SOC223
Instructor: Ferguson
S 2016

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This course focuses on illegitimate ways to make a living, including drug dealing, trafficking (organ and human), sex work, organized crime operations, sports bookies, and more. Specific attention is paid to themes present in all these fields such as how risk is managed and how detection is avoided. Finally, a large and reoccurring theme is how relationships, identities, and trust are defined and negotiated in each discipline and how this in turn establishes a sense of order. The course content is divided up into units on each type of crime and within each unit when applicable, a chronological approach is used. In order to fully understand the course material and succeed in this course, students must internalize the demands of each field of organized crime and essentially be able to describe how one would run a successful operation in each.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

This course consists of lectures, precepts, and assigned readings. Lectures tend to give a broad overview of the current unit followed by specific examples Prof. Ferguson encountered in her fieldwork. Although Prof. Ferguson uses a PowerPoint format, the slides contain only very basic information and are not posted on Blackboard. The material needed to do well in the class is told in a story-like format, requiring students to attend lecture and pay close attention. Readings provide more depth and follow specific examples within each discipline. Finally, precepts consist of a time for students to discuss and ask questions about the topics covered (mainly focused on the weekly reading). Precepts were extremely useful for solidifying the necessary concepts and attendance is required as a portion of the grade is based on participation.

Learning For and From Assignments

In the course, you will write 3 short memos that you will present and discuss in precept. There is also a midterm and final exam. For memos, it is important to keep the themes being discussed in lecture in the back of your mind while reading the assigned reading for the week. In memos, you will have to tie in themes such as identity, trust, risk management, or others to the context of the reading. For exams, it is most important to be able to synthesize the main ideas of each unit and understand how each operation works. The format of questions tended to be short and long answer questions that required you to understand the main themes of the class and be able to describe how you would operate each business. On exams, you will also be required to reference multiple readings, so it is important to keep up with the readings throughout the course.

External Resources

Outside of the mandatory readings, Prof. Ferguson had many optional readings that she recommended. These were helpful if you wanted more information about a certain unit or were having trouble understanding how the operation worked.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This course was highly popular and had around 450 students in it. Many students taking this course were not sociology majors as it fulfills the SA distribution requirement and is an engaging course. There is no prerequisite to this course, but basic understanding of sociology could be helpful and would provide more framework for memos. The time demand is approximately reading one book per week as well as writing 3 short memos throughout the whole semester.
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