Statement on Shared Values in Department Research Assignments

The disciplines of sociology and anthropology are devoted to the study of difference, power, and inequality, both in the communities we call home and the places that feel most foreign to us. In engaging the institutions, identities, practices, norms, and relationships that form our world, we seek to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. Therefore, we interrogate frequently the very ideas that our own society takes for granted, asking when and how these elements of our social life emerged, why they seem natural, as well as what implications they hold, and for whom. 

Similarly, we assume a posture of critical curiosity relative to lifestyles, forms of expression, politics, social organization, and values that might seem foreign to us so as to analyze and offer unique insights that might not be possible from within that cultural space. Because we work with people, questions of power and positionality are central to the kind of research we do and the analyses we produce and debate.

SOAN courses seek to provide students with the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological training required to effectively and ethically conduct sociocultural analysis and interrogate its implications. Therefore, while SOAN faculty exercise autonomy and creative freedom in their course development, reflecting a range of pedagogical approaches and independent perspectives, we design and facilitate curriculum according to certain shared values. These include:

  • Recognition of the value of experiential learning and of engaging with lived culture in real-world contexts through direct experience.
  • A commitment to ethical engagement with the communities and subjects with whom we collaborate that reflects respect, informed consent, and appreciation for the implications of shared knowledge endeavors/projects.
  • An awareness that productive intercultural engagements often come with a degree of ambiguity, discomfort, and challenge as we negotiate values and worldviews that are unfamiliar and challenging to our own.
  • A critical curiosity and empathy toward other perspectives and experiences.
  • An attentiveness to our own social locations, and how they may shape our research and collaborative processes with others.
  • A commitment to our disciplinary norms and institutionally recognized right to academic freedom of inquiry and expression.

NOTE ON SAFETY IN FIELDWORK SETTINGS: We recognize that some groups may face heightened risks for harassment or even violence in the field, including minority identities based on race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, and/or religion. The SoAn department is committed to supporting all students through pre-and post-fieldwork discussions in and out of the classroom. Therefore, if you encounter or witness harassment or harm while conducting fieldwork assignments, or if you have related concerns about any SOAN department assignment, you are encouraged to speak with your course professor first to voice your concerns. However, at any time you may also contact the department Chair (currently Ben Lewin, for additional support and confidential guidance, or the department’s Fieldwork Ombudsperson (currently Monica DeHart,

Students should further be aware of campus resources including our Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services, our Title IX office, as well as our Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, and take advantage of those resources as needed.