Areas of Specialization
Within the theme of global transformations, MSU's Department of Sociology offers five areas of specialization. Most faculty and student research, teaching, and service focus on one or more of the following areas: Community and Urban; Environment; Family; Health and Medicine; and Migration.
Faculty in community and urban studies explore new social theory and develop empirical research on groups living, working, and communicating across geographical boundaries, including cities, suburbs, and rural areas, as well as electronic communities and other spaces. The MSU sociology department is unique for its focus on deindustrialized “legacy” urban environments and rural communities of Michigan and the Great Lakes States, and for its international focus on globalization/world cities and development issues (in African, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East). Further, there are strong linkages between community and urban development and environment, agriculture and food systems.
Interpreting the biophysical environment broadly to comprise ecological systems and processes, food and agricultural systems, and non-human animals, MSU has the largest group of US sociologists studying human-environment interactions. MSU sociologists engaged in scholarship on the environment focus on a wide range of topics including, but not limited to, climate change, agriculture and food systems, animal studies, and water resources. We also examine the social psychology of environmental concern, public opinion, political economy, and the role of institutions in shaping human-environment interactions. A core group of MSU faculty studies how science and technology mediate the relationship between humans and the environment, especially regarding the perception, management, and change of environmental phenomena. In addition, many MSU faculty regularly engage in interdisciplinary research projects.
Since the emergence of the discipline, sociologists have recognized the family as a core social institution, necessary for the maintenance and reproduction of social order. MSU sociologists investigate familial dynamics from a range of theoretical perspectives, employing both qualitative and quantitative methods with data at multiple scales of social interaction (e.g., interpersonal, local, regional, national, and global). Specifically, family sociologists at MSU have a sustained focus on understanding the factors influencing the well-being and development of individuals and families over their life course, by focusing on issues such as physical and mental health, fertility, educational attainment, work and occupations, racialization, retirement, intergenerational transfer, and caregiving. Our faculty’s research findings have appeared in national media, such as The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, The Washington Post, and ABC News.
Faculty and students active in the sociology department’s Health and Medicine program study the social context of health, illness, and health care, with a central focus on health disparities by race/ethnicity, social class, gender, and marital status; political, economic, and environmental circumstances that threaten health; and societal forces that impact the health care system. Faculty members often collaborate with scholars across MSU’s College of Human Medicine, College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, and College of Communication Arts and Sciences. In recent years, research projects of affiliated faculty have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Medicaid/Medicare, and United States Department of Agriculture.
More than 215 million people (3% of the world population) live outside their country of origin, a number projected to double by 2050. Close to 1 billion people (13% of world population) have crossed administrative geo-boundaries at least once. Migration involves the transference of ideologies, identities, religion, political, and other social, economic, and cultural traits and practices. The MSU Department of Sociology is a recognized center of expertise and excellence in research, teaching and outreach on migration, transnationalism and diaspora. MSU Department of Sociology faculty critically examines not only the forces behind human movement, but also the diversity of the populations involved and the impact that they have in sending and receiving communities. MSU migration scholars apply the full range of sociological methods, from visual sociology and cultural studies, to historical analysis, ethnography, demography, and census analysis and survey research. Faculty research on migration has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the Social Science Research Council, and various Foundations and has been reported in national and international media.