One of the courses required in the Master of Arts in Sociology at UNC Charlotte is Social Theory. The course is always taught by the same faculty member, even when he is on sabbatical, so there are few options in this situation if a student is a “mismatch” for the epistemological requirements dictated by the instructor. Unfortunately, this particular instructor has stable notions about who “fits” into his class.
From the syllabus:
“I presume that students here: …. Adopt the scientific approach to developing knowledge; “
“This course may not fit well for someone who: …. Wishes to read postmodern thought or cultural studies. “
Given that this class is supposed to be involving theory formation and the evaluation of theory, I do not see the relevance of accepting the scientific method as the only method for developing “knowledge”, nor do I believe that “knowledge” is real. I accept that the scientific method is one possible way for discovering information, and it is certainly the most practiced method for establishing evidence for claims regarding the nature of reality. As for the second suggestion, that the course may not be a good fit for someone who wishes to read postmodern writing or cultural studies, what I prefer to read is likely not very relevant to the content of this class and I do not think that such a preference will deter me from developing an understanding of how to form, apply or evaluate social theory.
My social and theoretical background is from postmodernism, cultural/critical studies and queer theory. I am not the traditional sociology student who comes from a background of a single tradition, I am interdisciplinary and my beliefs about the acquisition of knowledge reflect that background. I will not accept that the scientific method is the only way and I will not avoid cultural studies just because this one instructor feels they have no benefit to social theory.
On a positive note, early readings for this class advocate for a diminished role of quantitative methods in sociology and an increased emphasis on a qualitative approach and the integration with theory. I am very interested in the course, which is good since it is required for graduation, but I find such qualifiers in the syllabus to be off-putting.