Self-Study Report 2003 I. Environmental scan a. Sociology, Anthropology & the World


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A. Program Overview
The Department of Sociology & Anthropology’s undergraduate and graduate programs revolve around Greater Miami’s interplay with the U.S., the Caribbean, Latin America, and the world. As previously mentioned, the Department’s faculty interprets this commitment in broad terms that are by no means reducible to “Miami Studies.” That is, our research, teaching, and service activities most effectively serve FIU’s urban and international missions by providing theoretical, methodological, and geographic frameworks that in turn are applied to understanding Greater Miami. We provide such frameworks, first, by emphasizing the theoretical and methodological principles of sociology and anthropology; and second, by exploring comparative/global issues that provide insight into South Florida’s culture and institutions. In the latter regard, difference is indeed a source of profound insight.
The Department’s faculty fit into this agenda from the standpoint of three overlapping specializations (see Appendix B):

  • Transnational migration/race-ethnicity: Greater Miami is a product of migration, over the last several decades particularly from the Caribbean and Latin America. Such migration has involved movements not only of diverse peoples but also of capital, goods, and services. It moreover has involved transplants and transformations of cultures, institutions, ecosystems, and identities. At the points of origin and destination, then, the making and remaking of Greater Miami have been embedded in waves of global transformation and in comparative social conflicts. Racial-ethnic competition, conflict, and accommodation have been fundamental to these processes. Comprehending such processes and their ramifications, both for South Florida and for other parts of the world, is vital to our Department’s cross-disciplinary agenda.

  • Environment & sustainability: Problems of environmental destruction and risk, which intersect with trends of globalization and with comparative social conflicts, are fundamental to the future of South Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America, and the world. The consequences of environmental destruction and risk range from public health and economy to geopolitics and the conservation of indigenous cultures. The formulation and implementation of appropriate national and international policies is essential to the world’s prospects for a sustainable future. The application of sociological and anthropological theories and methodologies to environmental analysis and policy is an ever more crucial role of our academic disciplines.

  • Comparative social conflicts: In the contemporary world, all societies are heterogeneous. The peoples of the world have diverse allegiances and identities based on differences of nationality, socioeconomic status, race-ethnicity, gender, religion, language, and so on. Social conflicts—which are typically defined in terms of differences—are endemic both within and across political territories. Documenting and theorizing comparative social conflicts is a foundational goal of sociology and anthropology.

B. Program Vision

The Department’s vision for the next 10 years is to become the nation’s foremost social science program in research, education, and service on multicultural urban-regional issues in Latin American, Caribbean, and world perspective. This vision revolves around the scholarly areas of transnational migration/race-ethnicity, environment and sustainability, and comparative social conflicts. It builds on the comparative advantage of FIU’s location in South Florida and on the Department’s long-standing strengths.

Fulfillment of the vision requires that departing faculty be replaced with new, principally junior faculty, a significant portion of whom must have excellent potential to obtain external research funding. It also requires notable improvements in FIU financial support for graduate students; in the Department’s recruitment of graduate students; in graduate program curricular improvements; in the Department’s physical space; in FIU and departmental computer hardware and software; in research support for junior faculty (such as proposed routine access to two years of summer research funds); in research support for tenured faculty; in faculty and staff salaries across the board to the national Research I average (see XII.B. concerning faculty salaries); and in departmental and university fund raising.
The Department will improve its undergraduate program via continued development of the major’s Senior Capstone Seminar (SYG 4972), which in just two semesters has notably raised faculty and student expectations for the quality of undergraduate work, and via Advanced Research Methods (SYA 4450) (see Curriculum Review). In coordination with the Senior Capstone Seminar, the Department will gauge the quality of its programs and build alumni support by tracking its graduates as well as fostering ties with them over the long run (e.g., via fund-raising initiatives in collaboration with the College of Arts & Sciences). And it will explore producing a “Where We Live” series of public programs to showcase the expertise of faculty and students within the South Florida community and to raise funds.


The Department’s faculty pursues two complementary missions:

  • As teachers: To train our students to comprehend the human condition in its multiple dimensions; to foster their understanding of the diversity of cultural pathways, the ways in which socio-cultural differences and commonalities are formed and transformed, and their intersections with environmental risks and sustainability. To broaden students’ cultural competencies, understandings, and capacities for engaging the world at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

  • As scholars in our community: To be active researchers engaged in identifying, examining, and comprehending the world’s societies and cultures, thereby situating Greater Miami’s problems and prospects in global perspective. To serve as resources for others—both within and beyond academia, and both within and beyond Greater Miami—who can benefit from the knowledge we create and the critical perspectives we hone and teach.

These Departmental missions reinforce FIU’s mission of “imparting knowledge through excellent teaching, promoting public services, discovering new knowledge, solving problems through research, and fostering creativity.” They also coincide with FIU’s institutional themes of environment, Florida and local development, international, and arts, culture, and diversity.

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