SOC 295 - Graduate Course Total Institutions Spring 2020

This course explores Goffman's concept of the total institution: a walled-off facility housing inmates en masse, who as a result undergo abrupt, patterned changes in identity. We will interrogate this concept in light of real-life examples: prisons, mental hospitals and military barracks, with the bulk of the course focusing on life in prison. We conclude the course with a voluntary field trip to a state prison, where we walk the yard, tour cells, and meet with inmates.
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Spring 2020


The course curriculum encompasses examination of three 20th-century instantiations: mental hospitals, military barracks and prisons. Students will read ethnographic accounts of life in these facilities, and will view documentaries depicting what drill instructors do to recruits, and how psychiatric wards work. Most significantly, we will visit a local state prison, and you may meet with inmates, tour a real prison cell, and walk through the prison yard. You will learn about the racial dynamics and gang codes of California prisons, and see them with your own eyes in the yard. But you'll also hear true accounts of rehabilitation and personal growth.