SOC 320
Thinking the Family Album Spring 2025
Division II

Class Details

What is a family? How does it function as a metaphor, and is this metaphor a political one? How does the family remember, and how does it tell its own story? What do everyday forms of family memory, like scrapbooks and family photo albums, do to shape the family? Are they a thing of the past? What comes to replace them? Who talks through them, and who is there to listen? And how can we reclaim the many untold stories and unheard voices by engaging with the idea of a family album? This course will convene as a seminar in which the participants will engage with the notion of the family as a social institution, and with the genre of family photography as one of the key practices through which this institution is experienced and upheld. We will pay particular attention to the idea of a family album, as an object and as a metaphor, as expressed in the controversial exhibition The Family of Man (1955) and its critical reception, or in the ongoing participatory project Family Pictures USA by Thomas Allen Harris. The seminar’s goal is to unsettle the uniform notion of the family, and to experiment with ways of making the genre of family photography better reflect the difficult and varied histories that the notion of the family may conceal.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3274
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Thoughtful and consistent class participation, three position papers and a final project
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Anthropology and Sociology majors
Distributions: Division II

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