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Graduate Theory and Methods Courses

Graduate students are required to take a selection of theoretical and methodological courses as part of our program requirements. COGR 275 and most other graduate level courses in our department are taught as special seminars offering graduate students the opportunity to take part in group discussions about a specific topic. COGR 201 courses focus on theory-driven methodologies. While the course number and/or title might remain the same, the content of these courses changes depending on which faculty teach them. Our faculty work closely with graduate students to ensure their academic needs are met and are open to designing new courses or revising previous courses based on the needs of the current student population.

2022-23 Theory and Methods Course Offerings 

COGR 241: Communication & Geography
Fall 2022
Instructor: Matilde Cordoba Azcarate

This course introduces and guides spatial thinking and practice in students’ areas of research. It builds on Critical Geography as well as in interdisciplinary discussions to examine the uneven socio-political and ecological dimensions of processes of capitalist space production. Concepts we will engage with include social space, scale, spatial fix, landscape, territorial engineering, enclosures, place-making, emplacement, mapping, counter-mapping, refusals, commons, under-commons, frontiers and fugitive landscapes.

COGR 237: Performance Theory
Fall 2022
Instructor: Patrick Anderson

 Course is designed to introduce graduate students to the disciplinary, intellectual, and artistic genealogies of performance studies that bring together critical work from the fields of anthropology, art history, communication, critical gender studies, ethnic studies, film studies, literature, and theatre studies.

COGR 275: Environmental Communication
Fall 2022
Instructor: Christo Sims

This seminar explores the different ways humans, environments, and communication (broadly construed) co-construct each other. Topics will include: how the production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of information, communication, and media technologies depend on and alter environments; how differently situated actors – from activists, artists, and scientists to corporations, consultancies, and governments – attempt to shape knowledge, debates, policies, and practices related to anthropogenic climate change and other human-environment relations; how environmental hazards and benefits are unevenly distributed; and how legacies of environmental racism, exploitation, extraction, and degradation might be repaired, dismantled, exacerbated, or sustained in the decades to come. Readings will be drawn from numerous fields including communication, media studies, political ecology, geography, science and technology studies, indigenous studies, sociology, history, and anthropology.  

COGR 275: The Uncommons
Winter 2023
Instructor: Fernando Domínguez Rubio

Over the last decade, different voices have emerged to claim for the urgent need to construct “a world in common”. This, it is argued, is the only the way to address the formidable challenges posed by the compounding effects of increasing racial and economic inequalities, the environmental collapse created by capitalist extractivism, and the failure of liberal democracies to address them. “The political in our time”, Achille Mbembe writes, “must start from the imperative to reconstruct the world in common”.   
This course will propose a different route to address these contemporary challenges by asking: What if we abandon this search for a “common world” and come to terms with the fact that “we” are always in uncommon? What kind of political and ethical vocabularies emerge when this uncommonality is not taken a problem to be solved, but as the inherent and irresoluble condition of the world we inhabit? What happens when this uncommonality is not merely seen as a tragedy, but as the productive ground to cultivate alternative trajectories for grounding ethical and political interventions? 
The course will address these questions by engaging with the work of a diverse array of classic and contemporary authors.

COGR 264: Feminisms in Critical Dialogue
Winter 2023
Instructor: Boatema Boateng

This course undertakes a theoretical and political history of feminist scholarship. It considers the ways in which such scholarship has expanded in part due to contests over the bases of feminist knowledge production. It takes into account points of contention and dialogue highlighting challenges from Black, Indigenous, People of Color and queer theorists, including demands for attention to factors like intersectionality and performativity. The course provides students with a foundation for identifying a body of feminist literature tailored to their individual research interests and goals.

COGR 201L: Qualitative Analysis of Information Systems
Winter 2023
Instructor: Lillian Walkover

This course explores interview-based qualitative research conducted in person, by video, by phone, and in written exchanges, as well as analysis of archival material, drawing on grounded theory, situational analysis, and other traditions. The course covers conducting, transcribing, coding, mapping, and analyzing interviews, thinking critically about the role methods play in what we ask and what we learn. Topical focuses include information systems, classification, and the social construction of knowledge. 

COGR 275: Organized Labor and Media Production
Spring 2023
Instructor: Erin Hill

COGR 275: Cultures of Care
Spring 2023
Instructor: Brian Goldfarb

This graduate seminar will investigate theories and cultural perspectives on care (both informal and clinical) drawn from scholarship and media across the humanities, social sciences, and medicine. Thematic foci will span 1980s feminist writing on the Ethics of Care to more recent discussions in Disability Studies. Weekly readings, screenings, and discussions will consider a range of accounts and theories of care that address ethical, historical, institutional and transnational/global dimensions of how care contributes to institutional and social framing of illness, aging, and disability.

COGR 201D: Historical Methods
Spring 2023
Instructor: David Serlin

This graduate course will introduce students to historical research methods and historical analysis by assessing various critical approaches to source materials as well as the practices (and meta-practices) of historical writing. Through extensive reading, discussion, and hands-on activities, we will explore critical debates related to the production of historical knowledge, the politics of the archive and archival practice, and the interpretive possibilities of using traditional and non-traditional media in historical research. Students will complete one short analytical essay and one substantial final project due at the end of the quarter. 


Recent Methods Course Offerings (COGR 201)

COGR 201B: Ethnographic Methods
Spring 2022
Instructor: Elana Zilberg

This course will not train you in a set of handy and neutral techniques designed to collect and analyze ethnographic "data.” Rather, it approaches ethnography as a practice fraught with historical and political baggage, as a sensibility, and as a mode of attunement to the social world. In addition to reading various ethnographies, students will conduct experiments in the field to explore the production, politics, promise, and pitfalls of ethnographic research. These experiments are designed to offer students opportunities to experience and reflect on the process of conducting fieldwork, and the chance to collectively reflect on the process of making sense of the field. The course operates on three levels: concepts, ethnographic texts, fieldwork, and alternates between seminar and writing workshop formats. Each two-week seminar/workshop pairing is composed around a key concept. During seminars, we will do close methodological readings of texts that use ethnography as their primary research methodology. On alternate weeks, students read short theoretical pieces to inform their field practice and to facilitate shifts between distinct modes of observation. Students select their own fieldsite “located” in the physical geography of the Greater San Diego region/Baja California Norte, and present their “notes from the field” for peer feedback in a writing workshop. Student input is highly encouraged in the selection of texts and concepts.

COGR 201M: Content Analysis
Winter 2022
Instructor: Daniel Hallin

This course is a methods course on content analysis, which means that it deals with the quantitative analysis of texts. We read a textbook on content analysis and go over the basics of its methodological principles, as well as the relation between content analysis and other forms of text analysis; and we read a lot of examples of studies based on content analysis. The examples tend to be drawn from media studies, particularly journalism studies, where the method is used a lot, but we do consider a wide range of uses applied to different kinds of content. The course is intended as a hands-on methods class, so everyone does a content analysis of their own, and after a few weeks of readings, we switch over to focusing on the development of people's studies and then their presentation. The class does not assume familiarity with quantitative methods in general (though this is helpful). For those who have not taken a general quantitative methods class, we do go over some of the basics of statistical inference and the basic logic of quantitative analysis in general. We also go over the basics of using SPSS, one of the statistical packages that can be used for entering and analyzing content analysis data.

COGR 201: Research Methods
Fall 2021
Instructor: Gary Fields

This course focuses on the crafting of dissertation research in the social sciences and humanities and aims to chart a different direction for teaching and learning about methods across different disciplines. 
 Most courses devoted to methods focus on a canon of knowledge deriving from texts best described as ‘primers’ for doing research. While such literature has its uses, reading it can be a turgid exercise. By contrast, this seminar will feature some of the most engaging, influential and even controversial literature in humanities and social sciences as the anchor for learning about methods.  Although we will critique these readings for substance, our attention will be on the methodological architecture of these texts exemplified by the following types of questions: How did authors frame a research question and set-up their arguments? How did they situate their research within a body of literature? What kinds of archives did authors enlist for evidence in support of the claims in the arguments? What were the different types of data and evidence collected by authors? What was the organizational structure of the work in terms of chapters or subheadings? What was the “voice” of the narrative in the text? What were the challenges – logistical and conceptual -- confronting authors in gathering evidence to support the argument? What theories did authors use in developing their narratives? What is a case study and when is it appropriate to compare different cases? And finally, how did authors justify the importance of their research?  Such questions will frame the agenda of the course, highlighted each week by a specific methodological theme. 

COGR 201D: Historical Methods
Fall 2020
Instructor: David Serlin

Different approaches to conducting historical research in communication. Such approaches may include the social history of communication technology; structuralist and poststructuralist accounts of language, media, and collective memory; and new historicist treatments of cultural history. Sources, documentation, and the nature of argument from historical evidence are emphasized. 

COGR 201L: Qualitative Analysis of Information Systems
Winter 2021
Instructor: Lillian Walkover

Historical and ethnographic studies of information systems—the design and use of information and communication technologies in their social, ethical, political, and organizational dimensions. Objects of study range from the invention of file folders to email use and distributed databases as communication systems.

COGR 201J: Comparative Analysis
Fall 2019
Instructor: Dan Hallin

The logic of comparative analysis and its role in communication research. Scientific inference in qualitative research. Selection of cases. Problems of translation across cultures.


201M: Content Analysis
Winter 2019
Instructor: Dan Hallin

History uses methodology of quantitative analysis of media content. Includes conceptual issues concerning the quantification of meaning and practical procedures for coding and data analysis. Students read examples of studies using content analysis and carry out their own pilot analyses. 


COGR 201: Crafting Research
Winter 2020
Instructor: Gary Fields

This course focuses on the crafting of dissertation research in the social sciences and humanities. As a doctoral seminar, the course represents a kind of personal reflection on the methodological challenges embedded in a major research project stemming from the recent experience of the instructor in completing a lengthy comparative historical geography of land conflict across three case studies. Based on this experience, the course aims to chart a different direction for teaching and learning about methods across different disciplines.
Most courses devoted to methods focus on a canon of knowledge deriving from texts best described as ‘primers’ for doing research. While such literature has its uses, reading it can be a turgid exercise. By contrast, this seminar will feature some of the most engaging, influential and even controversial literature in humanities and social sciences as the anchor for learning about methods. Although we will critique these readings for substance, our attention will be on the methodological architecture of these texts exemplified by the following types of questions: How did authors frame a research question and set-up their arguments? How did they situate their research within a body of literature? What kinds of archives did authors enlist for evidence in support of the claims in the arguments? What were the different types of data and evidence collected by authors? What was the organizational structure of the work in terms of chapters or subheadings? What was the “voice” of the narrative in the text? What were the challenges – logistical and conceptual -- confronting authors in gathering evidence to support the argument? What theories did authors use in developing their narratives? What is a case study and when is it appropriate to compare different cases? How did the authors justify the importance of their research? These kinds of questions will frame the agenda of the course, highlighted each week by a specific methodological theme.


COGR 201B: Ethnographic Methods for Communication Research 
Spring 2020
Instructor: Elana Zilberg

A supervised and coordinated group project will allow students to develop competence in a variety of ethnographic approaches to communication. Subjects covered include choosing a fieldwork site, setting or process for participation; entry and development of relationships; techniques of observation, interviewing, note taking, and transcription. Course may also include photography and video as research tools. All participant observation and interviewing strategies fall under the review of the Committee on Human Subjects.


Ethnographic Methods for Communication Research 
Instructor: Boatema Boateng

A supervised and coordinated group project will allow students to develop competence in a variety of ethnographic approaches to communication. Subjects covered include choosing a fieldwork site, setting or process for participation; entry and development of relationships; techniques of observation, interviewing, note taking, and transcription. Course may also include photography and video as research tools. All participant observation and interviewing strategies fall under the review of the Committee on Human Subjects.


Recent
Theory Course Offerings 

COGR 275: Practical Abolition
Fall 2021
Instructor: Patrick Anderson

This hands-on course will focus on the precise methods of abolition. We will begin by reviewing key abolitionist theory and history, and then embark on intricate studies of several social institutions related to criminal justice, policing, and public safety. Students will be expected to examine, analyze, and critically engage the policies and procedures and data produced by/about these institutions, and to develop strategies for intervention that extend well beyond “reform.” Our work will be collaborative, community-driven, methods-based, and ultimately focused on developed new models of public safety. 


COGR 275: Ecological Thinking and Thinking Ecologies
Fall 2021
Instructor: Fernando Domínguez Rubio

 

COGR 245: Science and Technology Studies and Communication: Infrastructures and the Political
Winter 2022
Instructor: Lilly Irani

Course description and syllabus here


COGR 275: Creating to Think
Winter 2022
Instructor: Boatema Boateng

This course begins with the premise that "art is epistemological" and conceives of creative practice as a means of knowledge production. Drawing on activist art projects and on texts like Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin's edited volume, Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing, the course explores ways of knowing that have been historically overlooked or invalidated by dominant educational and legal institutions. These include the knowledges of women and queer and BIPOC communities. It centers those ways of knowing and seeks to create a space where students can use their own creative practice to generate knowledge on a question of their choice. 


COGR 255: Political Theory
Spring 2022
Instructor: Thomas Schmidt

This course is designed to foster discussion about the present quasi-authoritarian political moment: our goal is to investigate how we got here as well as the character of the “here” at which we’ve arrived, while also considering the implications of this moment and its potential for reshaping how we understand liberalism and democracy. Readings take the form of a kind of “call and response:” each session, we return to a classical text in social and political theory and pair this text with contemporary theoretical and/or historical rendering of the issues at hand. A few of the questions that animate the course’s focus: What are the tensions within liberal democracy that propel politics toward authoritarianism? What are the challenges to and conditions of possibility for democratic political formations in a neoliberal age? How should we understand the reemergence of fascism? And, what is political solidarity in the wake of economic globalization? 


COGR 275: Moral Economies
Spring 2022
Instructor: Christo Sims

This seminar investigates the notion of moral economies in two senses. On the one hand, we will examine how economies — e.g. systems of exchange of goods and services — have been theorized as moral and/or amoral. In this sense, we will be looking at how theorists have understood the morality of different forms of economic activity. On the other hand, we will examine the production, circulation, and use of moral sentiments, emotions and values in social space. In this sense, we will be looking at how theorists have understood the economies of morality. Readings will be drawn from classic and contemporary works in political economy as well as more recent scholarship in critical moral anthropology and the sociology of valuation.

COGR 257: Communication and Social Theory 
Fall 2020
Instructor: Thomas Schmidt

Social theory forms the theoretical foundation for much work in communication, including political communication, questions of the public and public opinion, propaganda and ideology. The course will consider Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Simmel, Dewey, Habermas, the Frankfurt School and its critics. 

COGR 275: Borderlands: Theory and Method
Fall 2020
Instructor: Elana Zilberg

The seminar considers borders - geo-political, intra-national, more than-human, aesthetic and conceptual – as charged sites from which to approach communication and conflict across scales and through theory and praxis. Our regional geo-political border is necessarily foregrounded, both for its geographic proximity and its centrality in the genealogy of Borderland Studies. However, the course pushes beyond the literal and potentially parochial through a serious consideration of distinct border zones, historical and ethnographic, geo-political and otherwise. Students are encouraged to think comparatively, and to draw on readings and discussions to further their own research in a collaborative and supportive environment.

COGR 237: Performance Theory
Winter 2021
Instructor: Patrick Anderson

Course is designed to introduce graduate students to the disciplinary, intellectual, and artistic genealogies of performance studies that bring together critical work from the fields of anthropology, art history, communication, critical gender studies, ethnic studies, film studies, literature, and theatre studies. 

COGR 275: Sensory Studies: Olfaction
Winter 2021
Instructor: Morana Alac

This is a sensory studies class focused on the sense of smell. We will discuss challenges and opportunities that studying the senses presents. You will learn how to engage conceptual questions from your groundedness in the world.


COGR 241: Geography and Communication
Spring 2021
Instructor: Matilde Cordoba Azcarate

Geographies as media of political cultural communication. Not simply mapping but also territorial engineering as a way of constituting geographical significance. Cross-mapping practices—intersecting representational practices—as political forms of communication. Geographies as visual practices of power. 

COGR 275: Feminist Theory
Spring 2021
Instructor: Boatema Boateng


COGR 237: Performance Theory
Fall 2018
Instructor: Patrick Anderson

Course is designed to introduce graduate students to the disciplinary, intellectual, and artistic genealogies of performance studies that bring together critical work from the fields of anthropology, art history, communication, critical gender studies, ethnic studies, film studies, literature, and theatre studies. 


COGR 241: Geography and Communication
Spring 2019
Instructor: Matilde Cordoba Azcarate

Geographies as media of political cultural communication. Not simply mapping but also territorial engineering as a way of constituting geographical significance. Cross-mapping practices—intersecting representational practices—as political forms of communication. Geographies as visual practices of power. 


COGR 255: Studies in Political Theory
Spring 2020
Instructors: Valerie Hartouni and Robert Horwitz

Considers classical and contemporary texts in primarily western political thought with an eye toward understanding how such theory is and/or might be brought to bear in grounding different approaches and agendas in the study of communication.


COGR 275: Feminisms in Critical Dialogue
Fall 2019
Instructor: Boatema Boateng

This course undertakes a theoretical and political history of feminist scholarship. It considers the ways in which such scholarship has expanded in part due to contests over the bases of feminist knowledge production. It takes into account points of contention and dialogue including challenges from Black and Third World feminists, as well as demands for attention to issues like sexuality, performativity, and intersectionality. The course provides students with a foundation for identifying a body of feminist literature tailored to their individual research interests and goals.


COGR 275: Ecological Thinking/ Thinking Ecologies
Winter 2020
Instructor: Fernando Dominguez Rubio

This course, co-designed by Fernando Domínguez Rubio (UCSD) and Marisol de la Cadena (UCD), is intended to be a foray into ecological thinking. The course asks one question: What can ecological thinking do? We will address this question by engaging with the work of a diverse array of classic and contemporary authors, including Charles Darwin, Masao Abe, Karl Marx, Isabelle Stengers, Vinciane Despret, or Achille Mbembe.


COGR 275: Mediated Ability: [Dis]ability and Audio-Visual Culture
Instructor: Brian Goldfarb

Description: This seminar considers the role media play in how ability and disability is conceived, represented, and negotiated. Through weekly readings and discussions participants will examine theoretical approaches at the intersection of disability studies and media studies. Our discussions will be framed in relation to a range of empirical examples from screenings of mainstream and alternative film/video, educational and internet-based media as well as examination of assistive technologies. Beyond critiques of representation, we will consider the ways that media technologies and practices structure embodiment, experience and affective dimensions of (dis)ability. We will also devote attention to the co-constitutive nature of discourses of gender, class, race, nationality, and disability.


COGR 275: Object Theories
Spring 2019
Instructor: Fernando Dominguez Rubio

What is an object? Why do objects matter? The aim of this course will be to answer these questions by exploring some of the ways in which objects have been conceptualized, studied, feared or ignored across a variety of disciplines, historical periods and geographies. 


COGR 284: Time
Spring 2020
Instructor: Stefan Tanaka

This seminar will introduce key issues and readings in our understanding of time. Time is historical, not natural. We will examine ways that modern time structures and orders human interaction.