Minor in Critical Social Thought

College of Liberal & Creative Arts

Dean: Dr. Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo

Department of Political Science

Humanities Building, Room 304
Phone: (415) 338-2247
Website: http://politicalscience.sfsu.edu/

Chair: Nicole Watts
Graduate Coordinator: Katherine Gordy

Critical Social Thought Program

Humanities Building, Room 304
Phone: (415) 338-2247

Coordinator: James Martel

Program Scope

Critical social theory challenges contemporary forms of political-economic power. In coursework and internships, the Minor in Critical Social Thought program draws from Marxism, socialism, anarchism, the Frankfurt School, radical environmentalism and anti-consumerism, postmodernism and post-structuralism, globalization studies, feminism, queer theory, postcolonial and subaltern studies, disability studies, critical race theory, theories of art and visual representation, and other systems of thought that pay attention to the questions of power and exploitation in world politics, culture, economics, and the formation of identities.

The minor seeks to address the way that so much of contemporary social thought is uncritical. It is guided by the belief that a better world is possible and that social thought has an important role in outlining the form such a world might take and identifying the agents who might be capable of bringing it about.


Critical social thought serves as a foundation in critical theory that can be applied to a variety of disciplines in the social sciences, humanities, and the arts. Critical social thought can be pursued in conjunction with any number of majors enriching and diversifying these fields of study including but not limited to sociology, human sexuality studies, psychology, history, philosophy, women and gender studies, Latinx studies, ethnic studies, political science, international relations, criminal justice, etc. In addition, critical social thought can help establish skills that will be useful in post-graduate careers ranging from social activism and social work to politics, law, health care, policy, and many others.


Peter Biella (1999), Professor in Anthropology. Ph.D. Temple University.

Teresa Carrillo (1993), Professor in Latina/Latino Studies. Ph.D. Stanford University.

Mariana Ferreira (2003), Professor in Liberal Studies. Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco.

Katherine Gordy (2008), Professor in Political Science. Ph.D. Cornell University.

Joel J. Kassiola (1995), Professor in Political Science. Ph.D. Princeton University.

James R. Martel (2002), Professor in Political Science. Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley.

Raquel Rivera Pinderhuges (1992), Professor in Urban Studies and Planning. Ph.D. Graduate Center of New York.

Critical Social Thought, Minor – 15-19 units

Each student shall, in consultation with a faculty advisor, develop an individual program of 15-19 units. Students may also take an internship program in political activism or other related areas in conjunction with these classes to count towards the minor. If the introductory course is not available, other courses can be substituted on advisement.

A minimum of 6 upper-division units are required to complete the minor.

All coursework used to satisfy the requirements of the minor must be completed with a minimum grade point average of 2.0.

Introduction (3 units)

Overview of the tradition of critical social thought.

CST 300/PLSI 386Introduction to Critical Social Thought3

Core - Theory and Pedagogy (6-8 units)

Select At Least Two:

PHIL 330Political Philosophy3
PLSI 351Political Theory: The Classical Tradition4
PLSI/PHIL 355Politics and Ethics of the Consumer Society3
PLSI 360Development of American Political Thought4
SOC 394Sociological Field Methods4
SOC 272Social Inequality: Poverty, Wealth, and Privilege4

Electives (6-8 units)

Choose at least two courses from at least two of the following fields:

  • Identity and Resistance
  • Globalism, Empire, and Social Movements
  • Culture as Critical Social Thought

An approved internship may be substituted for 3-4 units of electives.

Identity and Resistance (3-4 units)

ANTH/CST 320Racism: Cross-Cultural Analysis3
ANTH 569/SXS 567Cross-Cultural Aspects of Sex and Gender3
ANTH/CST 590/WGS 595Feminist Anthropology3
GPS/PHIL 375Peace Law and Human Rights in the U.S.3
HUM 360Styles of African Cultural Expression3
HUM 415Thinking the Present: Comparative Arts and Culture3
LTNS 415Latina/o Economic Empowerment3
PLSI 381Political Theories of Sexuality4
SXS 455Sex, Power, and Politics3

Globalism, Empire, and Social Movements (3-4 units)

ANTH/CST 585Globalization and World Cultures3
GPS/I R/PHIL 315Introduction to Global Peace Studies3
HIST 343Soviet Russia, the West, and the Cold War3
HIST 390Era of the World Wars 1918 to 19453
HIST 398History of Modern European Imperialism3
LTNS/WGS 445Gendered Borders: Latinas and Globalization3
PHIL 435/I R 436Human Rights in Global Perspective3
PLSI 354Politics, the Environment, and Social Change4
USP 514Sustainable Development in Cities4
USP 515/GEOG 667Environmental Justice: Race, Poverty, and the Environment4

Culture as Critical Social Thought (3-4 units)

ANTH/CINE 327Anthropology and Film3
ARTH 403/SXS 405Queer Art History3
BECA/WGS 485Women and Media3
CINE 305/JS 405Film and the Holocaust3
CINE 308Third Cinema3
CINE 342Documentary Film3
CINE 373Film and Society3
COMM 525Sexualities and Communication4
DANC 350Dance Aesthetics: Cultural/Historical Perspectives3
MUS 505Music of the World's Peoples3
MUS 511The Roots of Rock3

CST 300 Introduction to Critical Social Thought (Units: 3)

Prerequisites: GE Areas A1*, A2*, A3*, and B4* all with grades of C- or better or permission of the instructor.

The tradition and development of critical social thought in interaction with socioeconomic and political conditions in the 19th century to the 21st century from Kant to Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault, and other thinkers.
(This course is offered as CST 300 and PLSI 386. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

Course Attributes:

  • UD-D: Social Sciences
  • Social Justice

CST 320 Racism: Cross-Cultural Analysis (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Upper-division standing or consent of the instructor.

The cultural history of racism as related to colonialism and imperialism. Racism as an on-going intellectual and political movement. Anti-racism and educational-anthropological methods to defeat racism.
(This course is offered as ANTH 320 and CST 320. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

CST 585 Globalization and World Cultures (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: Upper-division standing or permission of the instructor.

Effects of globalization and multinational corporations on cultures. Examination of contemporary globalization from combined political-economic and cultural anthropological perspectives. Understandings of social movements, world building and popular culture (video games, music, manga and related new media) to study and imagine different ways of engaging with the world. Explore multimodal platforms to explore critical social thought and anthropological ideas.
(This course is offered as ANTH 585 and CST 585. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)

CST 590 Feminist Anthropology (Units: 3)

Prerequisite: GE Area A2.

Ethnographic, physical, anthropological, and prehistorical topics related to women. Theories on origins of the family, social structuring of sexuality, and changing sex and gender in modern societies.
(This course is offered as ANTH 590, CST 590, and WGS 595. Students may not repeat the course under an alternate prefix.)