With a strong foundation in sociological theory and methods of quantitative and qualitative research, we have four main concentrations described in detail below.
Our department ranks high in offering a quality program of study and research on Asia focusing on comparative sociology of Asia and the Pacific. The department combines theoretical approaches and research methods with substantive work and knowledge of contemporary Asian and Pacific societies. The department works closely with the School of Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Studies and the East-West Center to provide a broad range of teaching and research opportunities. The aim is to prepare students for career opportunities requiring an analytical understanding of contemporary Asian societies in relation to the wider context of increasing globalization and interdependency in that world region.
Our Asian specialists all have strong language and area qualifications, and are members of their respective area center faculties in the School of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Studies. Our faculty have provided national leadership in the American Sociological Association in fostering sociological research in Asia and the Pacific, and have served as leaders and officers of international, national, and institutional organizations and programs in the study of Asia and the Pacific.
Major research and publication activities of our faculty (and students) involve studies of social, economic, and political developments and changes in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Pacific Island societies, and Hawaiʻi as well as allied regions and nations. These studies include both long term studies of development and social change in single countries, and comparative studies of social processes of development. They encompass topics such as the effects of industrialization and development on class and gender relations, democratization and political dissent, the emergence of social movements and their impact on Asian societies, small groups processes and individual-level social change, and changes and continuity in the criminal justice systems in Asia. The studies range from large scale historical analysis and surveys to qualitative empirical using interviews, observation, and systematic content analysis of various kinds of social documents.
The department maintains strong ties with the Population and Health program at the East West Center. Our faculty and graduate students are engaged in research in cooperation with affiliate faculty from the East-West Center in research on factors in population control, studies of migration and demographic change, research on changes in households and families, and issues of social change and health in Asia, using national censuses and large sample surveys. The Department continues to be involved in the UH Population Studies Program, where students can earn a Certificate in Population Studies.
Since its inception, the Department has had a primary concentration of graduate and undergraduate involvement in instruction, research, and service in work related to studies of crime, law, and deviance. The focus has been on causes and patterns of delinquent and adult criminal behavior, the organization and effectiveness of correctional agencies and programs, the processing of disputes in and outside of courts, and programs of prevention and control of deviant behavior (child abuse, drug abuse). Faculty are active leaders at cross-national, national, regional/local, and institutional levels. Work focuses on delinquency and its control in Hawaiʻi and Asia, mandatory sentencing and its impact in Hawaiʻi, risk estimates and recidivism in adult probation, evolution and changes in race laws and law enforcement and the courts in Hawaiʻi, alternative dispute resolution programs in the courts and in neighborhood justice centers, as well as gender and crime. The Department continues to have contracts and research grants which involve working with personnel in state agencies and institutions. These contracts and grants also support graduate students and facilitate access to data, research, and field inquiry for graduate student research.
Analyses of the social practices and relations organized by ideas of "race" and "ethnicity" are central to the kind of critical and engaged sociology at the University of Hawai‘i. Here, students learn how ongoing practices of racialization and racism are embedded in existing institutions and how they shape differential access to life resources. Faculty and students examine how such practices shape inequalities and imbalances in power across the world, as well as in Hawai‘i. Students study the roles of "race" and "ethnicity" in the construction of social status hierarchies, and how they affect our individual and collective well-being, and sense of self. Focused on both methodological and theoretical innovation, faculty and students carry out research in areas that include: the justice and prison system, education, inequality, immigration, colonialism and postcolonialism, as well as sport and popular culture.
This concentration encompasses medical sociology as well as research on aging and the life course. In general, medical sociology investigates the social causes and consequences of health, illness, and health care. Major advances in the field have come from medical sociologists who have used the life course perspective to study the link between social inequality and health disparities by focusing on different life stages. Medical sociologists in our department primarily research the social determinants of mental health and physical health often focusing on young adults and the elderly. Some research projects have examined the effects of chronic stress, socioeconomic status, social support, religion, immigrant status, and discrimination on self-rated health and psychological distress among different racial/ethnic groups. Faculty collaborate with graduate students on publications and research projects, such as a pilot study about how social factors influence the mental health of college students in Hawaii, which was funded by the university’s Hawaii as a Research Initiative Award and the Equity and Diversity Award. The medical sociology faculty use quantitative research methods and publish in top-tier, national and international social science journals. In the social sciences and at leading universities, medical sociology is a growing research specialization and one of the largest sections of the American Sociological Association.
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