My teaching


Graduate Course

Bin Xu

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Emory University

Email: bin.xu@emory

Office Hours: 1-2 PM Tuesday&Thursday, by appointment

Office: Tarbutton 211




This is not a theory course. Nor is it a method course. Instead, this is a course about “theorizing”: how to think theoretically and how to come up with good theoretical ideas. You learn classical and contemporary theories and research methods in other courses, but most courses do not tell you where the good ideas come from. Instead of leaving the job to the muse, quite a few scholars now are advocating for an agenda of theorizing in social sciences. In other words, coming up with theoretical ideas is not something mysterious but something that can be learned and improved in a conscious and systematic way. Theorizing should be incorporated into graduate education in social sciences.

This course realizes this conviction into two parts. In the first part, we will read and learn the philosophy of social science to get a clear sense of the epistemologies and ontologies out there in social science and to reflexively think about the basic assumptions on which our theorization is based. The term “philosophy” may sound intimidating, but it can help us understand some of the basic issues in social sciences which “social theory” courses do not usually teach.

In the second part, we read materials about theorizing, and, probably more importantly, apply the theorizing agenda to the topics we are interested. This workshop-style pedagogy can provide you with hands-on experience and feedback from your fellow students and instructor. The theoretical ideas you get from the theorizing exercises can be used in your future studies. The topics you choose may be the one you are planning for your thesis or paper.


  1. Benton, Ted, and Ian Craib. 2011. Philosophy of Social Science. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  2. Gerard Delanty, Piet Strydom. Philosophies of Social Science: The Classic and Contemporary Readings. Open University Press.
  3. Swedberg, Richard. 2014. The Art of Social Theory: The Context of Discovery. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  4. Abbott, Andrew Delano. 2004. Methods of discovery: heuristics for the social sciences. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.


Swedberg, Richard, ed. 2014. Theorizing in Social Science: The Context of Discovery. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Tavory, Iddo and Stefan Timmermans. 2014. Abductive Analysis: Theorizing Qualitative Research. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.



Pedagogical Methods and Evaluations

Part I Philosophy of Social Science

Every week one or two students lead discussions. The students should present a summary of required readings. In addition, every student who is not presenting in the week must also send one or two discussion questions to the discussion leaders the day before the meeting. Those questions will be compiled in advance and discussed in class.

Part II: StudentS present their reports about theorizing

Every week each student needs to do an assignment of theorizing after a careful reading of the materials. The assignments are designed to help students to apply the skills and methods in the books to the case they are interested in.

In each class meeting, the students present their assignments and give feedback to each other. For those students who have relatively clearer ideas about what they are going to do in the graduate study or are thinking about starting a project, these assignments are good devices to come up with new ideas and think through some of the issues they have encountered or will encounter. For those who do not have a clear idea at this moment but have an interested field, it is also a good way to explore some new ideas in a relatively open and tentative manner.

Nevertheless, I encourage every student to take the exercises seriously instead of a necessary evil.


  1. Presentations in both parts
  2. Mid-term: We have a take-home, mid-term exam. You will be asked to read and review a few theoretical texts in light of our discussions of philosophy of social science.
  3. Final paper: Revise your assignments in the second part of the course based on your classmates’ and the instructor’s feedback and organize them into a brief paper on how you theorize in your interested case and, also, in addition to the theorizing part, how philosophies learned in Part I can shed light on some of the issues you encounter in the process of theorizing.
Part I Presentation 15
Midterm 20
Assignments (5) 30
Part II Participation 10
Final Paper 25



  1. Active participation in discussion is required.
  2. When discuss theoretical literature, do not go beyond the texts. Do not show off your knowledge. Breadth of knowledge is certainly a desirable quality, but too often students use it to impress people instead of improve their study.
  3. Study with your goal in mind: how can this course help my project?


Weekly Schedule

Week 1 January 17 Introduction

No Reading

Part I Philosophy of Social Science

Week 2 January 24 Empiricism, Positivism, and Challenges

Benton and Craib. Chapters 2, 3

In Delanty:

1 EMILE DURKHEIM: What is a social fact? (1895)

3 CARL G. HEMPEL. Concept and theory in social science (1952)

5 KARL POPPER. The problem of induction (1934)


Benton and Craib. Chapter 5. (Skip “Instrumental Variations” I & II)

In Delanty:

15 WILHELM DILTHEY. The development of hermeneutics (1900)

17 MAX WEBER. ‘Objectivity’ in social science (1904)

21 ALFRED SCHUTZ. Concept and theory formation in the social sciences (1954)

31 HAROLD GARFINKEL. Rational properties of scientific and common-sense activities (1960)

Week 4 February 7 Rationality as Rule-Following: Cultures, Traditions, and Hermeneutics

Benton and Craib. Chapter 6.

In Delanty:

24 PETER WINCH. Philosophy and science (1958)

25 HANS-GEORG GADAMER. Hermeneutical understanding (1960)

Week 5 February 14 Critical THEORY

Benton and Craib. Chapter 7

In Delanty:

33 MAX HORKHEIMER. Traditional and critical theory (1937)

35 THEODOR W. ADORNO. Sociology and empirical research (1969)

36 JÜRGEN HABERMAS. The tasks of a critical theory (1981);

26 JÜRGEN HABERMAS. The hermeneutic claim to universality (1973)

Week 6 February 21 Critical Realism

Benton and Craib. Chapter 8.

Gorski, Philip S. 2013. ““What is Critical Realism? And Why Should You Care?”.” Contemporary Sociology 42 (5):658-670.

In Delanty. 61. Bhaskar. 63. Randall Collins.

Week 7 February 28 PRAGMATISM

New readings:

Delanty. Part 4. (Excluding Morris, Apel,); 36. JÜRGEN HABERMAS. Knowledge and human interests (1965)

Add. Defending Abduction.

SEP entry on Charles Peirce:


Take-home Midterm. Due on March 15.

Part II Theorizing and Heuristics

Week 8 march 7 What is Theory and Theorizing? How to Do It?

Gabriel Abend, “The Meaning of ‘Theory’”, Sociological Theory 26(June 2008):173-99.

Tavory and Timmermans. Abductive Analysis.  Introduction and Chapter 1

Swedberg. “Introduction”

WEEK 9 March 21 Observation

Tavory and Timmermans. Chapter 3.

Swedberg. Chapter 2. Social Observation

Exercise #1

  1. Choose a specific topic that interests you for any reason. The topic should be phrased as “phenomenon X in context Y”: for example, campus shooting in the United States.
  2. Find and “observe” (read, watch, listen, etc.) the following materials:
  • A fictional or non-fictional book or long article in a serious but non-academic magazine about the topic
  • A documentary/fictional movie about the topic
  • A report that contains statistics
  1. First reaction: Find something that shows up in all the materials and interests you. Do not try to think theoretically at this moment. Find the thing that intuitively puzzles, intrigues, and strikes you.
  2. Then ask yourself: “Does my expertise or previous immersion in the related field shape my thinking of the topic? If yes, how?”
  3. Second reaction: Then another thing that interests you. This thing should be beyond the mental framework set by your previous expertise (see no.4).
  4. Compare the first and second reactions; re-read Swedberg’s Chapter 2. Contemplate on the issue of observation and report your contemplation to the class.

Week 10 march 28 Concept and Typology

Swedberg. Chapter 3 (28 pages)

Goertz. Chapter 2 of Social Science Concepts: A User’s Guide (40 pages)

Blumer. What is wrong with social theory? (American Sociological Review, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Feb., 1954), pp. 3-10)

Exercise #2:

  1. Find a concept to describe your new thing discovered in last week’s exercises.
  2. Define your concept in two ways: Goertz’s 3-level scheme or follow Blumer’s sensitizing concept.
  3. Compare the two ways of conceptualization and discuss in class which one is more suitable for you and what are the possible drawbacks of the conceptualization.

Week 11 April 4 Heuristics I

Swedberg. Chapter 4, 6

Abbott. Chapters 3

Exercise #3: Come up with new ideas

  1. Apply one or some of the skills and methods of discovery in Swedberg and Abbott to come up with new ideas. Try as many as possible. Compare them and decide on the ones that excite you most.
  2. Share your findings with others during the class discussion.

Week 12 April 11 Heuristics II

Swedberg. Chapter 5

Abbott. Chapters 4, 5, 6

Exercise #4: Argument/Explanation and Description

  1. Apply one or some of the skills in Swedberg and Abbott to your case and refine your argument.
  2. Come up with at least three explanations by using these skills
  3. Imagine you are about to write a paper based on this argument, and apply the descriptive heuristic methods in Abbott Chapter 5 and 6 to your paper.


Tavory and Timmermans. Chapters 4, 5, 6.

Exercise #5: From theorizing to methods


Week 14 April 25 The Road Ahead: Honing Good Theorizing Habit

Swedberg. Chapters 8, 9, 10

Abbott. Chapter 7

Pick one chapter that is closer to your substantive interest in Theorizing in Social Science.

Exercise #6: A plan for future study (final assignment)

Draw on the practical advice in Swedberg’s and Abbott’s chapters and our in-class discussions, write a plan for future study that specifies how you develop your theoretical thinking habit and ability in your graduate school study.

This plan is not only an assignment but also a document for you to keep and revise in the next few years.


Final paper: due on (6pm, email)




Evidence-Focused First Year Seminar

SOC 190-1

How Societies Remember

Professor Bin Xu

Fall 2018

Monday and Wednesday 4:00PM – 5:15PM

Ignatius Few Building 131

Office Hours: 1:00PM-2:00PM Monday and Wednesday (by appointment)

Booking Page (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Office: Tarbutton 211

The instructor reserves the right to make changes to this syllabus at any time during the course.


Course Description

This course aims to gain a deeper and broader understanding of “collective memory” or “social memory,” an interdisciplinary field which addresses how societies perceive their past. It introduces students to many topics related to this theme, including war and memory, memorials, museums, oral history, historical reputation, and so on. Readings, documentaries, and various cultural objects, such as literature, movies, fine arts, and music, are utilized to facilitate lectures and discussions.

This course will be conducted as a seminar. Instead of the instructor lecturing all the time, learning will take place through a combination of lecturing, discussion, collaboration, and field visits. Enthusiastic engagement on the part of every student is vital to the success of this course.

Evidence-Based Learning Outcomes

This is an evidence-focused first-year seminar. We will pay much attention to the use of evidence, defined here as “that which supports or challenges a claim, theory, or argument.” (Adapted and synthesized from the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Dictionary.) Our engagement with evidence, part of a College-wide initiative, will seek to address the following goals of learning outcomes:

  1. Learning outcome 1: Distinguish uses of evidence between different disciplines. Collective memory is an interdisciplinary field and opens to different types of evidence and methodologies. But students are expected to learn what types of evidence (for example, observation, experiment, survey, narratives, archives, and so on) involved disciplines, including sociology, psychology, history, and cultural studies, use.
  2. Learning Outcome 2: Identify, select, and gather evidence.
  • Distinguish between primary and secondary evidence.
  • Identify and access evidence using effective, well-designed search strategies and most appropriate sources.
  • Select evidence appropriate to the scope and criteria of the discipline, topic, and research question.
  • Gather or collect evidence for a particular research topic.
  1. Leaning Outcome 3: Evaluate and analyze evidence:
  • Evaluate evidence according to criteria established in the course.
  • Analyze evidence thoroughly and systematically
  1. Leaning Outcome 4: Build arguments based on evidence and assess the arguments of others
  • Develop a clear research question and an evidence-based argument
  • Use appropriate evidence to build or support the argument or answer the research question
  • Read model articles and discuss how the articles use evidence to build argument

Required Assignments

The required assignments will include the following items.

  1. Evidence-Based Scholarly Article Reading(15%):

Students are expected to select a scholarly article from a journal to learn how a research paper collects, uses, and analyzes evidence and how it builds its arguments based on evidence. In addition, students will learn the basic format of a research paper, including literature review, theory, empirical analysis, and conclusion.

  • Students sign up for a broad topic related to memory. Topics will be given in class.
  • Choose one article in Memory Studies(5%).
  • Use a reading template to summarize the articles with a particular focus on evidence use. The template will be given in class (10%).
  1. Evidence-Based Assignments(15%):
  • Write a response essayto a movie which is screened in class and discuss how movie can be used as evidence for memory research (5%)
  • Psychology Lab Visit: We will visit a psychology lab at Emory to learn how psychologists work on memory as opposed to the majority of the memory literature we learn in this class. Read relevant materials, take notes of the visit and speech, and write a memo about how psychological research uses evidence (5%)
  • Lecture Memo: Attend a lecture that the instructor arranges in class time. Write a memoabout how the speaker uses evidence in his/her project (5%).
  1. Evidence-Based Research Paper Project(55%):
  • Initial topic and research question (5%): Students come up with an interested topic and a research question.
  • Discussion and feedback: In-class discussion of the topic and receive feedback from the instructor and fellow students.
  • Revised research question and bibliography (5%): In accordance with the feedback, students revise the research question. Meanwhile, come up with a bibliography of existing literature and evidence.
  • Presentations (10%): Students present their work-in-progress, which includes an annotated outline of claims, arguments and some analysis of evidence. Receive further feedback from the class.
  • Individual consultation: Students sign up with the instructor to discuss their specific concerns of paper.
  • Final research paper (35%): final paper is due by the end of the term.


  1. Viet Thanh Nguyeh. 2016. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. Harvard University Press. (Emory Bookstore)
  2. David W. Blight. 2001. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. (Emory Bookstore)
  3. Sturken, Marita. 1997. Tangled memories: the Vietnam War, the AIDS epidemic, and the politics of remembering. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  4. (Recommended but not required) William Booth et al. The Craft of Research. University of Chicago Press.

The books can be purchased at Emory campus bookstore or from

Journal articlescan be downloaded from the library’s website.

Other readings(scanned book chapters) will be distributed via the online teaching system.

Attendance and Participation

Attendance is required and worth 10 points. The instructor will take attendance in the beginning/end of each class. Students who participate in University-sanctioned events, or have illness, or have emergency must inform the instructor in advance with appropriate verification documents. They also must make up any work they missed. Students who miss one (1) classwithout reasons will onlyget 5 for attendancecredit. Students who miss two (2) classeswill only get 2.5; those who miss more than two will not get any attendance credit. Participation in in-class discussion is required and worth 5 points.

Grade Distribution

Evidence-Based Scholarly Article Reading 15%

Evidence-Based Assignments: 15% (5% each)

Evidence-Focused Research Paper Project: 55%

Seminar Attendance and Participation: 15%



  • Read this syllabus carefully before asking questions.
  • I will also send periodic Canvas announcements and/or emails about any further course information. Please read all the written course communications thoroughly!
  • If you have questions after you have read everything in a particular course document (syllabus, paper instructions, study guide), then feel free to ask me.
  • Do NOT ask/email me questions that I have already answered in a course document or via posted announcement/emails. I will not respond to these questions.
  • I generally try to respond to emails within 24 hours, but I do not guarantee a response within 24 hrs. In most cases, students got my response on the same day.


Please be mindful of the general code of conduct that you would use in any classroom setting. I expect us all to be respectful of one another.

  • Please do not arrive late to class. If you have to run from a place far from the classroom building and are likely to be late, please let the instructor know beforehand.
  • Once in class, please refrain from carrying on private conversations with your neighbor(s). This is distracting for everyone else in the room.
  • Laptops are allowed for note-taking and occasional information-checking. Please refrain from checking Facebook or any other non-class activities during all class meetings. If you are found to be engaging in these activities, you will be asked to leave the classroom for the remainder of the class.
  • The use of cell phones is NOT permitted in this class.

Missed Classes

Youare responsible for missed material. Please get notes from your classmates. After you have read all of the missed material, if you still have questions, please come to my office hours.


You may not video or audiotape lectures without my express consent.

Extra Credit

There are noextra credit assignments available in this course.

Make-Up Policy

Makeup exams/assignments will only be allowed in a situation of an excused absence (e.g., illness, family emergency, university activities).

Academic Integrity

Students who are admitted to Emory College of Arts and Sciences agree to abide by the provisions of the Honor Code:

Access and Disabilities

If you have a documented disability and have anticipated barriers related to the format or requirements of this course, or presume having a disability (e.g. mental health, attention, learning, vision, hearing, physical or systemic), and are in need of accommodations for this semester, we encourage you to contact the Office of Access, Disability Services, and Resources (ADSR) to learn more about the registration process and steps for requesting accommodations. If you are a student that is currently registered with ADSR and have not received a copy of your accommodation notification letter within the first week of class, please notify ADSR immediately.

Students who have accommodations in place are encouraged to coordinate sometime with your professor, during the first two weeksof the semester, to communicate your specific needs for the course as it relates to your approved accommodations. All discussions with ADSR and faculty concerning the nature of your disability remain confidential. For additional information regarding ADSR, please visit the website:



Reading and Class Schedule

# Date Topic Reading Activities
1 August 29 Introduction No Lecture and Discussion
2 September 5 Vietnam War Memory I Sturken: Tangled Memories. Chapter Two Film Screening: Maya Lin: Clear and Strong Vision
3 September 10 Vietnam War Memory II Sturken: Tangled Memories. Introduction and Chapter Three In-class discussion of the film on Maya Lin
4 September 12 Vietnam War Memory III Wagner-Pacifici, Robin, and Barry Schwartz. 1991. “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Commemorating a Difficult Past.”  American journal of sociology 97 (2):376-420. Discussion with a focus on evidence-based scholarly article reading
5 September 17 Vietnam War Memory IV Nguyen. Nothing Ever Dies. Prologue to Chapter 2 (pp.1-70)
Students sign up for a broad topic related to memory. Topics will be given in class.


6 September 19 Vietnam War Memory V Nguyen. Nothing Ever Dies. “Industries” Section: Chapters 4, 5, and 6. (pp.103-189)
Choose one article in Memory Studies (5%).
7 September 24 Lecture Deborah Davis (Yale University): “Weddings in Shanghai: Performing Happiness and Re-Verticalizing Kinship”
8 September 26 Vietnam War Memory VI Nguyen. Nothing Ever Dies. (Chapters 8 and “Just Forgetting”)
9 October 1 Civil War Memory I Blight. Race and Reunion (Prologue and Chapter 1 “The Dead and the Living”) Assignment: Lecture memo (due on Oct 1)
10 October 3 Civil War Memory II Blight. Race and Reunion(Chapter 3 “Decoration Days”) Evidence-based scholarly article reading step 3 due (10%).
11 October 10 Civil War Memory III Blight. Race and Reunion (Chapter 4 Reconstruction and Reconciliation) Civil war fictional film
12 October 15. Civil War Memory IV Browsing the AHC’s website with questions.

Atlanta History Center director and CEO visit

13 October 17. Civil War Memory V: Discussion of the guest speech and film No “Fictional Film as Evidence” essay due
14 October 22. Civil War Memory VI Blight. Race and Reunion (Chapter 8 The Lost Cause and Causes Not Lost)
15 October 24. Research Paper Project Craft of Research(Section II, Chapters 3-6, library online access)  

Discussion of research Topic, question, and Evidence

16 October 29. Research Paper Project Research Paper Project: Discussion and feedback: In-class discussion of the topic and receive feedback from the instructor and fellow students. Research Paper Project: Initial topic and research question (5%)
17 October 31. Autobiographic Memory I DeGloma. Seeing the Light. (Chapter 3)
18 November 5. Autobiographic Memory II DeGloma. Seeing the Light. (Chapter4)
19 November 7. Librarian’s visit: Library room 314 No Discussion with the librarian on looking for primary and secondary sources
20 November 12. Autobiographic Memory III: Oral History

Blee, Kathleen M. 1993. “Evidence, Empathy, and Ethics: Lessons from Oral Histories of the Klan.” The Journal of American History 80(2):596-606.

Roseman, Mark. 1999. “Surviving Memory: Truth and Inaccuracy in Holocaust Testimony.” The Journal of Holocaust Education 8(1):1-20.

(Articles must be downloaded from journal databases on the library website)

1.      Research Paper Project: Assignment Due. Revised research question:


21 November 14. Autobiographic Memory IV: Psychology lab visit

Patricia J. Bauer, Rebekah Stewart, Ruth E. Sirkin & Marina Larkina. Robust memory of where from way back when: evidence from behaviour and visual attention (in files)

Research Project Assignment #2 Due: Building Bibliography. (5%). 4pm, online
22 November 19. Memory of Disaster Xu, Bin. 2017. “Commemorating a difficult disaster: Naturalizing and denaturalizing the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China.”  Memory StudiesOnline first (February). 1.      Research Paper Project: Individual consultation sign-up

2.      Psychology lab visit memo due


23 November 26. Memory of Political Atrocities Louisa Lim. The People’s Republic of Amnesia. (Excerpt) Film screening: The Tank Man
24 November 28. Memory, Gender, and Sexuality C. Sarah Soh. The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan. University of Chicago Press. (Introduction [pp.1-25], Chapter 4 [pp.145-173])
25 December 3. Presentations No
26 December 5. Presentations No
27 December 10. Presentations No




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