Paris: Social Sciences

Photo of Louvre interior
Early App Deadline: 
Monday, April 24, 2017
Final App Deadline: 
Monday, October 23, 2017
Language Requirement: 
Dana Currier

The University of Chicago’s Winter quarter Social Sciences program in Paris offers students in the College an opportunity to study the social sciences at the University of Chicago’s Center in Paris. This sequence is designed to engage students interested in the methods and research questions of the social sciences, broadly construed. Participants take three intensive, three-week courses, taught in sequence by University of Chicago faculty. While participants are not required to have previous knowledge of French, all students will take a course in “Practical French.” Apart from the coursework, the Social Sciences program is enhanced by excursions to sites of historical and cultural interest within and in the vicinity of Paris.


Jennifer Cole (Comparative Human Development) – Migration and Multicultural France
In the fall of 2016, an intriguing human interest story appeared in the French press: Cedric Herrou, a thirty-seven year old olive farmer who lives in the French Alps had been arrested for helping African migrants cross from Italy into France, on their journey to Germany and England in search of work. A few months later, Herrou was tried for breaking French law and abetting clandestine migration. The way the case was reported in the French press, however, suggested it was the values of the French Republic as much as Herrou, who was on trial. When the judge asked him why he’d continued to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border despite having been warned by the police, Herrou boldly responded: “Because I am a Frenchman.” The crowd that had gathered in the courtroom cheered.

Herrou’s case might be taken to indicate two opposing positions with respect to contemporary immigration in France. On the one hand, since the French revolution, France has been known as a place that not only welcomed refugees but where immigration and naturalization has been possible because of an emphasis on jus solis—that is the idea that one can gain citizenship not just through blood but through being born in a place or through legal procedures of naturalization. On the other hand, since the 1980s, when the second generation of North African and African immigrants began to be an increasingly visible presence in France, immigration—not least immigration from the former French colonies—has become a political flashpoint associated with the growing popularity of France’s far-right nationalist political party, the National Front. The recent crisis associated with the arrival of refugees from Syria has only fanned the flames of these deep-rooted tensions.

In light of these issues, this course offers an introduction to the contemporary study of immigration, especially in the French context, although some of our readings may also draw on comparative examples from the US or other parts of the world. We will focus especially on immigration from France’s former colonies in North and West Africa. Throughout the course, we will pay particular attention to both the political, economic and social forces that have shaped French policies with respect to immigration and the concerns and experiences of migrants. Course materials will include a combination of academic texts, novels and films.

Lisa Wedeen (Political Science) – The Arab Uprisings Seven Years Later: Change and Retrenchments in the Political Present
This course examines the reasons for and variations in the trajectories of the uprisings that shook the Middle East in 2011. At once theoretical and empirical, the class focuses on events in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Libya, and considers them in relation to prevailing social scientific theories of socio-political transformation and regime management. During the quarter, we shall cover themes such as the causes and connotations of “revolution”; the rise of new social movements in a neoliberal era; the politics of authoritarian retrenchment; the importance of digital publics to activism, social control, and the proliferation of “fake news”; popular culture and artistic practices (including humor) in the context of ongoing tumult; the causes of civil war; various practices of piety and the role of Islamic activism; generational conflict; and the ongoing effects of international intervention.

Dingxin Zhao (Sociology) – Revolutions and Rebellions in Twentieth-Century China
China saw numerous large-scale social movements and revolutions during the twentieth century. These historical events have brought fundamental changes to Chinese society from politics to everyday life. To understand modern China and its possible future development in this world of great uncertainty, we need to have a contextualized understanding of its past. Combining cutting-edge theories of contentious politics with rich historical accounts, this course teaches major revolutions and social movements in twentieth-century China, including the Republican Revolution in 1911, the May 4th Movement in 1919, the December 9th Movement between 1935 and 1936, the communist victory in 1949, the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, the 1989 Prodemocracy Movement, and the nationalistic movements in the 1990s. We will discuss the sociopolitical conditions leading to the rise of these social movements and revolutions, the patterns and consequences of their development, and their ramifications for China’s modernization. The course will also highlight the enduring imprint of the French Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution on Chinese intellectuals.

Center in Paris

Headquarters for the College’s study abroad programs in Paris is the University of Chicago Center in Paris, the University’s research and teaching arm in Europe. Situated in the thirteenth arrondissement, the Center in Paris is part of an ambitious intellectual project along the river Seine, including the Bibliothèque Nationale and a new home for Université Denis Diderot (University of Paris VII). The Center in Paris features classrooms, offices for faculty and graduate students, computer facilities, a small library and an apartment for the faculty director. For participants in Chicago’s programs, the Center in Paris provides a focus for academic activities, a central meeting place and a continuing Chicago “presence” within one of the major capitals of Europe.


Students in the Social Sciences program are housed in a residence hall within the Cité Internationale Universitaire (Cité). The Cité, a park-like residential complex in the fourteenth arrondissement, is the international student campus in Paris, though French students also live there. Students reside in single rooms with a private bath and have access to Cité facilities, including a library, theater, laundry and athletic facilities. Students will have access to common kitchens in the residence halls and can purchase inexpensive meals at the Cité’s restaurant universitaire.

Credits and Registration

Participants in the Social Sciences program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They receive one credit for each of the four courses offered through the program. The non-language courses have been pre-approved for use in their respective majors. The use of any of these courses in another major is subject to the approval of the undergraduate chair of the respective department. International Studies majors may normally use these courses in any of the tracks but should consult with the IS program adviser regarding their individual needs. All courses are usable, without further approval, as free electives. The language course will normally count as an elective. Course titles, units of credit and grades are placed on the College transcript.

Please note that these courses may not be used to satisfy the general education social sciences requirement.


Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee and a non-refundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the non-refundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Social Sciences program during the 2017-18 year are listed below:

Winter tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

Study abroad administrative fee: $650

Paris Social Sciences program fee: $4,700


Program fee includes: Out-of-pocket expenses include:
accommodation round-trip airfare to and from the program site
instruction transportation on site
student support meals
program excursions course materials
cell phone (device only) personal entertainment and travel
  communications (including cell phone usage)
emergency travel insurance (ISOS) health insurance and upfront payments for care
  other miscellaneous expenses

Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Paris is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section. 

Eligibility and Application

The Social Sciences program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

The program is designed for undergraduates in good standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the program courses (aside from the French class) are taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take French on campus before the program begins.

Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record, personal statement and academic recommendation. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

Further Information

To discuss the Paris: Social Sciences program and the possibility of participating in it, please contact Dana Currier.

Learn more about the
Center in Paris.

What you’ll see: 

Social Sciences students visited the Sainte-Chapelle on the île de la Cité, ParisPhoto of Social Sciences group at European Parliament in Brussels, Winter 2015Photo of Louvre interior