In a new course called The Economics of Culture and Identity, students will be conducting ethnography in order to discover their classmates’ perspectives on the world. The course will be taught in the fall by Miller Upton Teaching Fellow Arielle John, who will at that time be joining the faculty as an assistant professor of economics.
“In this course we’re going to cover what your religion, nationality, age, gender, or ethnicity might have to do with your choices regarding work, school, health, reproductive choices, what you name your kids, what you wear and how it matters for the economy,” John said.
Students in the course, which is open to anyone who has completed Principles of Economics, will interview other students who represent different identities or groupings in an attempt to discover their perspectives on everything from jobs, politics, the college and its mission, studying, and drinking. The goal is to find out if certain patterns emerge among the groups.
John herself did similar research for her dissertation, where she conducted interviews in her native Trinidad to explore the relationship between ethnic culture and entrepreneurship. John’s other inspiration for the course came from Beloit’s new initiative to help students understand the role of identity. (Beloit implemented a new critical identity studies department in the fall of 2013.)
“Your interactions with people who aren’t necessarily like you can be enriching in all ways emotionally and intellectually,” John said. “It’s interesting to see how different groups interact in different societies and economies. I want (students) to be exposed to people of different ethnic groups, religions, and nationalities so that their interactions are more on the positive side and not the disruptive side. I definitely want them to understand that the economic system in which they live can promote those interactions or turn them against one another.”