Amoshaun Phynn Toft
A socioeconomic investigation into the meanings and realities of inequality using a variety of theoretical frameworks and empirical research. Focuses on the determinants of economic mobility and social status. Addresses discrimination, poverty, welfare, and education.
The gap between the rich and the poor has steadily grown at the national and international level. Nationally, the increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans between 2003 and 2005. Globally, the richest 2 per cent of the world's adults owned more than half of global household wealth in 2006, while the bottom half owned barely 1 per cent. The economics of survival have never been more extreme than they are today. This course approaches social inequality from the perspective of class, poverty and culture. We will interrogate the structural factors that contribute to growing discrepancies in material wealth both locally and globally. We will also explore the ways that language is influenced by history, power and culture and how language in turn shapes the ways that we think about class. Throughout the quarter, we will explore these two contributing factors (material and cultural) to how we experience and understand class. We will draw on research in sociology, cultural studies, economics and communication in five areas of inquiry: * Capitalism and Democracy: Political Power and the Free Market * Global Inequality: Free Trade and the Economics of Survival * Cultural Representation: Language and Discourse in the Production of Wealth and Poverty * Authorship and Agency: Power and Voice in Cultural Production * Resistance and Movement: Tent Cities, Shanty Towns and the Politics of Home
Optional Community Service Based Learning Students enrolled in BIS 445 will have the opportunity to enroll in a Community Service Based Learning program being coordinated with regional community partners. To take advantage of this opportunity, please write one paragraph that identifies the group that you would like to work with, and describes why you are interested in working with that group. Email this paragraph to me at email@example.com at least one week prior to the beginning of the quarter. Successful applicants will commit to 4 hours a week with the community partner for the duration of the 10-week quarter, and will receive an additional 2 academic credits as part of the program. While these internships are intended to act as supplemental learning for participants, providing hands-on experience working on poverty related issues in the area, the community based learning hours are in addition to the existing class work for BIS 445. Description of specific community partners to follow.
Student learning goals
You will learn how to collect and analyze original research data on themes relating to class, poverty and resistance in the form of news articles, webpages and government documents and present those findings to the public. Skills developed include group research skills, search techniques, database construction, text analysis, participant observation and interviewing.
General method of instruction
Class time will be a combination of lecture, small and large group discussion, analysis activities and skill building tasks.
Class assignments and grading
You will work in groups to identify a linguistic aspect of how class is represented culturally, collect a set of media artifacts on that theme (films, photographs, newspaper articles, etc.), and then work independently to conduct original analysis of those texts on the theme. You will also be asked to participate in meetings, campaigns, city council hearings and public events related to class and poverty in the Seattle area, take ethnographic field notes and conduct one interview with someone that you meet.