Com 478 links
MTWTh 9:40-11:50, CMU 226
teaching: undergraduate: COM 478
Class acts: Intercultural communication and social inequality (Sum 08)
Best pratice example links Monday 4 August class:
- Number of inhabitants per doctor
- US states and countries' GDP map
- Hans Rosling's 2006 talk
- Hans Rosling's 2007 talk
- Shift Happens presentation
American capitalism is – neo-Marxist tirades notwithstanding – not driven by differential power relationships or structural oppression. … American income inequality is not the same as Mexican, Russian or Chinese income inequality. By and large, it arises not from class immobility or government corruption but from economic freedom. Some will avail themselves of this opportunity better than others, and for their efforts they should at least be left alone, not punished for their success as populist politicians in both parties would like. (The Daily, 8th January 2008)
A major strand of my own research examines communication and tourism as a global cultural industry. In this work, I am principally concerned with tourism as a means for understanding intercultural communication in the context of global capitalism. More recently, I have become specifically interested in elitism and class inequality.
I mention my research because it allows me to offer you the following anecdote. Over the last several years, I’ve been bringing my research on elitism into the classroom, sharing with students my emerging critique of contemporary class inequalities. On at least three occasions, however, I’ve been met with the same question: “Do you think, Professor Thurlow, that you’re interested in class because you’re British and you have a class system in Britain? You see, here in America, we don’t really have class.” It’s this troubling question – echoed in the recent Daily article quoted above – which really motivates my commitment to bringing class squarely into the classroom.
In designing this special COM 478 course, I have four objectives in mind – in order of priority:
- to bring the issue of class difference/inequality into the classroom more explicitly and to do this as a matter of local (i.e. Seattle), national (i.e. the USA) and global significance;
- to engage students in the “human consequences” of globalization – in other words to have you understand it as a interactional/social accomplishment as much as an economic/political one;
- to make explicit links between contemporary, communicative processes of intercultural exchange, cultural production and those of global capitalism;
- to bring "Intercultural Communication" up to date by: situating it in the context of the global political economy; making it an action-oriented, practice-based subject rather than a theoretical one; using it to engage with the full range of students’ own experiences of cultural difference and inequality (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, dis/ability.
Class continues to be one of the most overlooked markers or experiences of social inequality/difference (especially here at the UW). And it is a material inequality which is worsening as the so called “gap” between the “haves” and “haves nots” increases all the time – both locally, nationally and globally. This COM 478 puts class inequality centre stage – as a topic for scholarly attention and as an issue of civic action.
COM 478 is a hands-on opportunity for you to examine the inequalities of class which play out locally (here in Seattle - and in the U Disctrict, even), nationally (across the USA) and globally (around the world). This tripartite framework seeks to make real the simultaneous significance and irrelevance of scale. In other words, to help you understand how knowledge of the world’s 1.2 billion people who live daily without safe drinking water means everything and nothing when it comes to making sense of poverty here in Seattle – a city of 68,000 millionaires.
Although this framework relies on the convenient, easily recognizable labels “local” and “global,” the theoretical, one goal of COM 478 is to complicate this simplistic binary. Accordingly, you'll be asked to make concrete the links between local and global inequalities, to understand how the inequalities of our neighborhood (the U District) are experiences shared around the world, but also complicitous in the oppression of the poor elsewhere.