2012 Y:1 Seminars

American Economies in the 19th Century: assigning value to people and goods

Prof. Lynn Rainville

How do we assign “value” to ideas and commodities? How did politicians justify killing Native Americans in order to achieve American “manifest destiny” in the west? Why was higher education for women and African Americans devalued? What value did slave holders put on enslaved individuals? This class will analyze the anthropological foundation of Weatherford’s thesis and then investigate how 19th-century Americans calculated the value of the people and products that they exchanged. Our research will include a study of the enslaved community that lived on the Sweet Briar Plantation.

This seminar earns General Education credits for III.O and V.5.


 Boom, Panic, Crash, Bust: A History of Financial Crises from the Tulipmania to the Euro Meltdown

Prof. Steve Bragaw

In this course we will examine the history of money, financial innovation, and folly, focusing on the history of financial crises, concluding with the crash of the U.S. stock market in 2008. Major themes will include the complex interrelationship of governments, debt, and financial markets; the interrelationship of financial and artistic innovation; and the mixed record of governments in both creating as well as preventing financial crises.

This seminar earns General Education credits for III.O and V.7.


 Economic Botany

Prof. Janet Steven

Plants are fundamental to human economies.  The domestication of plants for agriculture and the allure of chocolate, drugs and spices have shaped our currency and our culture. The course will examine the biological aspects of plants that give them properties useful to humans and the complex intersection of plants and money.  We will also explore the use of iPad and photographic technology in studying and documenting the plant communities that grow on campus.

This course earns General Education credit for III.O.



Must the Artist Crusade? The role of the artist and the value of art in American culture

Prof. David Griffith

In this course we will try to square the commonly held notion that art is a valuable cultural asset with the often troubling, countercultural image and lifestyle of the artist.  We will study the changing image and role of the artist in culture over the course of the last 200 years, from the first bohemians Paris, to the Beat Generation in San Francisco, up to the hipsters of the present, as seen on the popular television show Portlandia.  In particular, we will consider the ways in which economic and technological developments have played a role in these changes.

This course earns General Education credit for III.O and V.6.a.



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