New Orleans 2010
Race, Religion and Poverty in America: New Orleans
In the spring of 2010, Professor Graham Reside, Executive Director of the CTP, taught Race, Religion and Poverty in America to students from multiple disciplines. Below is a description of the course.
According to the National Academy of Science 1 in 6 Americans are now in living in poverty (currently over 47 million people). And we know that in this country, race and poverty are correlated. This course seeks to think about and analyze issues of race and poverty in the United States from the perspective of religious faith(s). How do and should people of faith relate themselves to this social reality?
This course takes up an interdisciplinary approach, and will investigate these issues from a variety of perspectives. We will use New Orleans and Katrina as a case study to focus our religious and ethical imaginations on the issues of race, religion and poverty in the United States. What are the facts about poverty and race in New Orleans? How have Americans made theological and moral sense of Katrina? What does it tell us about poverty, race and the role of religion in the USA?
The course has three components. First, we will study poverty as an analytical phenomenon. Poverty has been a persistent feature of social life in human history. While poverty is complex, and has many causes and consequences, it has its particular history and shape in the American context that will serve as the focus of this course. In this section, the class will: 1) attend to issues of definition – what does poverty mean? 2) Learn about the particular realities of poverty in the United States, including its prevalence, persistence and means of reproduction. 3) Explore more closely key dimensions of poverty, including hunger, health outcomes, education, and issues of race, class and gender in the cultural reproduction of poverty. The second section of the course will explore religious and ethical resources for thinking about poverty. What are the religious resources we can bring to our understanding of poverty? How can we deploy these resources more effectively to overcome or minimize poverty and its effects? The third part of this course will focus on New Orleans as a case study where these dimensions of poverty – racism, health outcomes, hunger, sexism, education, etc – can be engaged. Over the spring break, we will travel to New Orleans to learn from the residents of that city about their experiences of race, religion and poverty in America, and to contribute in some small way to the struggles there to overcome poverty and to improve the lives of those who live there.