Course description

It is commonplace to note that in the United States a large portion of the population self-identifies as middle class, even though our society is marked by deep, persistent, and increasing class inequality. Such self-identification, however, can obscure the complex and often contradictory ways in which we experience social class in our everyday lives. This course explores the cultural dimensions of social class in the US from an ethnographic perspective, focusing on the everyday lives and cultures of ordinary Americans. We consider questions such as the following: what is it like to be a working class person in a society heavily invested in ideas of individual advancement and meritocracy? How do professionals (the upper middle class) define themselves and how do they view those above and below them in the class structure? How does social class shape people's values, political views, and tastes? How are class boundaries created and maintained? The course readings are drawn mainly from anthropology and sociology.

Instructor

  • Director of the Harvard Writing Project and Preceptor in Expository Writing, Harvard University