Fall 2023

Giving: Our Gospel of Wealth

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-310  |  Colloquia, as COLQ-310


C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander (Section 01)
Michael Stein (Section 01)


(Offered as COLQ 310 and BLST 310) Giving takes many forms and is known by many names - philanthropy, altruism, humanitarianism, benevolence, welfare, mutual aid, development etc. As a result of this diversity, giving is a rich site of social production and contestation that sheds light on dimensions of much larger social, cultural, and economic issues:. How and why do inequality and poverty persist? How and why are subjects such as the deserving and undeserving poor produced? Why do certain issues or crises elicit charitable outpouring while others do not? What is the relationship between philanthropy and democracy? The course examines four responses to these issues. The first considers religious concepts and practices of giving and charity, including the prosperity gospel. The second looks at international aid such as the response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake and select development initiatives in African countries. The third focuses on the ideology and practices of big philanthropy including Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth and the Gates and Ford foundations. The fourth unit explores the American welfare state, the treatment of its recipients, the attack on “entitlements,” and the privatization of services. Students will be exposed to a variety of perspectives from which to grapple with these issues, including primary sources, scholarly work across several disciplines, fiction, non-fiction, and film.

Fall semester. Limited to 18 students. Professor Cobham-Sander and Michael Stein.

Pending Faculty Approval

How to handle overenrollment: Priory given to students who have prior experience with volunteer work

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: readings, oral presentations, independent research


Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2023