In Bell Hooks “Seeing and Making Culture: Representing the Poor”,

In Bell Hooks “Seeing and Making Culture: Representing the Poor”, Hooks is interested both in illuminating what she considers to be problematic in attitudes toward poverty in the United States, and in proposing solutions. Assess what you think about the solutions she suggests for developing less punishing attitudes toward poverty among people who are poor and those who are not. What values can poverty teach us all? What role does the media have on how people view poverty? 

The short essay is written in a journalistic style and draws on sources; this is not simply an opinion piece, as her extended critique is of Michael Harrington’s book, “The Other America”. Why does Ehrenreich consider the phrase ‘the culture of poverty’ to be so problematic? As you read, pay attention to the way she traces the history and uses of that phrase through time. 

Prompt:

Both Ehrenreich and Bell Hooks analyze the ways popular understandings of poverty often blame the poor. Place these authors’ ideas in conversation in an essay in which you make an argument about the ways policymaking and popular culture often go hand in hand to produce ideas about inequality. What solutions does each author offer, and what do you make about these solutions? What role does the media have on how people view poverty? Given your own experiences and knowledge about attitudes toward the rich and poor, how would you chime into this conversation? Do you agree or disagree with the authors? Build your argument around it.

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