interview another student in your section (and to be interviewed by that student) about the other student’s life, interests, and aspirations. Then you will use what you have learned, along with readings from the course, to analyze the institutions that have shaped that person’s life and made her or him into the person s/he is today.
Your interview (and your analysis) should focus on at least three of four major institutional systems that, in one way or another, have shaped your interviewee’s life. After you have established the basic facts of your interviewee’s biography (where the person grew up, his or her schooling, parents’ education and occupation, immigration history, if any), you should focus on:
1. The kind of government under which your interviewee (and your interviewee’s family) grew up. Your reading should suggest a number of ways in which the kind of government your interviewee’s family lived in (or under) would matter: whether the government provided welfare services or left people pretty much on their own; whether the government protected citizens from violence or left them to protect themselves; whether the government treated citizens relatively equally or whether personal connections mattered more; whether people felt secure in personal rights (voting, free speech, opinion) and/or in property rights.
2. The kind of economy in which your interviewee (and your interviewee’s family) grew up. Was this an economy based mainly on inheritance, land ownership, or employment in a labor market? (There will be a lecture on this next week.) If people depended on finding employment in a labor market, were there opportunities for small business, for professionals, for factory workers, for clerks and sales people? How much did the economy “punish” those who were less successful? Were there protections for those who lost their jobs or earned too little? Was success determined mainly by individual talent? By family connections? By which ethnic or racial group a person belonged to?
3. The educational system in the place your interviewee grew up. Were there nation-wide competitive examinations, or a more decentralized system of grading? Did almost everyone complete secondary school, or did many people have more limited schooling? Does the educational system direct students along a single track (vocational versus university education, for example?) or does it offer a broad education from which many career directions are possible? How difficult are the examinations or other hurdles students have to overcome?
4. The kind of family in which your interviewee grew up. Was this a small “nuclear” family of just a parent (or parents) and children? Or was it a larger “extended” family group, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins? Was everyone in the family supposed to put the family first? Or was each person in the family supposed to pursue their own interests? How much were children left to make their own decisions, or guided by parents or other adults? Did children serve parents, or parents serve children? Did the family eat meals together? Were family members separated by work or immigration? How much were children supposed to obey parents or other adults?
In the paper, you should give your interviewee, and any family members or others you discuss, pseudonyms (new names), even if your GSI may remember who interviewed whom. This provides some anonymity in case anyone outside the class reads the paper.
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