Education About Asia: Online Archives

Harvesting Insights from Rice in East Asian Studies

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Thinking about “the role of rice in Asia” from our disciplinary perspectives as an economist and a political scientist, we are excited by its centrality to economic, social, and political development. We teach a class to college sophomores that uses rice to explore the long transitions from agrarian to industrial societies and how changes in eating and attitudes towards food mirror larger societal shifts. Our class, Rice and Society in East Asia, is third in a four-course sequence offered at St. Olaf College. By the time they enroll in our course, students have been studying together for a year, having completed an intensive writing course on the family; an historical overview of China and Japan; and two courses in either Chinese or Japanese. Following our course, the students travel to China and Japan during the college’s January interim term for their fourth and final course in the sequence, looking closely at the societies they have studied for the past three semesters. While Rice and Society in East Asia was developed specifically for this special program, different segments of the course would work well for high school classes such as World History or World Geography.