Two University of Wisconsin-La Crosse professors are hoping to attract students to take a new economic justice course with an art exhibit in the Murphy Library.

“The Search for Economic Justice,” the title of the exhibit in the Murphy’s Mug coffee shop, opened Wednesday evening with a reception. The exhibit, which is supported by funding from UW-L Foundation, provides a look at various aspects of economic justice in photos taken by anthropology professor Christine Hippert and economics professor Nabamita Dutta that pose questions on seven different aspects of economic justice.

“We’re not giving them the answers,” Dutta said, “we are posing probing questions and want to make them think about it.”

The idea for the exhibit came out of last year’s Creative Imperatives festival which focused on the intersections of art and science and made Hippert think about how she uses photography in both her research and teaching. Dutta has shared some of her photography last year on an exhibit called the Second Shift, which explored how art impacts professor’s academic and personal life.

The two collaborated with Marc Manke, public services assistant at the Murphy Library. The exhibit focuses on 46 photos the two professors have taken and are roughly framed around seven themes of economic justice. The photos highlight the struggles of people in a number of different cultures in relation to religion, families, globalization, tourism, politics, development or women’s empowerment and ask the viewer questions to ponder about the impacts these trends have on people and their ability to live a just life.

Both Dutta and Hippert bring different interpretations to their art, Manke said, as well as different expertise from their disciplines. Many of the photos are paired in order to highlight the way different people react to the same topic.

“One image has these many interpretations,” Manke said. “They can spark different questions with many different people.”

Along with the exhibit, a forum on the topic of economic justice will be held in the library on Nov. 9 for discussing some of the questions raised by the exhibit. The photography display and the forum will also be used to tease the new course, which will be offered this spring.

The two professors will teach a course on economic justice with sections offered through their respective departments and have seats for about 100 students. The two professors will develop their own course curriculum as well as modules that can be shared between the two courses. They will also give a shared assessment, something the two said is unique to a course taught in different departments.

The course will focus on the seven themes originally outlined in the exhibit with a goal to keep expanding the course to other departments such as political science, English or women’s and gender studies, each of which will have their own spin on the topic and materials and expertise to share. Economics is a very broad topic, Dutta said, which touches on or is influenced by all of these different subject areas and can be examined through a lot of different lenses.

“Economics is one of those disciplines that expands into so many other subject areas,” Dutta said. “We want to give students this idea and make them think about how broad economics really is.”

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Nathan Hansen has been the Education Reporter for the Tribune since 2014. Prior to that, he covered education, agriculture and business topics for the Winona Daily News. He is always on the lookout for news tips and can be contacted at 608-791-8234.

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