When I tell people that I have a Fulbright grant to study comics, they often ask me what my major was. Literature? Studio Art? Film, maybe? Anything that pertains to graphic novels at all? Nope. I majored in Economics.
I chose to major in Economics a day before I arrived at Smith College as a first year (Smith College is a women’s school, so we are “first years” instead of freshmen). I was under the assumption all the other first years would have a prospective major picked out, and I didn’t want to be the only one that was undecided. So I flipped through the course catalogue and chose economics based off a few interesting classes…and my desire to change the world. As a starry-eyed idealist, I wanted a major that was useful and that I could use to help people. Perhaps this idealism arose from Mountains Beyond Mountains, required reading for orientation that told the life story of a doctor that provides medical care for the impoverished. I was not nearly selfless enough to become a doctor, so I chose economics. Whatever the reason, I signed up for “Introduction to Macroeconomics” my first semester, loved it, and then stuck with the major.
So back to my original story. After five years, I am no longer as naïve as I once was. Economics may be used for evil (ex: 2008) as well as good. And I am studying comics in Argentina instead of joining the Peace Corps (not like that was ever really a plan). So…my major was basically useless, right?
Completely and totally wrong. My study of economics gave me a perspective I can use to analyze the world around me. Take, for example, comics. A few days ago, I went into La Revisteria, a comic book store that mainly sells international comics. As I looked at the books, I began thinking about the importation costs, international vs. Argentine publishing companies, affordability (super expensive!) and intended consumers, the impact of the exchange rate, etc. In terms of my project, these thoughts are useful. I plan to interview Argentine comic book publishers, importers, and translators about these topics.
And as I was looking at these comics, thinking about economics, my mind also shifted to another, all too common line of thought: my future. I want to keep on studying comics, but I also love economics. Is there some sort of career that would allow me to do both? Can I invent ecomiconomics?