AMCULT 498 - Capstone Seminar in American Culture
Fall 2021, Section 001 - Skin Deep: Race and Beauty in American Culture
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: American Culture (AMCULT)
Department: LSA American Culture
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of department.
May be elected twice for credit. May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:


The age-old saying, “beauty is only skin deep,” tells us that physical attractiveness does not account for more meaningful qualities like character, intelligence, and goodness. But throughout American history, “beauty” has been used as a proxy to determine racial differences and at the same time, to ascertain those more meaningful personal characteristics. Throughout this course, we will examine the various ways in which Americans have used determinants of beauty (e.g., body size, skin color, height, musculature, hair texture, facial symmetry, etc.) to racialize and subsequently, rank and place value on people. Starting with Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1785) and ending with current-day discussions of beauty and race (e.g., the Kardashians, racial discrimination in online dating), the course will cover several topics including the black is beautiful movement, pageants, interracial dating, colorism, and debates over cultural appropriation.

Course Requirements:

This is a 400-level seminar course with an Upper-Level Writing Requirement component. A substantial research paper on relevant course themes will be due at the end of the course. This paper, both in its draft and final forms, will account for a significant portion of the final grade. Students will propose, outline, receive feedback, and revise their work throughout the term, while still contributing to the intellectual life of the course. In addition to preparing for the final research paper, regular participation and thoughtful discussion about course readings will make up a majority of our class. There are no timed-based exams in this course.


AMCULT 498 - Capstone Seminar in American Culture
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Note: 001: Skin Deep: Race and Beauty in American Culture
002 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
Note: 002: Surveillance and Society
004 (SEM)
 In Person
F 10:00AM - 1:00PM
Note: 004: Refugees in America
005 (SEM)
 In Person
Tu 4:00PM - 7:00PM
Note: 005: Trans Times and The Futures of Gender

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for AMCULT 498.001

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for AMCULT 498 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)