UCL Institute of the Americas


AMER0035: American Skin: The Business of the Racialised Body

Module convenor: Dr Carina Spaulding


This module examines the body as a lens through which to understand race in American history. After setting out the parameters of the module and introducing students to key concepts such as "commodification" and the construction and performance of "race", "ethnicity", "gender", the module will be structured around different modes of constructing and commodifying the body in America since Reconstruction.

Classes will cover four broad themes: the body exhibited and on stage, the body in medicine and health care, the body in style and fashion, and the body at work. This module introduces students to critical debates regarding the construction and commodification of the racialised body, as well as the material consequences of these forces.

Introductory Reading:

  • Maxine Leeds Craig, Ain't I a Beauty Queen? Representing the Ideal Black Woman
  • Richard Dyer, The Matter of Images: Essays on Representations, 2nd edn (London: Routledge, 2003)
  • Evelyn Glenn, ed., Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009)
  • Matthew Pratt Guterl, Seeing Race in Modern America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013)
  • Ronald E. Hall, An Historical Analysis of Skin Color Discrimination in America: Victimism Among Victim Group Populations (New York: Springer, 2010)