Spring 2014 quarter

Taught by

ecology, vertebrate biology
Spanish language, Latin American literature
American studies

Our relatively simple surface covers our complex interior. Our hides hide our complexity. —Alicia Imperiale, “Seminal Space: Getting Under the Digital Skin”

Organ, membrane, boundary and border. Canvas, map, metaphor and trope. Skin is the identity that all animals present to the world. It has multiple physiological functions and takes a wide variety of forms, from the simple epidermis of a sea anemone to the complex light show of a squid or the intricate system of spines that protects a porcupine. In human culture, skin functions as a marker of “race”/ethnicity, age and gender; provides a canvas on which to create very personal forms of art and cultural narratives; and, in the 21st century, has become a critical site of interface between the “real” and the virtual.

In this introductory program we will look at skin through the lenses of biology, culture and art. The biology of skin includes its visual and olfactory role in communication, its structure and physiology and its role in defense of the body from both microbes and large predators. Our exploration of skin in/as culture and art will include encounters with the mythology of “race,” body modification (piercing, tattooing and plastic surgery) and the posthuman meanings of skin (in cyberspace and in the world of cyborgs, androids and prosthetics).

Program activities will include lectures; labs in which we will examine the microscopic structure of skin and learn about the various structures that arise from it, including scales, feathers and hair; seminars on a selection of texts (books, films and other texts) that look at skin from a variety of different perspectives; and workshops in which students will explore skin through their own creative writing. Students will have the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of biology and humanities in an interdisciplinary setting, as well as sharpen their critical thinking and reading and college writing skills.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

biology and the humanities.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.


Date Revision
March 18th, 2014 This introductory program will now accept all class levels (Freshmen through Seniors).
July 19th, 2013 Catalina Ocampo has joined the teaching team; enrollment has been increased.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 100% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30152
So - Sr (16 credits): 30530

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