The Cultural Work of Stereotypes

a Discovery Core Experience

BCORE 104 (Arts & Humanities) + Diversity requirement

About This Course

Stereotypes frame every interaction we have with others, whether at school, work, or in our social lives. Along with engaging the campus resources available to you, this class will engage the way that theoretical, cultural, and social (such as identity) texts represent and challenge stereotypes. We will first take up three of the most recent theories of stereotyping – stereotype threat, implicit bias, and microaggressions – to examine how these concepts are apparent in our daily lives. Then we will critically examine other theories of stereotyping and interpret how cultural texts of various genres and forms – including fiction, poetry, drama, graphic novels, film, television, visual art, and internet media – negotiate, challenge, and/or reinforce stereotypical social categories.

Why Should I Take This Course?

Cultural studies and the humanities is increasingly recognized as a necessary foundation to most careers, including law, science, technology, business, health studies, and more. With their focus on the analysis of texts (from literature to news stories to online media to bodies as texts) that asks questions about the often stereotypical assumptions and forms of power that underlie these texts, these disciplines develop critical thinking skills that provide students with a toolbox to look at any situation through multiple perspectives. These critical thinking skills help develop competencies that are important for any career choice, including ways to ethically engage with a variety of co-workers, clients, and cultures; the creative problem solving prowess needed for computer science/coding, marketing/advertising, diagnostic work in the health sciences, and more; and a complex understanding of the politics of representation and the social issues, social categories, and social relations that frame so many aspects of our lives and the lives of others.

What Will I Study?

In this Discovery Core Experience (DCX) course you will study yourself, skills for success at the university, and the interdisciplinary analysis of stereotypes and stereotyping. Studying yourself involves reflecting on yourself, your social positions, where you come from and what your bringing to this experience, your goals and your strengths/challenges. Studying skills for success means learning and engaging the skills, study habits, and resources for negotiating the university that will help you succeed in your intellectual and career journey at UWB.

Studying stereotypes involves learning 1) methods for the critical analysis of culture and power, 2) concepts and keywords for understanding society and social relations, and 3) the ethics of knowledge production. We will explore how stereotypes are forms of knowledge-power that work within social structures such as race, gender, and sexuality to become the main way of knowing and determining the actions, attitudes, and behaviors of the figures they represent. We will also explore the ways they define people’s lives and delimit their opportunities as we also explore the ways that culture and the arts are a salient site of struggle over the stereotypical categories we use to represent others (and even ourselves). We will first take up the social scientific theories of stereotyping – stereotype threat, implicit bias, and microaggressions – before we apply the cultural studies of stereotypes to investigate how multicultural texts of various genres (literature, drama, graphic novels, film, television, visual art, and internet media) theorize stereotypes in ways similar and different than the conceptual essays we engage.

Selected Texts & Films

Along with our conceptual readings about social science and cultural studies theories of stereotyping, we will also engage cultural texts such as:

  • Claudian Rankine’s poetic text ‘Citizen’
  • Josefina Lapez’s play ‘Simply Maria’
  • The American Dream
  • Paul Haggis’s film ‘Crash’
  • The visual artwork of Alexandra Bell, EJ Brown, and Criselda Vasquez
  • Gene Yang’s graphic novel ‘American Born Chinese’
  • Television representations of Arab/Muslim Americans
  • The visual artwork of Roger Shimumora, Kara Walker, and Tschabalala Self

Selected Projects & Activities

Much of our in-class time will be working in small groups to analyze and apply the concepts we cover to various textual, current event, personal, and other examples. For example, we’ll take Implicit Association Tests, label the microaggressions apparent in certain scenarios, and analyze cultural texts to see how they exemplify, critique, or supplement the theoretical concepts we engage. Assessment will also include Weekly Analysis Posts that explain the concept and its implications for an example; Text Context Presentations in which small groups introduce the day’s readings and start our conversation with Critical Questions; a Midterm and Final Exam that ask students to apply concepts (and can develop answers from your Analysis Posts), and a Creative Project in which students create a literary, visual, video, audio, performance, or other work of art that represents a concept we’ve covered or is inspired by a cultural text we’ve engaged.

Hear from Dr. Morse

Dr. Morse (he/him/his)

School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences


I often use writing as a learning tool for conceptual analysis in my first-year Discovery Core classes. I come to the teaching of rhetoric and composition from a background in social justice and critical race and ethnic studies and my teaching is framed by my continual attempt to make anti-racist and feminist pedagogical choices about content, assignments, class planning, and assessment. I believe that engaging critical concepts along with cultural texts to explore the often contradictory discourses that frame social issues allows students to write about their own life-worlds while developing foundational analytical skills (analyzing concepts, questioning the assumptions underlying social categories, interpreting texts) that translate to other classes and their work beyond the university, which is the way I strive to build students’ intellectual confidence in their own interpretation of both texts and the social formations that structure their worlds.



The stereotype, for me, is a lens through which we can ask critical questions about culture, social relations, and the power of representation.

Dr. Morse