Date of Submission

Spring 2015

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Literature; Human Rights

Project Advisor 1

Dina Ramadan

Abstract/Artist's Statement

In my Senior Project I analyze the works of the three contemporary spoken word poets, Alok Vaid-Menon, Suheir Hammad, and Carlos Andrés Gómez. Their poetry wrestles with the complexity of identifying as American as well as identifying with their family roots in India, Palestine and Colombia. I compare their poetry by exploring related themes; each chapter provides a different interpretation of how to read their works as components of understanding the construction of brownness. The first chapter examines how brownness is portrayed as a form of identity. In Vaid-Menon and Gómez’s poetry this specifically relates to transgender and bi-racial identity. They also address the influence of social perceptions of identity and how these ideas are internalized. The second chapter evaluates language as a form of power, and language’s contributions to assimilation. Vaid-Menon uses detailed imagery to depict the effects of assimilation and questions whether social constructions are constricting or can simultaneously be freeing? Hammad uses definitive tones in her poetry and questions how words are used to establish personal agency. The third chapter interprets war and terrorism and how they play a role in the lives of these three poets. Each poet offers a perspective on the effects of terrorism and how it is a construct that has become attached to brownness. The poems challenge conventions of understandings of American identity that reflect only whiteness. These poems offer nuanced ideas about these complex relationships and how to unpack brownness as more then a racial construct.

Open Access Agreement

On-Campus only

Creative Commons License


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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