American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-16-2021


What do the signs “identity” and “alterity” point to within the economy of representation and the logic of simulation that govern the present era? How does the visual saturation of a screen-mediated life affect the study of identity? Where does the information overload within which we operate leave the production of knowledge about otherness? My goal in this project is not to resolve these questions, but rather to linger in them. Focusing on various portrayals of categorical identities in film, photography, and digital media, I utilize a semiotic analysis to examine the formulaic, repetitive maneuvers of signification practices that reproduce essentializing notions of racialized, gendered, or classed subjectivities. Threading through the work is the notion that not only is it impossible to know or accurately represent the other, but that for alterity to hold any meaning it must remain out of reach, foreign, inexplicable, and even threatening. Only then, I propose, does the significance of otherness shift from a surface-level difference to a mirror that reflects ethical inquiries in regard to our own existence and our place as a species on a rapidly changing planet.

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Michael Trujillo

Second Committee Member

Rebecca Schreiber

Third Committee Member

Dominika Laster

Fourth Committee Member

Julie Shigekuni