Appointed As

Pozen Family Center for Human Rights


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


University of Chicago

PhD Field of Study

PhD, English, Northwestern University

Dissertation Abstract

"Ink, Wave, Signal, Code: Multiethnic American Poetry's Media Ecologies After 1965"

Ink, Wave, Signal, Code: Multiethnic American Poetry’s Media Ecologies After 1965
This project investigates the influence of diverse print, recording, broadcast, and digital technologies on multiethnic poetry in the United States, from the cultural nationalist movements of the 1960s to our Internet-saturated present. Recent scholarship linking poetry to media studies has predominantly attended to Anglo-American or European traditions and their relationship with pre-WWII technologies such as radio and film. My intervention traces an alternative genealogy that illuminates the vital contributions of Latinx, African American, and Asian American poets to our understanding of the transformative potential of emerging media conditions. Specifically, I explore how multiethnic poets repurpose mimeograph desktop publishing machines, vinyl records and CDs, television sets, and computer interfaces in order to articulate their racial aesthetics and politics. I argue that in their experimentations with these media as producers, consumers, and distributors, multiethnic poets challenge conventions of political and cultural authority by reimagining racial identity, not just poetic form, as a construction that adapts to evolving technological paradigms. For these poets, race retains a social existence rendered visible across the layers of convergent media, from their physical hardware and interfaces to their intangible networks and affects. My research thus encompasses both textured readings of specific poems and poetry collections, and also a holistic appraisal of the larger media environments in which they unfold.
Each part of the project showcases a pair of poets or poetry collectives for whom media shaped formations of racial selfhood or racial justice. The first chapter examines the black and Chicano little magazines Umbra and Con Safos, respectively based in New York City and Los Angeles and produced during the height of the so-called Mimeograph Revolution when writers had increased access to mechanical desktop printers and founded their own independent presses. Focusing on the machinic imprint of these magazines, I show how a kinetic relation to textuality established the necessary conditions that allowed poetry collectives to see racialized experience not as a fixed essence but a distributable assemblage. I then turn to embodied forms of gender critique enabled through vinyl and digital discography, as exemplified by the spoken word artists and Nuyorican Poets Cafe luminaries Sandra María Esteves and Tracie Morris. Looking next to Claudia Rankine’s and Tan Lin’s TV-saturated poetry collections, I explore how racialized responses to television’s routine violence against black and Chinese immigrant subjects has constrained poetic address and generated historically new, media-specific affects. My final chapter considers instances of digital disobedience in the code poems of Loss Pequeño Glazier and Brian Kim Stefans, who reframe algorithmic thinking in order to protest the heightened surveillance of minoritized people since September 11, 2001. Distinct techno-logics that shape these experiments illustrate how mediating racial identities and their material histories transforms traditional formal values of poetic modernism.
Throughout Ink, Wave, Signal, Code, I argue that forms of racialization are inseparable from histories of technology. Tracking the relation between poetry and its changing material contexts, this project elucidates how poets of color variously treat the behaviors, forms, and interfaces of poetry as both symptom and agent of the racial imaginaries of the United States. This research foregrounds poets of color as central drivers, not just passive consumers, of contemporary media ecologies. Analyzing how minoritized poets at the fringes of political power and cultural capital seek to represent their own experiences and knowledge, I propose that such communities significantly restructure prevailing norms of media production. In the process, they alter our understanding of what “ethnic” literature can be. From the print-bound to the post-digital, the media ecologies of this project exemplify how the work of figuring and embodying race is intricately tied to the labor that goes into claiming literary citizenship at a material level. Considering technologies as texts that underwrite minoritized and dominant cultures alike, multiethnic poets demonstrate that extensive systems of racial meaning have always informed our common encounters with media.