Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Yajaira M. Padilla

Committee Member

Constance Bailey

Second Committee Member

Susan M. Marren


Cultures of U.S. Imperialism, Empire, Multi-ethnic Literature of the U.S.


This dissertation concerns contemporary multi-ethnic literature of the U.S. (MELUS) and empire. Namely, contemporary MELUS invites a reckoning with U.S. Empire, an amalgamation of settler colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism, which works through ahistorical and transhistorical cultural narratives. In turn, contemporary multi-ethnic writers uncover our obscured colonial and imperial histories and legacies that racialize, criminalize, and otherize people of color in the U.S within our present moment. This dissertation, then, analyzes recent novels and poetry collections by African American, Native American, Latinx, and African diasporic writers to unmask the efforts of empire-building with the material effects on colonized, marginalized peoples. Reckoning with U.S. Empire within the literary space of contemporary MELUS, I argue, illustrates how the symbolic and material rules of U.S. Empire were established and how these rules concurrently erase their authors and beneficiaries, thereby naturalizing or normalizing our social, political, and economic hierarchies. Observing our contemporary moment portrayed in the fiction and poetry of MELUS has shown that nothing in our society—race, ethnicity, citizenship, gender—is an accident or created by chance. These are the rules of U.S. Empire employed since the constitutional foundation of the U.S., and now contemporary African American, Native, Latinx, and West African women writers are unveiling these rules, their construction, and at times their undoing.