Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Donette Francis

Second Committee Member

David Ikard

Third Committee Member

Joel Nickels

Fourth Committee Member

Crystal Parikh


Cartographies of Social Death: Abjection and the American Dispossessed argues that property violence acts as a nexus for social death and abjection in the United States. The project considers how nineteenth- and early-twentieth century dispossessory U.S. legislation haunts late-twentieth- and twenty-first-century novels. Attending to the particularity of space and borders, Cartographies maps the legal, socio-cultural, and psycho-linguistic constructions of personhood in novels framed by these legislations. I propose an intersectional collective “American dispossessed” concatenated by their experience of property vulnerability as subjects formed in relation to death. I develop a theory of intersubjective abjection to posit an optimistic but not utopic heuristic for understanding fictional constructions of subjectivity through precarity as characters are forced to confront, inhabit, and live with abjection. Through this process, individuals belonging to the American dispossessed come to understand the denial of their personhood by property violence and construct radical forms of subjectivity in relation to that system of oppression. Each novel addressed in this project dissertation participate in and speak back to a discourse of humiliations by offering modes of resistant individualism not invested in possession as it is manifested in capitalism, heteropatriarchal kinship, and exclusionary citizenship.


social death; dispossession; intersubjective abjection; precarious personhood; American dispossessed; contemporary American novels