Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Rebecca P. Brienen

Second Committee Member

Christina Lane

Third Committee Member

Nathan Timpano


In this thesis, I examine the work of contemporary video artist Isaac Julien and how he layers multiple narratives and uses non-linear storytelling to deconstruct master narratives and offer in its place alternative narratives that provide more questions than answers. I look particularly at four of his works: Ten Thousand Waves (2010), True North (2004), Baltimore (2003) and Looking and Langston (1998) to analyze how they use historical, cultural and/or institutional critique to complicate the understandings of identity and the identity formation process for minority groups. Additionally, I examine how his creation of fractured viewing experiences and complex juxtapositions of conflicting representations help to flesh out these groups that have historically been represented as one-dimensional. I demonstrate the way that Isaac Julien’s use of the themes of identity formation and diaspora have moved from the personal to the universal in the wake of continued globalization. In addition, I show how the introduction of the female body has become a further tool to not only investigate gender roles, but also to act as an important part of his process of subverting master narratives by presenting marginalized alternative histories.


video art; isaac julien; diaspora; identity politics; media critique