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Perspectives on Identity and Identification: Highlights from IU's 2022 Themester

Guide spotlighting materials from participating Themester courses. See the companion exhibit in the Wells Library lobby after October 19, 2022.

Identity as Property

POLS-Y 300 | Professor Michael Weinman

One of the most influential and politically charged critical approaches in literary and cultural theory today, postcolonialism touches on many issues pertaining to identity and identification. Central among these is the theory of the subaltern, anchored within postcolonial studies through the work of Indian-American critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Subalternization is, in turn, at the core of the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things (1997) by Indian author Arundhati Roy, which depicts the experiences of individuals subordinated as a result of gender, class, and race in twentieth-century Indian society.

Dovetailing remarkably well with these themes is a performance on November 15 (for full details, see below) of Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra's I am Carmen Miranda -- a short opera highlighting the inner conflicts experienced by Carmen Miranda, who served as a tool for the United States' Good Neighbor Policy as an entertainer-ambassador from Brazil. Miranda as an individual may be interpreted as "an iconic instantiation of the impossibility of identity expression as a person constructed as subaltern by the dominant discourse and by the material and formal institutions of powerful twentieth-century democratic societies" (Michael Weinman).

Gayatri Spivak and Arundhati Roy

Carmen Miranda


November 15, 8pm | Auer Hall

Introduced and performed by soprano and doctoral candidate Alejandra Martinez, I am Carmen Miranda is a 20-minute musical drama, presented in English, that explores the complex inner psyche of one of Brazil's most well-known international artists. Composed by Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra, with text by Virginia Sierra, this work offers a critical view of the self-exoticization that is often a double-edged sword for artists from historically marginalized peoples. This specialized form of code switching creates a detached, artificial self that simultaneously grants these artists power and agency in Western society while also isolating and distancing themselves from their original communities. I am Carmen Miranda shows how the aging singer-actress, having become passé in the United States, desperately seeks a new way to define her identity outside of the lady in the tutti frutti hat.

Co-sponsors and partners: The Latin American Music Center; The College of Arts + Sciences’ Themester.

Description by Alejandra Martinez.