Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair/Advisor

Clare Mullaney

Committee Member

Maya Hislop

Committee Member

Maria Bose

Committee Member

Gabriel Hankins


How has the worldwide phenomenon of nomadism—present day, recent past, and ancient past—been characterized through metaphor by writers, orators, and auteurs? Using metaphoric criticism, I show how the rhetoric of twenty-first-century "van-lifers" builds on a long global history of displacement that ranges from Central Asia to Malaysia to the Grand Canyon. This project’s three case studies span two decades each, comprising the Kitan people of Central Asia (1207-1227); Bukat people of Borneo in Malaysia (1930-1950), and contemporary "van-lifers" of the US (2001-21). This MA thesis parses a newfound connection between the language of nomadism and Burkean “truth”; the language of nomadism clearly contains metaphors of fluidity and renewal, and nonlinear, non-hierarchical structures, pointing to political friction.



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