Gothic "Voodoo" in Africa and Haiti

Eric James Montgomery

Abstract


This paper seeks to historicize and demystify “Voodoo” religion in Africa and Haiti while also drawing comparisons and contrasts to concepts and themes related to “the gothic”. What is assumed to be “supernatural” or “paranormal” in Western and Gothic circles has long been a part of everyday reality for many peoples of African descent and devotees of Vodun in Western Africa and Vodou in Haiti. Tropes that are essential to realms of the gothic (supernatural characters, mystery, the macabre, spirits, and paranormal entities) — are also central to the cosmology and liturgy of so-called “Voodoo”. As “the gothic” undergoes a resurgence in academic and popular cultures, so too does “Voodoo” religion. And yet, both terms continue to be conflated by popular culture, and by equating “voodoo” with “the gothic”, the true spirt of both concepts become confounded. A certain racialized Eurocentric hegemony devalues one of the world’s least understood religions (“Voodoo”) by equating it with equally distorted concepts of “the gothic”. As globalization transforms society, and the neo-liberal order creates more uncertainty, the continued distortion of both terms continues. Vodun does more than just speak to the unknown, it is an ancient organizing principle and way of life for millions of followers. Vodou/Vodun are not cognates of the “American Zombie gothic”, but rather, are a mode of survival and offer a way of seeing and being in an unpredictable world.


Keywords


Voodoo; Vodun; Gothic; Neoliberalism; Africa; Haiti; cultural anthropology

Full Text:

PDF

References


Ball, A. (Producer) (2008). True Blood. [Television series]. Los Angeles, CA: HBO

BBC, October 20, 2017, on “Malawi Cracks down on ‘Vampire’ Lynch Mobs” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41692944

Berger, J. (2008). Ways of seeing (Vol. 1). London, UK: Penguin.

Brown, K. M. (2011). Mama Lola: A vodou priestess in Brooklyn (Vol. 4). Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Burke, E. (2009). A philosophical enquiry into the sublime and beautiful. London, UK: Routledge.

Comaroff, J., & Comaroff, J. L. (Eds.). (2001). Millennial capitalism and the culture of neoliberalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Davis, W. (2000). Passage of darkness: The ethnobiology of the Haitian zombie. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Derby, L. R. (2010). Male Heroism, Demonic Pigs, and Memories of Violence in the Haitian-Dominican Borderlands. escholarship.org.

Falen, D. J. (2016). Vodún, spiritual insecurity, and religious importation in Benin. Journal of Religion in Africa, 46(4), 453-483

Freud, S., & McLintock, D. (2003). The uncanny. London, UK: Penguin.

Girard, R., Oughourlian, J-M., & Lefort, G. (2003). Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. London, UK: A&C Black

Hogle, J. E. (2002). The Cambridge companion to Gothic fiction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Joyce, M. J. (2018). The Vampires Our Age Deserves: 21st Century Forms of Ancient Evil, eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics 17(1), 117-136. https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.17.1.2018.3645

Keetley, D. (2013). Stillborn: The Entropic Gothic of American Horror Story. Gothic Studies, 15(2), 89-107

Kohnert, D. (2006). "Cultures of Innovation of the African Poor. Common Roots, Shared Traits, Joint Prospects? On the Articulation of Multiple Modernities in African Societies and Black Diasporas in Latin America." MPRA Paper. GIGA - German Institute of Global and Area Studies / Institute of African Affairs.

Lancy, D. F. (2017). Spirit Children: Illness, Poverty, and Infanticide in Northern Ghana. Denham, Aaron R. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Landry, T. R. (2018). Vodún: Secrecy and the Search for Divine Power. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Langman, L. (2008). Punk, porn and resistance: Carnivalization and the body in popular culture. Current Sociology, 56(4), 657-677.

Liénard-Yeterian, M., & Monnet, A. S. (2015). The Gothic in an Age of Terror (ism). Gothic Studies, 17(2), 1-11.

Marwick, M. G. (1950). Another modern anti-witchcraft movement in East Central Africa. Africa, 20(2), 100-112.

Matory, J. L. (2018). The Fetish Revisited: Marx, Freud, and the Gods Black People Make. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Matory, J. L. (2015). Stigma and culture: Last-place anxiety in Black America. Oakland, CA: University of Chicago Press.

McKenna, T. (1991). The archaic revival. San Francisco, CA: Harper.

Meyer, S. (2009). The twilight saga collection. New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Montgomery, E. J. (2019). "Slavery, Personhood, and Mimesis in Ewe Gorovodu and Mama Tchamba." In E.J. Montgomery (Ed.), Shackled Sentiments: Slaves, Spirits, and Memories in the African Diaspora (Chapter 4). USA: Rowman and Littlefield/Lexington Books.

Montgomery, E. (2018). They Died in Blood: Morality and Communitas in Ewe Ritual. Journal of Ritual Studies. 32(1), 25-40.

Montgomery, E. J. (2017). Visual “Voodoo”: Photo-Voice in Togo. Visual Anthropology, 30(4), 287-309.

Montgomery, E.J. (2016). “Shamanism and Voodoo in Togo: The Life and Acts of Sofo Bisi. Shaman, 24 (1-2), 65-92.

Montgomery, E., & Vannier, C. (2017). An ethnography of a Vodu shrine in southern Togo: of spirit, slave and sea. Leiden, NE: Brill.

Olupona, J.O.K. & Rey, T. (Eds.) (2018). Òrìşà devotion as world religion: the globalization of Yorùbá religious culture. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Orabator, A.E. (2018). Religion and Faith in Africa: Confessions of an Animist. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Rouch, J. (2003). Cine ethnography (Trans. S. Feld). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Rouch, J.C. (Producer), & (Director), (1968). Jaguar [Motion Picture]. France: Films de la Pléiade.

Rouch, J.C. (Producer), & (Director), (1955), Les Maitres Fous [Motion Picture]. France: Films de la Pléiade.

Rosenthal, J. (1998). Possession, ecstasy, and law in Ewe voodoo. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.

Rush, D. (2013). Vodun in coastal Bénin: unfinished, open-ended, global. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Sarthou, S. E. (2010). Unsilencing Défilés Daughters: Overcoming Silence in Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory and Krik? Krak! The Global South, 4(2), 99-123.

Scott, J. C. (2008). Weapons of the weak: Everyday forms of peasant resistance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Shaviro, S. (2002). Capitalist monsters. Historical Materialism, 10(4), 281-290.

Soederberg, S. (2004). The politics of the new international financial architecture: Reimposing neoliberal domination in the global south. London, UK: Zed Books.

Steiger, B. (2010). Real zombies, the living dead, and creatures of the Apocalypse. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press.

Stevens, A. M. (1995). Manje in Haitian Culture: The Symbolic Significance of Manje in Haitian Culture. Journal of Haitian Studies, 1(1), 75-88.

Taussig, M. (2018). Mimesis and Alterity: A particular history of the senses. London, UK: Routledge.

Vannier, C., & Montgomery, E.J. (2016). Sacred Slaves: Tchamba Vodu in Southern Togo. Journal of Africana Religions 4(1), 104-127.

Washington, T. N. (2005). Our mothers, our powers, our texts: manifestations of Aje in Africana literature. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.18.1.2019.3666

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2019 eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics