Gothic "Voodoo" in Africa and Haiti

Eric James Montgomery


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.

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