“Where do zombies come from?”

On racism, sexism, and other “fantastical inversions.”

December 12, 2019 12-1 PM EST

The novel’s stylistically unusual second movement delves into several of the themes introduced earlier in the narrative, but approaches them from multiple new angles. Reflecting from afar on what it has meant to the Jacmelian community to lose Hadriana , Depestre’s narrator tackles subjects ranging from the science of zombification in Haiti to the legacies of colonial racism in the modern world.  Our Wesleyan University colleague Gina Athena Ulysse offers some initial thoughts on this movement below, while the article below on “Exploiting the Undead” provides a reading of the place of the zombie within Haitian literature more broadly. During our conversation, we’ll delve into the work that the figure of the zombie does in this movement of the novel, and consider this portion of the novel in the light of Depestre’s own position of exile in France. We’ll also ask why he chose to use such a wide variety of literary forms to respond to and frame common interpretations of Haiti. And we’ll focus in on Depestre’s satirical and multi-valent engagement with ethnography and anthropological theories around the zombie in this section. 

Reading: Movement 2

Gina Ulysse offers these reflections:

This is a really interesting novel that I am sure will continue to generate pretty exciting conversation. I did appreciate this re/positioning of Haiti through Jacmel as very much a part of the world and in the world. I also took note of how this endless fascination with zombies intersects with race/color class and gender/sexuality.  I agree with you that it is a political novel (I think that was a response to Martin Munro) and would concur with Regine that its politics are also deeply in need of feminist analysis (not sure what Depestre was necessarily advocating…). It was a refreshing commentary on the limits of the male gaze that this white woman was more self-possessed than she would ever be given credit for.  This brought me to a short piece by Carole Charles on women as machann or machandiz (in honor of the feminists who died during the earthquake) that would be really good additional reading reference for folks. There are other feminist writing on the uses of the erotic (Lorde) women’s bodies as battlefield (Thistlethwaite). Both demand we be mindful to discern (playing aside), how erotic is sometimes constructed through violence and is rendered seductive.

The points I was asked to ponder on in the second movement include the above as well as this engagement of Levi-Strauss’s the sorcerer and his magic and Cannon’s infamous voodoo death article….. about Australian aborigines. Kate Ramsey’s book and Laennec Hurbon are also notable here in terms how this fascination with zombies has evolved. I believe Kate has actually written an article that looks in part at Cannon in OSIRIS journal.  Of course, you know that VoodooDoll is a critique of this academic obsession with zombies that the narrator writes about.  I love that the zombie gets to talk back and how this flips the script demanding confrontation of who was zombified (challenged sanctified white womanhood). The unspoken labor of being woman, of being a white woman (deBeauvoir is here with a woman is not born, but made). One could go also think through the ways this is referencing racial capitalism. Why academia needs zombies has been addressed by Baldwin (why do you need a negro?). For me it is important to note this is one way that Haiti has become representative of blackness of a particular kind, right. A revolutionary kind of black, as I wrote in “Why representation of Haiti matter now more than ever” (in my book Why Haiti Needs New Narratives).  I would avoid keeping this aspect of conversation insular to look to the black diaspora for interlocutors. 

For further information:

You can view the video of our meeting below!

19 Replies to ““Where do zombies come from?””

  1. Hello to everyone,
    I’m a student in Professor Glover’s class and have been quite interested in how the figure of the zombie interacts with its community; how it is mediated by social forces, but also seems to trouble and destabilize those same structures. Taking from Agamben who theorized the state of exception and “bare life” in ways that I believe harmonize with the zombie’s role in a community (limning the boundary between legitimization and delegitimization within the sociopolitical sphere), I see in Hadriana’s zombification a materialization of the breaks, ruptures, and incoherencies that this configuration relies upon. Particularly, I am interested in the role of ritual in Hadriana, which though not often directly named (except for when Hadriana is referred to as a “victime d’un crime rituel”), seems central to the novel in its triangulation of the rituals of marriage, sacrifice, and zombification. I see zombification as the epitomization of the instability and incompletion of the ritual act, in which each iteration of ritual fails to achieve that ideal that it names. In Hadriana, the ritual of marriage, and the sacrifice implied in her “death” at the altar, both “fail” in that sense. And though the ritual of zombification does initially produce what it names, we find that the possibility for reincarnation in which Hadriana is ultimately reborn from her zombified state, speaks to the potential that can be found through the zombie’s fundamental instability.
    Hopefully I’ll be able to join the conversation today, so I can speak more about this then and look forward to hearing your contributions.

    Julia Arnade-Colwill says:
    1. I really like your observation of how the three rituals of marriage, sacrifice, and zombification in Hadriana are not ultimately successful, or “failed.” Thinking back to the last session, the carnival is certainly a ritual, too, although one whose objective is not quite as clear as the others you’ve identified. I’m curious how you think it fits in with the other ritual acts described here –– in particular the sacrifice, which initially appeared to have achieved what it aimed to.

      Alexandra Lozada says:
    2. These are fascinating meditations, Julia, about the many layers and potential meanings of zombification, which Depestre’s text I think allows us to think through. There’s also a way in which the instability of this Movement 2 of the novel itself, I think, is a kind of structural play on the instability of zombification, of the process of not knowing what is dead and what is alive, what is real and what is not. If you are able to join hopefully you can extend some of these thoughts during the discussion!

      Laurent Dubois says:
    3. Julia, I really appreciated your comments about zombification as a disruption of the rituals of marriage, sacrifice, and zombification. I also found that the zombification of Hadriana was overtly related to her victimization, dispossession, and objectification. Hadriana’s zombification meant that she became victim to a new master, and especially in context with some of the other Caribbean literature read over the semester, it felt to me like it was presented as similar to colonial slavery. Her second life did not necessarily imply a newfound freedom, but instead points to bondage for the zombie. The zombie is a victim, as Julia stated, to a “crime rituel.” What I found especially interesting about this was that the zombification of Hadriana wasn’t a metaphor, but instead a truth that guides the story forward. Hadriana’s zombification changes Jacmel, and because of this, we also see, in some ways, disruptions of race, religion, and culture through these rituals.

      Maya Corral says:
    4. Great insight, Julia! I think you make a really excellent point about the triangulation of the rituals of marriage, sacrifice, and zombification—and how all three fail in the case of Hadriana. In my reading of the first movement, the town discourse surrounding Hadriana’s marriage to Hector parallels the rhetoric of virgin sacrifices. This is as transcultural as it is transhistorical; in ritualistic dress, with ritualistic music, in a house of worship, the beautiful virgin will be sacrificed/married for the sake of the community. The most striking example of this parallel is the public announcement of Hadriana’s marriage (section 1 of the second chapter), which ends with : « En vérité, après la malédiction des derniers mois, le mariage de ces deux êtres d’exception est comme un pacte que Jacmel va signer avec l’espérance et la beauté ». The marriage is a sacrifice is a zombification. And as you note, all three rituals fail. In addition to Hadriana’s ultimate de-zombification/rebirth, I think that the deterioration of Jacmel in the decades following the wedding/funeral is likewise an enactment of that tripartite failure. Rather than helping to ameliorate the situation in Jacmel as the marriage announcement predicts, we see in the opening of lines the second movement that « Une trentaine d’années après l’ ‘évaporation’ d’Hadriana Siloé, les voyageurs qui s’aventuraient jusqu’à son lieu de naissance en revenaient avec une impression unanime : Jacmel est en décrépitude … Avec la beauté de sa fille, le temps l’espoir, le doute, la raison, la compassion, la tendresse, la rage de vivre s’étaient également évaporés de la terre jacmélienne ». Through his telling and retelling of the story of Hadriana, Despestre seems to both subvert and dismantle the narrative framework of such rituals.

      Lyric Bowditch says:
    5. I am particularly fascinated by your observation on the zombification process as relating to Agamben’s concepts of “bare life” and the state of exception. Depestre demonstrates how the bodies of Haitians are zombified at the hands of the Duvalier regime. The zombifier/dictator seeks to control and maim the Haitian population, anesthetizing it to induce “la cessation apparente des principales fonctions vitales” (p. 96). The zombification culminates when the individual “n’ayant plus de volonté propre […] devenait un ‘viens-viens,’ aussi docile qu’un âne, dans un totale dépendance à l’égard du sorcier” (Hadriana 98). The necropolitical goal of the Duvalier regime is thus to forge a docile social body. Under this lense, can the aforementioned rituals be construed as forms of resistance against the violent political realities of the time?

      Iga Szlendak says:
  2. The second movement is a fun section! I enjoyed the academic treatise on zombification, followed by the narrator describing it as “pseudo-Sartrean jargon mixed up in my vengeful and ludicrous third-worldism.” It made me think about what our organizers called the “wide variety of literary forms” the novel uses to explore the zombie, and even more Gina’s point about “why academia needs zombies.”

    A question I wanted to explore (which may get answered later—I haven’t read the last part of the novel since I was an undergrad 20 years ago and don’t remember how it ends): why does the encounter between Hadriana and the narrator take place in Jamaica in 1977? Just as I can’t think about the 1938 setting of the first part without thinking of the US occupation (and the mention of Seabrook on p. 134), I’m really interested in what it is about (Michael Manley-era) Jamaica that makes Hadriana’s return possible.

    Rafe Dalleo says:
    1. This is a great point, Rafe, on the other dates in the novel. I loved the conversation last time about the many layers of meaning around 1938. I don’t think anything in Depestre’s chronology is an accident — it’s as if he is leaving clues for us to think through our own narratives of Caribbean, and global, history.

      Laurent Dubois says:
  3. I am sorry that I was not able to join the conversation, which sounds like it was rich and generative. You may have discussed the narrator’s reference to mid-twentieth-century zombie-themed literature as a “veritable industry,” ranging “from the most frenzied sensationalism to the most erudite scholarship” (166). I found it fascinating that while, as Gina notes, the narrator invokes Lévi-Strauss on “[t]he effectiveness of magic…[as] a phenomenon of social consensus” (163), the novel’s plot turns the tables on one of the anthropologist’s key sources in “The Sorcerer and his Magic,” namely Walter Cannon’s article “Voodoo Death,” which appeared in American Anthropologist in 1942. (Notably, Cannon named the supposed phenomenon in this way without discussing a single case reported from Haiti.) In reading the second and third movements, I was struck by how rather than the supposed “death by imagination” phenomenon that Cannon proposed, Hadriana instead reanimates herself through imagination later in the novel: “my fabulous past cleared a passage from the sea all the way to my shipwrecked consciousness” (234) This looks ahead to the January discussion, but it was really interesting to see how Depestre reworks that trope in the novel.

    Kate Ramsey says:
  4. After reading the introductory comments and the paper, I have a question, still vague but forming, about politics, the erotic, violence and seduction. Gina’s questions seem to imply the possibility that one could write (or that Depestre could have written) about the erotic without the presence of violence, or at least without violence making the erotic seductive. She also asks what kind of politics Depestre’s novel is participating in or performing? Particularly in relation to the politics of feminism? A male gaze, and one of fantastical projective power, creates most of the book’s narrative. It is corrected, altered, supplemented, obliterated? by the object’s—now a subject—own account. The heroine goes from conventional bride/sacrifice to holy relic to almost-a-sex-slave to fugitive to happy partner in a couple.

    And what happens when we place the zombie in the company of its comrades, the other great monsters of our imagination: the vampire, werewolf, mummy, and the singular Frankenstein’s Monster? Is the zombie the most ambivalent of them all? We could place them on a scale of agency, but that scale would need multiple axes. All are compromised in some fundamental way, as we all are, I suppose. All but Frankenstein’s Monster have something to hope for.

    Brad Wahlquist says:
  5. Although I was not able to participate in this session real-time as I had planned, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everybody’s thoughts and responses to the prompt above. Very fruitful discussion. Flipping back through the second movement with it in mind, I find myself curious about the extent to which Depestre’s position of exile in France may lend itself to his use of such a wide variety of literary forms and language registers, as well his engagement of ethnographic and anthropological modes in the second movement. Both Depestre and Patrick were born in Jacmel and both end up leaving the island. Like Depestre, Patrick engages with the global, while nonetheless remaining deeply rooted in the local. (I.e. he brings a muli-facetedly global perspective to a profoundly local story.) Reading this movement is truly an experience of movement—between regular narration, the letter reporting on the state of affairs of Jacmel written by Claude Kiejman, Patrick’s imaginary interview with Kiejman, and then even his own poetry embedded in his narration. With each shift, Patrick constructs and deconstructs different gazes, frameworks, ways to understand the story he laid out in the first movement.

    I’m still not quite sure what to make of the line at the very end of the fifth section: “Laisse tomber la mise en forme de ces propositions faussement férues de mythologie et de sociologie de la décolonisation.” I am also curious about what Patrick’s engagement of multi-valent rhetorical modes and his numerous references to global cultures/histories/thinkers (e.g. “le trio des divinités gréco-romaines : Aglaé, Thalie, Euphrosyne” in section 3, the Goethe citation at the top of section 5, the contents of many propositions in section 5, etc.) say about the novel’s implicit reader, or perhaps target reader. I would love to hear others’ thoughts here.

    I would also like to respond briefly to a line in Gina Ulysse’s very rich reflection above. She notes: “its politics are also deeply in need of feminist analysis (not sure what Depestre was necessarily advocating…)”. Having read the book in its entirety, I think the third movement really clarifies what it is that Depestre is advocating. I don’t want to give any plot spoilers, but I will say that I believe the novel itself can ultimately be read as a feminist analysis/critique of the rituals of marriage/sacrifice that objectify (voire zombify) women. Curious whether other folks who have finished the novel agree.

    Lyric Bowditch says:
  6. Hi all! I’m a student from Professor Glover’s class as well. I’ve loved going through these comments, and I really appreciated the additional reading that Prof. Glover provided on the exploitation of the zombie in Haitian literature. Something that struck me, as it relates to Hadriana, was the notion of reclamation. In the article, Glover writes, “Both alive and dead, neither alive nor dead, the zombified individual always retains the ability, albeit slim, of reclaiming his or her essence.” Hadriana, as the zombified heroine, is given a particular root through which she can reclaim her essence; she, herself, is allowed to retell her story through her own eyes. During this retelling, she reclaims her sexuality, which had been erased by the town for the sake of the town. Through retelling the events of her zombification, she corrects the exploitative image of the pure virgin bride that had been placed upon her. By retelling this story from her own point of view, she also reclaims some amount of agency from the victimized and powerless un-living being to the self-aware, autonomous narrator. So by reclaiming the narration, does she reclaim her essence, her selfhood? I am also interested in hearing what others think about how zombies allow for reclamation as it relates to exploitation.

    Sarah Hilligoss says:
  7. Racially Fragmented Truths

    Who has the authority to recount the past, assigning significance to the events that accelerate change, while glossing over others deemed to be ancillary to historical processes? In movement one, chapter two of René Depestre’s Hadriana in All my Dreams, the reader is presented with this problem of truth in perspective, logic, and culture. Previous, supernatural events, such as a womanizer doomed to spend life as a butterfly and a woman born with seven loins, had been heretofore taken for granted based on the narrator’s perspective. Yet now, in chapter two, the narrator acknowledges the racial divide of truth, associating the supernatural with the whispers of “black servants… as they performed their daily tasks or behind the closed doors of [Hadriana’s] bedroom” (Despestre 71). When the narrator confronts Hadriana’s mother and attempts to “jog her memory” with the events of the past, “they felt that this type of darkly salacious tale… was no doubt just part of the fictionalized lore that surrounded any Haitian funeral” (70). What was recounted as narrative previously is now doubted by Haiti’s white elites.

    But as revealed in the second movement, the narrator is troubled to find an article in Le Monde that recounts the history and flora of Jacmel from the French perspective, omitting any allusion to Hadriana’s funeral. “The tragic circumstances of her ‘evaporation’ were given no consideration next to the Great Fire, the hurricanes, and the political intrigues that had been identified, and rightly so, as among the plagues that put an end to Jacmel’s opulence. The unforgettable beauty of the young French girl had not been acknowledged as one of the causes of the nostalgia that consumed the people of Jacmel” (155). The contrast between the official, public truth, and that which was shared among the narrator and his community, speaks to entirely different modes of attaching significance between white French and black Haitians. This divide is linked to social interaction, as the narrator does not blame the Le Monde reporter, instead suggesting that “she simply had not managed to get any intimate details about the Siloé Affair from her interviewees” (156). Nevertheless, he is beset with trauma at the thought of the Hadriana story going unrecorded – potentially rendering his homeland “some sort of collective zombie” (165).

    The myriad narrative voices, the main narrator, the Kraft sisters, the Le Monde reporter, Hadriana herself, and several letters exchanged between Haitians, offer us a fragmented array of possible truths. Yet, we are not left in confusion. Instead, the framing of the narrative is such that we are to believe the main narrator in the face of the invasive “truths” of those who would doubt his narrative and its supernatural features.


    Artie says:
  8. Hey y’all!
    Also commenting for Laurent’s Black Atlantic course. #CUDU
    I would love to talk more about the dynamics of race in the zombification narrative. To Artie’s point, the debates about what happened to Hadriana certainly reflect racialized claims to truth and validity; black knowledge mocked as ‘superstition’ by the white members of the community. I’m not sure what to d with this yet, but I was struck throughout the work by the fetishization of Hadriana in a predominately black community. The people of Jacmel claim her as part of their community and planned to ‘sacrifice’ her through marriage for the sake of the town. When she ‘dies,’ not only did they plan her funeral/carnival, they lay her body for viewing in the center of town. According to Patrick, her death caused Jacmel to decay. Thinking about the colonial context, what does it mean that the people of Jacmel claim Hadriana as they do?

    Sam says:
  9. While reading Depestre’s text, I was particularly interested in the section “Prolégomènes à un essai sans lendemain” (2e mouvement, 5e chapitre, 5e “section”, pp. 134-143), that seemed to epitomize the metaliterary dimension that pervades this multi-layered and hybrid novel. Following the “interview imaginaire”, itself responding to Le Monde’s article “Lettre de Jacmel” quoted earlier in the narrative space itself —two sections that already interfered with the notions of narrative unity or continuity— this sketch of an academic essay, “à égale distance du feuilleton et de la monographie” does borrow from the codes and tone of the “recherche académique la plus savante” (135). After nine “propositions”, though, the narrator himself, behind the persona of the scholar multiplying references without developing them, stops and reflects on his initial project of paying tribute to the loved one (“en hommage à ma bien-aimée”).
    The ending lines of the section thus brutally bring to an end what therefore appears as a parenthetical (and seemingly gratuitous) passage, and I’m wondering how to interpret this “parisian” digression that constitues 5/6th of the novel’s second movement. Should we understand this fifth section (of the 5th chapter of the 2nd movement) as constituting a kind of “exercice de style”, not coincidentally located in a metropolitan France setting (i.e. disconnected with the Haitian events the novel narrates in duplicate)? If so, are we to read this passage as a parody of academic prose, “jargon pseudo-sartrien” (142) — or, rather, to understand that, however valuable these scholars viewpoints are, they don’t belong in the narration itself and should remain in a programatic state? If so, again, what do we make of the fact that the narrator insists on having the readers engage —although partially and in a quickly-dismissed manner— with these important references?

    Jeanne says:
  10. #CUDU
    In my previous post for the First Movement, I was struck by the similarities of the carnival depicted by Depestre to accounts of carnival in early modern France. During the Second Movement, I was again reminded of phenomena that historians of early modernity discuss, specifically witches in this case. In the imaginary interview with the author of the article in Le Monde, Patrick tells the journalist that “the effectiveness of magic … is a phenomenon of social consensus. And that’s what was working against Hadriana Siloé that night. When an entire village, in accordance with its traditions, is convinced that a human being can become undead as a result of a toxic substance and an act of witchcraft.” The social consensus in this case was that Hadriana became a zombie bride, beyond help, and the entire community bought into that notion. Lyndal Roper discusses a similar phenomenon among early modern German towns in her book, Witch Craze, whereby community members individually and collectively accuse particular individuals (often older women) of engaging in witchcraft. Again, the social consensus is engaged, and the individual, branded a witch, is left to his or her fate, much like Hadriana.

    Clare Marie says:
  11. #cudu

    After reading Professor Glover’s piece on zombies, I was fascinated by the starkly different symbolism of the zombie figure in Haitian literature (compared to our American Hollywood stereotypes). The zombification of characters catalyses a sort of social awakening. The zombie, far from being brainless, is forced to reflect on her past life, even if she is unable to re-inhabit it. Zombification and its reversal forces a reckoning with social class and privilege, interrelated to gender and race. This is the case in Jacques-Stephen Alexis’s Chronique d’un Faux Amour, and it is the case in Depestre’s Hadriana in All My Dreams as well.

    Hadriana’s de-zombification and subsequent rejection by Jacmelian society is actually a radical moment of freedom for her, particularly from the sexual objectification that her living and dead body was subjected to. On the one hand, this is a typical reaction of a “near-death experience” — one can appreciate life more fully afterwards. But more strikingly, she feels herself freed from the societal and gendered expectations of purity and sainthood imposed upon her since she was a child. “Dès ces premiers moments de ressaisie de ma liberté de femme, j’ai senti que mes épreuves m’avaient placée plus profondément au-dedans même de la vie.” (p. 203, Gallimard). Even more, Hadriana sees her life-or-death ordeal as making her invisible and thus no longer an object to be surveilled by her society. The zombie figure then offers a possibility for female freedom beyond any type of gaze, male or female. It would have been interesting to hear a little about this free life, between parts 15 and 16 of the third movement. We are left to wonder how much autonomy Hadriana’s movement to Jamaica afforded her, and how she was able to reinvent herself before finding Patrick again.

    Nadrah says:
  12. #CUDU
    As noted at the start of this conversation, Depestre’s novel—particularly in the Second Movement—explores the “connection between zombification and the legacies of colonial racism in the modern world.” The narrator’s ruminations on the topic appear in an interesting format, as he presents to us his own hypotheses regarding zombification/the zombie in the Haitian imaginary through nine propositions. In his fifth proposition, Patrick compares the fate of the zombie to that of the enslaved person on the colonial plantation, likening the fate/destiny of the zombie to the African forcibly brought to the “New World.” He claims here that for the purposes of this study, “to determine whether the idea of the zombie is in fact one of the traps of colonial history—something Haitians might have internalized and integrated into their own worldview.” (169) In the next two propositions he discusses the process of the racialization of humans articulated as a result/through the colonial project, which required the invention of race for the purposes of economic exploitation (and with it what he calls the simultaneous mythical and semiotic vulgarization of human reality). In his seventh proposition regarding “false identity,” the narrator states, “Haiti, like the other “discovered” lands of the Americas, entered into modern history caught up in this game of masks (white, black, Indian, mulatto, etc.)—that is to say, with a false identity.” (171) He refers to the existential time and place of the zombie (without civil status, torn from family, church, pleasure, bound to physiological and physical exigencies of labor), adding a fourth episode to the three classic scenarios of black history.

    In Professor Glover’s article, she notes that the zombie in the Haitian imaginary occupies the status of a victim versus predator, and that as a being without essence (lobotomized, personalized, and reduced to a state of impotence) it possess no memory of the past or future hope, existing only in the present state of its own exploitation (108). Despite the loss of humanity, however, there exists the potentiality of rebirth and the reclamation of essence, albeit slim.

    In light of these observations, I am struck by the potential connection between the experience of zombification and that of enslavement. As a possible communal internalization of the effects of coloniality, the zombie appears to function as a metaphor (not sure about the accuracy of that term here?) for dehumanization, albeit in an extreme or exaggerated form. (By this I mean to compare the process of zombification to enslavement, its intentions, and the means by which it was justified by the oppressors, not that it could/did erase human memory, hope, etc.) Does the status of being both alive and dead with the possibility of rebirth signal a type of potential or resistence? Or perhaps a way of articulating agency through this haunting/haunted status as a way of addressing the colonial wound caused by a history enslavement in the Haitian collective imaginary?

    Serda says:
    1. #CUDU

      Hi Serda! I am really interested in your question: “Does the status of being both alive and dead with the possibility of rebirth signal a type of potential or resistance? Or perhaps a way of articulating agency through this haunting/haunted status as a way of addressing the colonial wound caused by a history enslavement in the Haitian collective imaginary?”
      I wanted to look specifically at Hadriana’s story and think about whether this could be true within this particular text.

      Within “Hadriana in all My Dreams,” I think perhaps it does and it doesn’t–Hadriana is the only example we are given of someone who escaped zombification and survived. When zombies are accidentally given (white) salt, they generally return to their cemetery to re-inter themselves into the earth. While salt allows them to escape zombification, this is also a tragic escape…these people are never able to re-connect their “gros bon ange” with their “petit bon ange.”

      Hadriana, however, seems to be an exception. Due to some mistake outside of her control that has occurred in the division of her gros bon ange and petit bon ange, she has the ability to choose to fight for her life. The zombie-makers never fully sever the tie between her soul/spirit and her body.

      So, what distinguishes Hadriana? Why has this mistake occurred for her?
      I think she is probably protected by her whiteness. When her grave is dug up, she is told: “From now on, everything that’s right-side up in your white woman’s existence will be turned upside down and made black, starting with your name: Hadriana Siloé is no good for a zombie; there’s too much white salt in that name.”

      The gravedigger’s statement illuminates that even the zombie-makers identify zombiehood as a particularly black state of being. In addition, the grave-digger reminds us of the whiteness of salt—That which allows all zombies a partial escape from zombification.

      To return to your question, yes I think “the status of being both alive and dead with the possibility of rebirth signal a type of potential or resistance,” —but I think this is a resistance and autonomy only reserved for Hadriana.

      I don’t know if this particular story can be an “articulation of agency addressing the colonial wound caused by a history enslavement in the Haitian collective imaginary”— because I don’t think the story can function with the same hope for autonomy and resistance if we put a black person in Hadriana’s place.

      Zora Casebere says:

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