“They are not men … they are dead bodies”: From Cannibal to Zombie and Back Again

Chera Kee

in Better Off Dead

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234462
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241255 | DOI:
“They are not men … they are dead bodies”: From Cannibal to Zombie and Back Again

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This chapter investigates the earliest wave of zombie cinema, and the original mythology that transmitted the zombie to mainstream consciousness around the time of the U.S. occupation of Haiti. Looking at the way that Saint Domingue, what would later become Haiti, was earlier characterized by European writers as a land of cannibals, this chapter juxtaposes this rhetoric to the exoticization of the Haitian that comes about during the American Occupation of Haiti. Seeing the cinematic uptake of the Haitian zombie as in line with what was clearly in evidence in the use of the figure of the cannibal in colonial writing, namely, a prurient interest in denigrating the Haitian as a savage people, this chapter analyzes the earliest appearances of the zombie and suggests how key elements of the cinematic mythology are solidified during this time period.

Keywords: zombie; Haiti; folklore; Saint Domingue; early zombie cinema; cannibals; American occupation of Haiti

Chapter.  6559 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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