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Abstract

A formerly human being that has been separated from its human consciousness, the has always been marked as more dead than alive. Yet in recent cultural production, another kind of zombie has emerged, what we might call the “sentient undead.” In these recent narratives, the undead protagonist is conscious of his or her inhumanity/non-humanness, along with the marginality of this position, and his or her potential “redemption” or return to humanity is often what drives the plot. Although the sentient zombie’s outsider position can function as a meditation on the social mores that make up human behavior, it also allows for a deeper exploration of “life” on the border of humanity, offering a nuanced—if sometimes contradictory – subject position from which to examine the biopolitical borders of the citizen. With the position of the sentient zombie in mind, this article examines two recent texts set in the Dominican Republic: Puerto Rican author Pedro Cabiya’s Malas hierbas (2010) and Dominican American writer Junot Díaz’s short story “Monstro” (2012). Given the instability of national, identitarian, and racial borders on Hispaniola, the zombie –tied to Haiti – is a particularly volatile figure in the Dominican context. In both texts, the expanded borders of what constitutes “undeadness” allow for a more complex exploration of the zombie’s function as a figure that is less-than/other-than human. Cabiya and Díaz make use of the expanded liminality of sentient zombies to illuminate other kinds of exclusionary social borders, particularly those associated with race and ethnicity, issues that connect to both the island’s contemporary issues and its historical traumas. Responding to the long history of zombies (both literary and non-), their texts remake the zombie as a new Caribbean product, this time a force that exposes and critiques repressive structures of both feeling and behavior.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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