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Abstract

Taking Oswald de Andrade’s 1928 “Manifesto antropófago” [Cannibalist Manifesto] as a point of departure, this article analyzes how zombies in Brazilian literature from 1900 to 1955 represent a kind of cultural cannibalism, consuming bodies as a way of resisting hegemonic power, oblivion and marginalization. Zombies variously represent rural inhabitants, modern consumers, prostitutes and hustlers who often become invisible, faceless, and voiceless, symbolizing the historical silencing of subalterns or “cannibals.”

Several Brazilian short stories and legends from the first half of the twentieth century serve to illustrate the cultural cannibalism of the proto-zombie: Lima Barreto’s “A Nova Califórnia” (1910), Monteiro Lobato’s “Café, café” (1900), Murilo Rubião’s “O pirotécnico Zacarias” (1943), Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s “Flor, moça, telefone” (1951), Gilberto Freyre’s “Boca-de-ouro” (1955) and its re-interpretation in comic-book form by Roberta Cirne. Written by canonical authors, these stories have traditionally been considered to be parables condemning greed, horror or madness, yet if we examine them more closely, we discover that they involve the living dead and the contagion characteristic of zombies. I argue that Brazil’s proto-zombies represent these groups’ resistance to collective oblivion as they fall victim to the transition from a rural, agricultural-based economy to an urban consumer society.

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

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