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Werewolves and Other Betes Noires: Sorcery as History in the Haitian-Dominican Borderlands

Hosted by HIA and presented by Robin Derby of UCLA.

Feb 27, 2017
from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM

Andrews Conference Room, 2203 SS&H

This essay explores shapeshifting apparitions of people who have been turned into feral animals. Whereas devil-pact narratives have been analyzed as a form of popular commentary on capitalist wage labor relations, Derby explores these stories as they reflect an affective and sensorial relationship with animals characteristic of pastoral and hunting cultures, thus a porous boundary between humans and nonhuman persons, and as an idiom of popular male heroism. She argues that these were-creatures can also be seen as phantasmic memories of a buccaneering ecology that provided free access to the hunting of wild pigs, goats and cattle in the forested interior of Hispaniola, sustaining the poor during the seventeenth century and beyond. The presentation is based on oral histories collected in ten research trips to a rural community in the Haitian-Dominican central frontier, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from 2008-2014.