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Cassandra Press Lectures: Zombie Politics

On the occasion of their inclusion in Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept, Cassandra Press presents two seminars drawn from their course catalogue. These lectures, which are integral to the work of Cassandra Press, seek to spread ideas, distribute new language, and propagate dialogue centering ethics, aesthetics, femme-driven activism, and Black scholarship. 

For this lecture, artist manuel arturo abreu will discuss their ongoing investigations, rooted in their CASSANDRA PRESS 2020 Home School course entitled ZOMBIE: Fear of a Black Republic. Using film footage and critical analysis, abreu discusses the development of the anti-Black zombie trope in literature, cinema, and video games from its origins in the wake of Haiti’s liberation by means of vodou to its current deracialized form. In doing the work to recover the racial nature of this trope, abreu invites students to learn more about the richness of Caribbean engagement with the imposed cannibal, Caliban, and zombie tropes—all iteration on the notion of “fetish” developed by Portuguese and Dutch missionaries to pejoratively describe West African material and spiritual practices that hindered their colonial endeavors and rejected their Christian materialist value systems. Likely from repressed fears of being themselves simply brainless vessels for power, as well as from titillation by the idea of flesh-consumption (projection of the Eucharist), Europeans projected onto Haitians and Dominicans the soul possession trope, based on colonial misreadings of spiritual practice and theology on the island. However, the undead kills back. Following the lecture, attendees are invited to a screening of Debajo del agua: the wake work of Enerolisa Núñez (2021), a film by abreu. 

manuel arturo abreu (b. 1991, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) is a non-disciplinary artist. They use what is at hand in a process of magical thinking with attention to ritual aspects of aesthetics. They co-founded home school, a free pop-up art school in Portland, OR in its sixth year of genre-nonconforming edutainment curriculum. abreu also composes club-feasible worship music as Tabor Dark. abreu is the author of List of Consonants (Bottlecap Press, 2015), transtrender (Quimérica Books, 2016), and Incalculable Loss (Institute for New Connotative Action Press, 2018).

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