caribbean

Zombie Palimpsests: Translating US Occupation in White Zombie

White Zombie, America’s first feature zombie film, situates the zombie as a complex embodiment of Haiti’s history, even as it thrills American audiences with their first cinematic depictions of the living dead. Released in 1932 by United Artists during the United States’s occupation of Haiti, and based upon William Seabrook’s 1929 book, The Magic Island, the film narrates the plight of an American couple pursuing marriage and business opportunities in Port-au-Prince. Although the film never explicitly mentions the occupation, which lasted from 1915–1934, the military intervention serves as the catalyst that brings the Americans to Port-au-Prince, where they immediately confront the threat of zombies—a threat that will interfere with their entrepreneurial endeavors. The film’s covert acknowledgments of heightened political tensions between the United States and Haiti coalesce in its portrayal of the Vodou zombie