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7449: Re: 7424 Symbolism of Zonbi (fwd)

From: Elizabeth McAlister <emcalister@mail.wesleyan.edu>

I too thought Sean Harvey's point about was important bout the zonbi as
metaphor and its recall of the slave ship and slave history is crucial.
 Peoples do remember history in embodied ways, and through myth and
ritual.   Here is a political two cents to add to the discussion.  This
is a passage from my forthcoming book on Rara:

A powerful and frightening concept, the <underline>zonbi</underline> is
also a potent metaphor for the slave and the lasting effects of slavery
in Haiti. Insofar as the <underline>zonbi</underline> represents the
slave, or the worker, there is always the possibility that the
<underline>zonbi</underline> will wake up, shake off the oppressor, and
start a revolution.  The trigger will be the metaphoric taste of salt,
or spark of political consciousness.  The writer Rene Depestre
translates the mythology into a political symbology:  

"It is not by chance that there exists in Haiti the myth of the zonbi,
that is, of the living dead, the man whose mind and soul have been
stolen and who has been left only the ability to work.  According to
the myth, it was forbidden to put salt in the zombi's food since this
could revitalize his spiritual energies.  The history of colonization
is the process of man's general zonbification.  It is also the quest
for a revitalizing salt capable of restoring to man the use of his
imagination and his culture."  

-- (Rene Depestre, "Change."  Violence Vol II, no 9.  Paris:  Seiul,
1971.  my translation)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Elizabeth McAlister, Ph.D.            

Assistant Professor

Department of Religion

Wesleyan University

Middletown, CT  06459-0029

Tel:  (860) 685-2289

Fax:  (860) 685-2821

Internet page: http://www.wesleyan.edu/religion/mcalister.htm