Winner, William M. LeoGrande Prize, Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, 2022
For half a century, cultural production in Colombia has labored under the weight of magical realism--above all, the works of Gabriel García Márquez--where ghosts told stories about the country's violent past and warned against a similarly gruesome future.
Decades later, the story of violence in Colombia is no less horrific, but the critical resources of magical realism are depleted. In their wake comes "spectral realism." Juliana Martínez argues that recent Colombian novelists, filmmakers, and artists--from Evelio Rosero and William Vega to Beatriz González and Erika Diettes--share a formal and thematic concern with the spectral but shift the focus from what the ghost is toward what the specter does. These works do not speak of ghosts. Instead, they use the specter to destabilize reality by challenging the authority of human vision and historical chronology.
By introducing the spectral into their work, these artists decommodify well-worn modes of representing violence and create a critical space from which to seek justice for the dead and disappeared. A Colombia-based study, Haunting without Ghosts brings powerful insight to the politics and ethics of spectral aesthetics, relevant for a variety of sociohistorical contexts.
About the Author:
Juliana Martínez is an assistant professor in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at American University, in Washington, DC. Her research, focused on the intersection of violence and body politics in Latin America, has appeared in numerous journals, and she is a coeditor of the 2019 special issue "Violent Tales: Cultural Representation in Colombia and Mexico" for Revista de Estudios Hispánicos. She regularly teaches courses on Latin American literature, film, and history; narratives of violence (particularly in Colombia and Mexico); gender and sexuality; and women writers in Latin America. Martínez has also written for popular venues, including the Guardian and the Huffington Post.