Clarissa Rubio Goldsmith PhD Defense: 'Hope Despite Horror: Theorizing Oppositional Horror and Aesthetics of Resistance in Multicultural Horror'

Committee: Lee Bebout (chair), Elizabeth Horan, Melissa Free.  ::  ABSTRACT: Horror, much more than a genre, manifests in marginalized communities through real-life violence and oppression perpetuated by state powers. This project focuses on both horror as a genre, and horror as an analytic of how oppression, social death, and white supremacy works itself out on the lives of the marginalized. This project analyzes numerous multicultural horror texts, including Especially Heinous by Carmen Maria Machado, The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea, and “The Finkelstein 5” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, to demonstrate the potential of resistance within the genre. I name this form of horror-as-resistance “oppositional horror.” Oppositional horror operates as both a subgenre of horror as well as a theory through which to understand how the tenets of horror—excessive violence, ambient terror, and monstrosity—are used by state powers to perpetuate the oppression of minority populations. Although the horror genre often replicates gendered and racialized stereotypes, it is also a genre capable of resisting systems of oppression. By labeling these systems as horror, the violence is exposed as excessive, terrifying, and dehumanizing.

Oppositional horror draws on theories of social death, haunting, and monstrosity as methods to resist state powers and manifestations of violence. Each chapter demonstrates how social death affects different marginalized communities and the multitude of ways in which social death can be resisted. The first chapter argues that gendered violence is dismissed as normal and acceptable, but by constructing victims as monstrous—because monsters are inherently outside of the norm—destabilizes the normality of their deaths. The following chapter centers state powers as intentionally allowing migrants to die or go missing on the U.S./Mexico border. In the texts analyzed in this chapter, body horror and hauntings make the deaths of migrants visceral and present, refusing to be disregarded or ignored. The final chapter contends that Black people are kept socially dead through narratives of criminalization and racism. The texts of this chapter position police brutality and the unjust killing of Black people as a tool of white supremacy enforced through fear. Ultimately oppositional horror, by marking violence against marginalized communities as horrific, offers methods of resistance against social death and white supremacy.

This is a virtual presentation:

Sheila Luna
Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, 2 p.m.

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