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‘Yo soy Groot’: Afro-Caribbean religions and transnational identity in the comic metropolis

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This article examines the ways in which Afro-Caribbean superheroes engage with questions of identity, movement and belonging as they embody diverse and culturally hybrid populations within the North American imaginary. First engaging with scholarship regarding the writing of race and marginalized cultures in US comics to situate the Santerians, Brother Voodoo/Doctor Voodoo and Groot within the larger comic book oeuvre, it turns to explore how these Marvel characters incorporate the myths and spiritual powers of Cuban/Puerto Rican Santería and Haitian Vodou into the metropolitan narratives in which they are depicted. As corporeal representations of these religions within the cultural landscapes of New York City and New Orleans, these transnational superheroes have each been physically and/or culturally displaced to the margins but see their hybrid identities valorized to greater or lesser degrees within the cultural framework of the metropolis. However, in spite of these characters having challenged stereotypical and hegemonic representations of racial and ethnic alterity, they are still subject to a clear hierarchy between the metropolis and the periphery. This is most clearly communicated through the restrictions and processes of othering that the Santerians and Brother Voodoo/Doctor Voodoo suffer, in comparison to the success and global mobility enjoyed by those more established characters alongside which they appear. As such, although the writing of these characters is both culturally sensitive and has permitted the development of new knowledges within the comic metropolis, at the same time these superheroes remain subordinate to their white, metropolitan counterparts and see themselves marginalized within very narrative that has sought to celebrate their transnational and hybrid identities.
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Keywords: Brother Voodoo; Santerians; Santería; Vodou; cultural hybridity; marginalization; religion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Colgate University

Publication date: July 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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