Haunting Without Ghosts
Spectral Realism in Colombian Literature, Film, and Art
232 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in, 18 b&w photos
Sales Date: December 1, 2020
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.
Haunting without Ghosts provides original and cohesive grounds for understanding a diverse corpus of Colombian narratives defined by the country’s long-lasting armed conflict. Martínez’s notion of spectral realism offers a unique perspective to analyze tensions between art and violence, trauma and aesthetics.~Gabriela Polit, author of Unwanted Witnesses: Journalists and Conflict in Contemporary Latin America
In this elegantly written book, Juliana Martínez explores the work of a number of key Colombian writers, filmmakers, and artists to advance the concept of “spectral realism.” The case Haunting without Ghosts puts forward for the existence of spectral realism in Colombian culture of the last two decades is an original one, and it is exemplary in its balancing of historical, political, and theoretical frameworks with rigorous, honest close readings.~Rory O'Bryen, author of Literature, Testimony and Cinema in Contemporary Colombian Culture: Spectres of “La Violencia”
[Haunting without Ghosts] is a book written with critical patience to regard the disturbing presence of the specters of enforced disappearance, the violently and intentionally silenced or erased from Colombian history...Haunting without Ghosts not only can teach scholars, but also cultural practitioners who wish to deal with the ethical issues of the representation of historical and structural violence...It is a book to take to heart the harrowing muted cries of the voiceless.~KULT Journal
Chapter 1. Evelio Rosero’s Spectral Landscapes of Disappearance
Chapter 2. Beyond Vision: Haptic Perception and Contested Spaces in the Films of William Vega, Jorge Forero, and Felipe Guerrero
Chapter 3. The Revenants: Deferred Burials and Suspended Mourning in the Works of Juan Manuel Echavarría, Beatriz González, and Erika Diettes