Back to top

Haunting without Ghosts

Haunting without Ghosts
Spectral Realism in Colombian Literature, Film, and Art

An ambitious critical account of "spectral realism," a new, politically charged strain of literature, film, and art that responds to Colombia's drug wars, paramilitary violence, and resulting demands for justice.

Series: Border Hispanisms

December 2020
Add to cart
232 pages | 6 x 9 | 18 b&w photos |

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.


William M. LeoGrande Prize, Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, American University

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 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
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index

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.


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”


Available for Kindle
Available on Google Play
Available on Kobo
Available for Nook
Available on the Apple Store

This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca