International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

“Playing Vodou”: A Visual Essay of Imitation and Meaning in Political and Popular Cultural Depictions of Baron Samedi
John Paul, Krystal Luce, Sharla Blank

This visual essay collects and examines select images of persons and groups who have imitated and symbolically simulated the folkloric appearance of Baron Samedi in contemporary political and popular culture. Our purpose with this essay is twofold. First, by offering a chronological presentation of “Samedi-esque” imagery, we present a record of appearance that preserves said imagery for comparison, analysis, and critique. In particular, we are interested in identifying mass media images of Samedi that have helped shape popular understandings and misunderstandings of the intersection between ethnicity and the Vodou religion. Second, we explore the various ways these images have been used to invoke fear, promote cultural stereotypes, and generate hope in the performance of “playing Samedi.”

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