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Monsters at the End of Time: Alternate Hierarchies and Ecological Disasters in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Spirit Binders Novels

Anita Harris Satkunananthan


This paper interrogates the connection between entities that hover in the liminal state between life and death (such as vampires and spirits) and the manner in which these entities relate to Alaya Dawn Johnson’s conjurings of alternate political structures and hierarchies in her Spirit Binders series. Johnson’s alternate hierarchies are compelling primarily because they are both flawed and liminal. These hierarchies contain gateways between life and death, between material reality and spiritual reality. An ecoGothic lens is applied to these texts as they deal with climate-related disasters and the ways in which the texts instigate not just heroism but also monstrosity. In Gothic fiction, supernatural tropes such as the Vampire, spirits, and intermediaries are often signposts towards psychological states such as Terror and its relation to the Sublime. In Gothic fiction, very often, vampires, spirits and other similar creatures are connected to a hierarchy or community of sorts. A postcolonial Gothic reading of Gothicized texts, however, interrogates the power relations, the sense of haunting underscoring the text as well as the discourse of Terror in relation to the Other. I argue that Johnson’s writing enables the reader to peer in between the veils of life and death to unearth the darker sides of human nature, but very often these glimpses are not just about personal choices. These glimpses reveal strategies and missteps that guide the ways in which those hierarchies shape those choices, which Johnson then subverts in her tales.


Postcolonial Gothic; futurism; Alaya Dawn Johnson; hierarchies; ecoGothic

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2020.03325