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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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)