Monstrous "Elsewheres": The Horror Spatial Imaginary in Black Fiction and Film
The 1990s were an important and prolific period for Black artistic depictions of the inner city. At the same time, these works were subject to mainstream pressure for documentary realism that would allow the ghetto to be a knowable quantity for white audiences and consumers. Nevertheless, many of these novels, films, and musical albums relied on surreal and disturbing imagery to recreate the otherwise invisible racial capitalist mechanisms at work on Black neighborhoods. This article seeks a reading practice that better registers how these Black artists used affective horror to represent racialized urban space. I refer to these unsettling renderings of urban environs as the horror spatial imaginary, a play on the spatial imaginary that emphasizes the visceral and the horrifying in order to observe power's role in crafting spatial narratives. I read two influential works of the 1990s, John Edgar Wideman's novel Philadelphia Fire (1990) and director Ernest R. Dickerson's film Juice (1993), for how both utilize affective horror as a way of reimagining racialized space. Both artists use horrifying images such as crushing dark and unseen monstrous hands to communicate white supremacy's mark on ghettoized neighborhoods. In doing so Wideman and Dickerson eschew the strictly sociorealistic for imaginative and horrific portrayals that allow for better critiques of power.
English and Comparative Literature
Colton Saylor. "Monstrous "Elsewheres": The Horror Spatial Imaginary in Black Fiction and Film" MELUS (2022): 112-129. https://doi.org/10.1093/melus/mlac061