“'Grown Used to It:' Time and Black Horror”
When newly turned Ganja asks her partner Hess about the feeling of perpetual cold that comes with their undead condition in the Black vampire film Ganja & Hess (Bill Gunn, 1973), Hess replies “Grown used to it.” This phrase speaks to the unusual framing of this vampire narrative, in dialog with both blaxsploitation and art cinema, that links addiction and immortality to the experience of Blackness in the mid-twentieth century. But this phrase also speaks to a particular experience that is defining of Black Horror; an experience of time as the endurance of a lasting and static present moment. Ganja & Hess shows that Black Horror is not simply the experience of being Black in an anti-Black world, but an experience of time in forms such as looping, reverberation, and arrest that is symptomatic of a larger system of time and political economy under contemporary capitalism. This talk follows the intersections of time and Black Horror from Ganja & Hess to more contemporary media forms, such as television shows like Atlanta and Lovecraft Country to the films of Jordan Peele and Mati Diop. “Grown used to it” signals a temporal affect that speaks to the experience of Black Horror, rooted in a form of time stood still. Black Horror shows us an undead time that goes beyond haunting to a feeling of having to endure a time and a context that remains, one that does not return to us because it never left.
David Bering-Porter is Assistant Professor of Culture and Media at The New School in New York City. David has lectured, taught, and published on zombie movies and other forms of Black horror at the intersections of film, digital media, and technology. His current book project is a study of undead labor and the ways that race, labor, and value come together in the mediated body of the zombie as well as other examples of biological excess and his academic writing has appeared in journals such as Culture Machine, Critical Inquiry, Flow, MIRAJ, Post 45, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.