Baron Samedi

The Face of Death

The Face of Death

On an act of voudou transference

In his 1946 Theses Against Occultism, Adorno addressed the swiftness with which occultism, when translated onto the political stage, could provide fertile ground for exploitation. Nowhere is this evidenced more theatrically than in the political intrigues of Haitian dictator François Duvalier, who from his election in 1957 to his death in 1971 harnessed and exploited the magical thinking of the Haitian people by dressing and acting like Baron Samedi, the voudou god of the dead. Duvalier used fashion to make implicit what he did not say explicitly: that he was a god, the god, of Haiti – and as such, was entitled not only to unmitigated power, but to absolution, loyalty, and even affection.