Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Restricted Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Aviva Briefel

Second Advisor

Allison Cooper

Third Advisor

Emma Maggie Solberg


American media has shaped the way audiences think about Catholic possession and exorcisms. Evidently, the face of the possessed figure has over time been trademarked as white. In my first chapter, I focus on canonical possession films set or produced in the US from the 1970’s to the present day to examine the link between whiteness, purity and hygiene to reveal the monstrosity of excess whiteness. By examining whiteness in these films, I reveal the fickle nature of whiteness, and how notions of pure whiteness only exist because it categorizes and separates white from the “other.” Possession films are all about proprietorship: who owns the body? Who owns womanhood? Who owns blackness? In my second chapter, “Finding the Mother,” I suggest we consider an intersectional approach to the possession genre. I focus on the Blaxploitation genre and its efforts to subvert hegemonic whiteness by centering traditionally white narratives on Black subjectivities. Possession in the Blaxploitation narrative plays out as the negative stereotypes white American culture has already inscribed on them. The monstrous Black woman is everything a Eurocentric Christian society does not want white women to be: promiscuous, masculine, and aggressive. I compare this with the possession trope in Dominican cinema, where Catholicism and Haitian Vodou heavily influence its mixed population’s understanding of their own national identity. I propose Caribbean understanding of possession as a model for future possession films because it provides a nuanced understanding of how we embody identity.


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