“Yanqui-man Put Roots on Her”: Afro-Religiosity and (Dis)abilities in Nelly Rosario’s Song of the Water Saints


  • Eun-Jin Keish Kim Rutgers University




African Diaspora Religions, syphilis, Afro-Latinx, Colonial Violence, Spiritual Violence, Dominican Republic


This essay analyzes (dis)ability at the intersection of colonialism, afro-religiosity, and literary studies to reassess illness and (dis)ability under histories of racialization. I approach Nelly Rosario’s novel Song of the Water Saints (2002) as a “texto montado” (possessed text), following Lorgia García Peña (2016), to suggest an alternative reading of (dis)ability in diasporic texts, particularly in relation to Afro-religiosity and colonial violence. By bringing together the history of colonial erasure of Afro-religiosity and violence against Black and poor women, this essay examines the stages of syphilis on the protagonist’s, Graciela, body and life alongside the material impacts of U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916-1924). If readers are to take the story of Graciela’s life as one of the erased and unrecorded narratives in the colonial archives, how do we make sense of the otherworldly ontology accessed through (dis)abilities offered toward the end of Graciela’s life? Rosario’s novel is a practice of truth-telling and a resistance against the erasure of Dominican women’s stories of violence and power. Finally, this essay demonstrates the possibilities of bringing together Afro-religious ontologies and disability studies to expand our understanding of (dis)ability as a condition of becoming imbricated within colonial and imperial history.




How to Cite

Kim, E.-J. K. (2023). “Yanqui-man Put Roots on Her”: Afro-Religiosity and (Dis)abilities in Nelly Rosario’s Song of the Water Saints. Disability Studies Quarterly, 43(1). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v43i1.9686



Section III: Survivance & New Directions