Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Wander and Wonder in Zombieland

Sarah Juliet Lauro

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pp. vii-xxiv

For a long time, I’ve felt as if I were being chased by a horde of zombies—the kind that spring up out of the ground like itinerant mushrooms and swell to insurmountable numbers at your heels. These aren’t real zombies, of course, but articles, essays, chapters, short stories, comics, and books about zombies, the catalog of which has seemed to grow exponentially over the past decade. Once I felt, working on a dissertation, and then a book, on the figure of the living dead, that I had to read them all. I didn’t, I couldn’t, I haven’t, and I won’t. For I soon found that by the time one compiles a reading list and...

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Part I. Old Schools: Classic Zombies

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pp. 1-6

Recently, I asked my students (about sixty in number, mostly underclass undergraduates) what images the phrase “old school zombies” conjured in their minds’ eyes. These were not classes where we had talked about zombies in any detail; rather, I just wanted an informal way to take the temperature of the millennial generation, assess the current state of zombie fever, and measure how much they knew about previous epidemics. Several of them described the visual of a hand reaching up through the soil at a grave site as the first thing that came to mind, perhaps tapping into some latent knowledge of...

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1. Contagious Allegories: George Romero

Steven Shaviro

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pp. 7-19

George Romero’s Living Dead trilogy—Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead—offers all sorts of pleasures to the willing viewer. These films move effortlessly among sharp visceral shocks, wry satirical humor, and a Grand Guignolesque reveling in showy excesses of gore. They are crass exploitation movies, pop left-wing action cartoons, exercises in cynical nihilism, and sophisticated political allegories of late capitalist America. Their vision of a humanity overrun by flesh-eating zombies is violently apocalyptic; at the same time, they remain disconcertingly close to the habitual...

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2. Zombie TV: Late- Night B Movie Horror Fest

Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock

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pp. 20-32

“Clear your mind,” advises the diminutive psychic (Zelda Rubinstein) in Tobe Hooper’s 1982 supernatural thriller Poltergeist, “it knows what scares you.”1 The “it” within this context refers to the malevolent entity that has invaded a quiet suburban home via the television and abducted a young child (Carol Anne, played by Heather O’Rourke). The “it,” however, also applies to the creative team behind the production of a successful “horror” film such as Poltergeist. Bodies are produced to be rended, expended, devoured in a nightmarish parade of violence as the audience munches popcorn, bodies passive, eyes unblinking....

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3. Viral Cultures: Microbes and Politics in the Cold War

Priscilla Wald

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pp. 33-62

A magnified photograph of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) entering a helper T cell offered the readers of the November 3, 1986, issue of Time magazine a visual representation of what scientists and journalists were calling “the disease of the century.”1 Since such images have long been a staple of popular science writing, the photograph does not seem remarkable. The caption explains: “Viruses (blue dots) attack a helper T cell, a crucial part of the immune system. Invading the cell, the virus commandeers its machinery, making it begin producing viruses. This eventually destroys the cell,...

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4. Slaves, Cannibals, and Infected Hyper- Whites: The Race and Religion of Zombies

Elizabeth McAlister

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pp. 63-84

After shaking hands with Barack Obama at the conclusion of the last U.S. presidential debate, John McCain started to head the wrong way off the stage before realizing his mistake and reversing course. As he fell in step behind his opponent, he acknowledged his error with an extravagant full-body grimace. His grotesque pose was frozen by photographers and instantly uploaded onto the Internet with the caption “Zombie McCain.” Other zombie-themed captions for the image proliferated, including one on PoliticalHumor.com that read, “Obama: cool enough to just ignore zombies”...

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5. Slavoj Žižek, the Death Drive, and Zombies: A Theological Account

Ola Sigurdson

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pp. 85-102

Something uncanny is haunting the West—the specter of religion. The talk of the “return of religion” or its “new visibility” is now ubiquitous in academia, after the demise of any strong form of the sociological thesis of the death of religion as an inevitable aspect of modernization. How best to interpret these changed circumstances may well be a matter of argument, but I would suggest that one of the philosophically and theologically more interesting aspects of our so-called postsecular condition is the way it undermines some of the categories through which at least Western modernity has come to understand its own cultural and social context. One binary category that recently has come under...

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Part II. Capitalist Monsters

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pp. 103-110

In zombie films, scenes of plunder are recognizable as bittersweet fantasies in which the viewer is invited to celebrate the end of capitalism: sweet in that everything is now free, and bitter in that everyone you know is dead. Such scenes evoke the looting of the riotous mob, they make visible our society’s gross materialism, and they call into question the worldview of those outside the frame of the camera shot. Maybe, in some instances, such scenes raise the specter of the piracy of imperialism (as Dan HasslerForrest argues: the typical contemporary zombie narrative follows a formula torn from...

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6. Some Kind of Virus: The Zombie as Body and as Trope

Jen Webb and Samuel Byrnand

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pp. 111-123

“Zombies are cool,” said a graduate student at a recent seminar. “Zombies are vile,” said a film studies lecturer. “Zombies are whitey’s way of expressing the terror of alterity,” said a presenter at a recent conference.
All true, perhaps. There are many points of attraction in the zombie character, and in a period when zombies seem to be permeating popular culture and emerging in scholarly literature, there are perhaps as many ways of approaching and evaluating zombies as there are people who approach and evaluate. Those people include novelists,...

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7. Ugly Beauty: Monstrous Dreams of Utopia

David McNally

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pp. 124-136

Capitalist market-society overflows with monsters. But no grotesque species so command the modern imagination as the vampire and the zombie. In fact, these two creatures need to be thought conjointly, as interconnected moments of the monstrous dialectic of modernity. Like Victor Frankenstein and his Creature, the vampire and the zombie are doubles, linked poles of the split society. If vampires are the dreaded beings who might possess us and turn us into their docile servants, zombies represent our haunted self-image, warning us that we might already be lifeless, disempowered agents of alien...

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8. Alien- Nation: Zombies, Immigrants, and Millennial Capitalism

Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff

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pp. 137-156

What might zombies have to do with the implosion of neoliberal capitalism at the end of the twentieth century? What might they have to do with postcolonial, postrevolutionary nationalism? With labor history? With the “crisis” of the modernist nation-state? Why are these spectral, floating signifiers making an appearance in epic, epidemic proportions in several parts of Africa just now? And why have immigrants—those wanderers in pursuit of work, whose proper place is always elsewhere—become pariah citizens of a global order in which, paradoxically, old borders are said everywhere to be dissolving? What, if anything,...

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9. Zombies of Immaterial Labor: The Modern Monster and the Consumption of the Self

Lars Bang Larsen

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pp. 157-170

Undead and abject, the zombie is uncontrollable ambiguity. Slouching across the earth, restlessly but with hallucinatory slowness, it is a thing with a soul, a body that is rotten but reactive, oblivious to itself yet driven by unforgiving instinct.
It follows that if the zombie is defined by ambiguity, it cannot be reduced to a negative presence. In fact, it could be a friend. So why does it lend itself so easily as a metaphor for alienation, rolling readily off our tongues? Resorting to the zombie as a sign for mindless persistence is unfair to this particular monster. When it obstinately refuses the...

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10. Abject Posthumanism: Neoliberalism, Biopolitics, and Zombies

Sherryl Vint

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pp. 171-182

The posthuman has been a provocative site of theoretical enquiry for at least the last twenty years, establishing connections between science fiction scholarship and wider academic explorations of fragmented, postmodern subjectivity. Key texts have used the figure of the posthuman to prompt us to imagine subjectivity beyond the constraints of liberal humanism and its rapidly outdated ideal of the autonomous self. N. Katherine Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman reassessed our understanding of subjectivity, consciousness, and embodiment through an interrogation of cybernetics, making a...

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Part III. Zombies and Other(ed) People

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pp. 183-188

In an opinion piece for the New York Times on the subject of recent police violence against people of color, and in particular the case of Sandra Bland, a woman who was found hanged in her jail cell after being arrested on faulty charges, Roxane Gay concluded her article with the following powerful words: “increasingly, as a black woman in America, I do not feel alive. I feel like I am not yet dead.” Gay’s bold statement reverberates with the language of living death as it has been activated in political theory and calls to mind Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer, Orlando Patterson’s work on...

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11. Zombie Race

Edward P. Comentale

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pp. 189-211

It begins with a thump, or rather, a scrape and a thump. Shhh-­thump. The monster appears first as sound and then as rhythm, or rather, counter-rhythm. Its presence is made known, paradoxically, by its double absence, one physical and the other temporal.
It lags, behind itself, drags itself, before itself, somewhere in back of you, in front of you, over your shoulder—always where it is not. Shhh-­thump. Its second beat is scarier than the first, not just because it is louder, closer, but because it recalls the first. The monster is always in two—two spaces, two times. It approaches as it recedes. It coheres...

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12. Taking Back the Night of the Living Dead: George Romero, Feminism, and the Horror Film

Barry Keith Grant

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pp. 212-222

Near the beginning of George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead (1968), Barbra, one of the film’s three female characters, sinks into near-catatonic helplessness to become a burden on the other living characters. She remains this way until near the end, when she attempts to help free another woman from the clutches of the zombies, only to be dragged out the window by her now undead brother. In the remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990), written by Romero, no longer can it be said that the character of Barbra, as Gregory A. Waller aptly puts it, “would seem to support certain sexist...

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13. Dead and Live Life: Zombies, Queers, and Online Sociality

Shaka McGlotten

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pp. 223-236

In ten years of talking to gay men about their online and offline intimacies, no one ever told me, “I feel like a zombie.” And it would be unfair to (most of) my informants to call them zombies. But I did hear many stories about death and the numbing or exciting habituation that comes with loneliness, boredom, and addiction—affective modes that blur the lines between dead and (a)live life. Here I use “dead and live life” to index different states of liveness, the different ways we might feel more or less alive. These states include the heightened sense of our own phenomenological encounter with the world that comes in moments of vitality, excitation, and the crises (minor and major) that animate so much...

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14. Dead and Disabled: The Crawling Monsters of The Walking Dead

Anna Mae Duane

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pp. 237-245

In Katherine Dunn’s 1989 novel Geek Love, two freak show performers debate the merits of reading horror stories. “Don’t you get scared reading those at night?” Oly asks her older brother Arty. Arty, and indeed all the siblings in the freak show family in this novel, has a body that elicits awe, or fear, or hatred at first sight. They have learned from an early age that Americans like to divide the world into what’s normal and good and then place everything else in an all-purpose bin called “other.” And they know all too well which side of the equation they live on. Arty is particularly used to the horrified,...

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15. Trouble with Zombies: Muselmänner, Bare Life, and Displaced People

Jon Stratton

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pp. 246-270

This chapter is about the relationship between zombies and displaced people, most obviously refugees, asylum seekers, and illegal immigrants. It is founded on a realization that the underlying characteristics of zombies are similar to those attributed to displaced people—people, predominantly from non-Western states, striving for entry into Western states. The chapter begins from the recognition that during the 2000s, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of films released featuring zombies. At the same time, zombies have started appearing in other media. A video game series called Resident...

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Part IV. Zombies in the Street

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pp. 271-276

On August 29, 2015, the Royal Theatre in Toronto, Canada, hosted a funeral. It was not, as so many memorials purport to be, a celebration of life but, unapologetically, of death—and it recognized not the death of a person but of a movement. It eulogized the annual zombie walk that Thea Faulds, or Thea Munster (as she prefers to be called), had been organizing in Toronto for more than a decade. An annual event that became a phenomenon, the zombie walk was a macabre movement that swept the North American continent (and, indeed, the world) with a strange pox in which people broke out in...

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16. Zombie London: Unexceptionalities of the New World Order

Fred Botting

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pp. 277-293

A patient awakes, naked, in an empty hospital twenty-eight days after a deadly virus has been released from a medical test facility. The city outside is also deserted. An old newspaper headline in close-up tells of the city’s evacuation. He wanders, a solitary figure amid familiar London sights: the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall; Horseguards, Horseguards Parade, and the Guards Memorial; Pall Mall and the Mall; Mansion House, the City, and Piccadilly, with its statue of Eros; St Paul’s and the London Eye. The journey offers a tour of historical and heritage locations, places of tourism and entertainment, centers of government and commercial power, and sites of regal and martial...

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17. Spooks of Biopower: The Uncanny Carnivalesque of Zombie Walks

Simon Orpana

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pp. 294-315

The viral zombie of contemporary horror fiction seems to have entered popular imagination in 1968 with George A. Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead.1 In that low-budget, black-and-white horror film, recently dead humans become reanimated and wander about in search of live victims. Though prone to damage and decomposition, the zombies can only be killed by trauma to the brain, and the bite of a zombie will turn living victims into zombies themselves. Variations on this formula have informed what has become a thriving culture industry, spawning numerous films, television shows, comic...

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18. The Scene of Occupation

Tavia Nyong’o

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pp. 316-331

On a gray Sunday in late October, I go in search of Occupy London. I locate St. Paul’s Cathedral on a map (having never noted its existence on any prior visit to London) and take the Tube, wondering as I go what reasoning or happenstance had led activists to choose a center of state religion as a staging ground for their confrontation with the forces of capital.1 A short walk and I am approaching the cathedral from the side; I wander through the encampment of tents, run my hands along a wire fence covered in protest signs—the snarky, stinging anonymous murmuring of the multitude—before arriving at the church’s august west front, with the two towers, wide steps, and...

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19. The Walking Dead and Killing State: Zombification and the Normalization of Police Violence

Travis Linnemann, Tyler Wall, and Edward Green

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pp. 332-352

On the afternoon of May 26, 2012, police shot thirty-one-year-old Rudy Eugene dead as he “ate the face” of a homeless man on a deserted Miami causeway. Because of the bizarre gruesomeness of the attack, some in the news media immediately took to calling Eugene, a black man of Haitian descent, the “Miami Zombie” and “Causeway Cannibal.”1 Five days later, a New Jersey man mutilated himself with a knife and “threw his skin and intestines” at police.2 That same day, in Maryland, a man confessed to eating the heart and brain of his murdered roommate. Later, another report emerged from China,...

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Part V. New Life for the Undead

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pp. 353-360

There’s something missing. But then, the zombie is a creature that is always missing something: today the zombie is understood as a fleshly, material entity devoid of sense, as in the virally afflicted, or, risen from the dead, as lacking some internal essence that makes us human. In an older sense of the word, however, zombi had two meanings:1 it signified either a body without a soul, the archetypical zombie; or as a soul without a body, an immaterial being, a disembodied ghost forced to wander; or (as in the earliest text in which the word appears, 1697’s Le Zombi Du Gran Perou) as a maleficent spirit. The...

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20. Nekros: or, The Poetics of Biopolitics

Eugene Thacker

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pp. 361-380

A question: what is the “bio” of biopolitics? Contemporary theories of biopolitics often emphasize medicine and public health, political economy and governmentality, or the philosophical and rhetorical dimensions. But if biopolitics is, in Michel Foucault’s terms, that point at which “power takes hold of life,” the moment in which “biological existence was reflected in political existence,” then it follows that any theory of biopolitics will also have to interrogate the morphologies of the concept of “life” just as much as the mutations in power.1...

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21. Grey: A Zombie Ecology

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen

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pp. 381-394

Grey is the fate of color at twilight. As the sun’s radiance dwindles, objects receive less light to scatter and absorb. They yield to the world a diminishing energy, so that the vibrancy of orange, indigo, and red dulls to dusky hues. A grey ecology might therefore seem a moribund realm, an expanse of slow loss, wanness, and withdrawal, a graveyard space of mourning. Perhaps with such muted steps, the apocalypse arrives, not with a bang but with a dimming. Or maybe ashen grey is all that remains after the fires of the world’s end have extinguished themselves, when nothing remains unburned....

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22. A Zombie Manifesto: The Nonhuman Condition in the Era of Advanced Capitalism

Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry

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pp. 395-412

The zombie has been one of the most prevalent monsters in films of the second half of the twentieth century, and as many have noted, it has experienced a further resurgence (or should we say resurrection) in British and American film in the last five years.1 Zombies are found everywhere, from video games and comic books2 to the science textbook. The zombie has become a scientific concept by which we define cognitive processes and states of being, subverted animation, and dormant consciousness. In neuroscience, there are “zombie agents”;3 in computer science, there are “zombie functions.”4...

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23. “We Are the Walking Dead”: Race, Time, and Survival in Zombie Narrative

Gerry Canavan

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pp. 413-432

Once banished to the gross-out fringe of straight-to-video horror, all but dead, zombies have come back. Beginning early in the Bush era—even before 9/11, with the filming of 28 Days Later in London in summer 2001—and continuing unabatedly through the present, the figure of the zombie now lurks at the very center of global mass culture. Alongside the 28 Days Later franchise, we might name myriad George Romero sequels, remakes, and pastiches; other films like House of the Dead, Quarantine, I Am Legend, and Planet Terror; zombie video game franchises like Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, and Dead...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 433-434

This is a many-voiced volume, but beyond the names listed in the table of contents, there are others whose contributions can be heard among these pages. For example, for my part, I would like to acknowledge not only my coauthor of the “Zombie Manifesto,” Karen Embry, who indulged me in what must have seemed at the time like a crazy idea, but equally our late professor and mentor Marc Blanchard, who made us write a seminar paper together for his critical theory course as an experiment in transcending intellectual individuality. That was the beginning of our “Zombie Manifesto,” of my interest in...

Further Reading

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pp. 435-452

Previous Publications

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pp. 453-456

Contributors

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pp. 457-460

Index

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pp. 461-474