Zombie Theory

A Reader


Sarah Juliet Lauro, Editor

An interdisciplinary collection of the best international scholarship on zombies as the embodiment of anxieties, critiques, and desires

Assembling the best international, interdisciplinary zombie scholarship, this collection considers what the walking undead reveal about our relationships to the world and to each other. Essays portray zombies not as a singular cultural figure but as representative of larger issues: the belief in an afterlife, fears of contagion and technology, the effect of capitalism and commodification, racial exclusion and oppression, dehumanization.

Zombies first shuffled across movie screens in 1932 in the low-budget Hollywood film White Zombie and were reimagined as undead flesh-eaters in George A. Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead almost four decades later. Today, zombies are omnipresent in global popular culture, from video games and top-rated cable shows in the United States to comic books and other visual art forms to low-budget films from Cuba and the Philippines. The zombie’s ability to embody a variety of cultural anxieties—ecological disaster, social and economic collapse, political extremism—has ensured its continued relevance and legibility, and has precipitated an unprecedented deluge of international scholarship.

Zombie studies manifested across academic disciplines in the humanities but also beyond, spreading into sociology, economics, computer science, mathematics, and even epidemiology. Zombie Theory collects the best interdisciplinary zombie scholarship from around the world. Essays portray the zombie not as a singular cultural figure or myth but show how the undead represent larger issues: the belief in an afterlife, fears of contagion and technology, the effect of capitalism and commodification, racial exclusion and oppression, dehumanization. As presented here, zombies are not simple metaphors; rather, they emerge as a critical mode for theoretical work. With its diverse disciplinary and methodological approaches, Zombie Theory thinks through what the walking undead reveal about our relationships to the world and to each other.

Contributors: Fred Botting, Kingston U; Samuel Byrnand, U of Canberra; Gerry Canavan, Marquette U; Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, George Washington U; Jean Comaroff, Harvard U; John Comaroff, Harvard U; Edward P. Comentale, Indiana U; Anna Mae Duane, U of Connecticut; Karen Embry, Portland Community College; Barry Keith Grant, Brock U; Edward Green, Roosevelt U; Lars Bang Larsen; Travis Linnemann, Eastern Kentucky U; Elizabeth McAlister, Wesleyan U; Shaka McGlotten, Purchase College-SUNY; David McNally, York U; Tavia Nyong’o, Yale U; Simon Orpana, U of Alberta; Steven Shaviro, Wayne State U; Ola Sigurdson, U of Gothenburg; Jon Stratton, University of South Australia; Eugene Thacker, The New School; Sherryl Vint, U of California Riverside; Priscilla Wald, Duke U; Tyler Wall, Eastern Kentucky U; Jen Webb, U of Canberra; Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Central Michigan U.

Sarah Juliet Lauro is assistant professor of English at the University of Tampa. She is author of The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Resistance, and Living-Death and coeditor of Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human.

Introduction: Wander and Wonder in Zombieland
Sarah Juliet Lauro
Part I. Old Schools: Classic Zombies
1. Contagious Allegories: George Romero
Steven Shaviro
2. Zombie TV: Late-Night B Movie Horror Fest
Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock
3. Viral Cultures: Microbes and Politics in the Cold War
Priscilla Wald
4. Slaves, Cannibals, and Infected Hyper-Whites: The Race and Religion of Zombies
Elizabeth McAlister
5. Slavoj Žižek, the Death Drive, and Zombies: A Theological Account
Ola Sigurdson
Part II. Capitalist Monsters
6. Some Kind of Virus: The Zombie as Body and as Trope
Jen Webb and Samuel Byrnand
7. Ugly Beauty: Monstrous Dreams of Utopia
David McNally
8. Alien-Nation: Zombies, Immigrants, and Millennial Capitalism
Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff
9. Zombies of Immaterial Labor: The Modern Monster and the Consumption of the Self
Lars Bang Larsen
10. Abject Posthumanism: Neoliberalism, Biopolitics, and Zombies
Sherryl Vint
Part III. Zombies and Other(ed) People
11. Zombie Race
Edward P. Comentale
12. Taking Back the Night of the Living Dead: George Romero, Feminism, and the Horror Film
Barry Keith Grant
13. Dead and Live Life: Zombies, Queers, and Online Sociality
Shaka McGlotten
14. Dead and Disabled: The Crawling Monsters of The Walking Dead
Anna Mae Duane
15. Trouble with Zombies: Muselmänner, Bare Life, and Displaced People
Jon Stratton
Part IV. Zombies in the Street
Preface: In Memoriam: The Toronto Zombie Walk (2003–2015)
Sarah Juliet Lauro
16. Zombie London: Unexceptionalities of the New World Order
Fred Botting
17. Spooks of Biopower: The Uncanny Carnivalesque of Zombie Walks
Simon Orpana
18. The Scene of Occupation
Tavia Nyong’o
19. The Walking Dead and Killing State: Zombification and the Normalization of Police Violence
Travis Linnemann, Tyler Wall, and Edward Green
Part V. New Life for the Undead
20. Nekros: or, The Poetics of Biopolitics
Eugene Thacker
21. Grey: A Zombie Ecology
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
22. A Zombie Manifesto: The Nonhuman Condition in the Era of Advanced Capitalism
Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry
23. “We Are the Walking Dead”: Race, Time, and Survival in Zombie Narrative
Gerry Canavan
Previous Publications
Further Reading