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Zombie horror and global revolution

During the present lead-up to the release of the widely anticipated World War Z movie in June 2013, and amidst the ongoing waves of political and socioeconomic unrest convulsing the real world, there’s much to think about, meditate on, and be thoroughly shaken by in this blog post from anthropologist Gastón Gordillo of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver:

The genre of a zombie pandemic is quite distinct within the larger genre of end-of-the-world scenarios that currently fascinates popular culture. This is the only apocalypse created not by natural cataclysms but, rather, by human bodies that stop obeying the state. In being guided by one unrelenting desire, zombies are human bodies that have been freed from hierarchies, conventions, consumerism, and indoctrination by the media; and this un-coding creates a collective, leaderless, and expansive occupation of space that makes the state crumble. Zombies have this unique power to destroy the state, primarily, because they are free from fear. [World War Z author Max] Brooks was asked why he thinks we are witnessing a growing fascination with zombies, and he candidly replied that they represent anxieties about a world in turmoil and about “chaos in the streets.” And this takes us back to the power of fearless multitudes. The phrase “we are no longer afraid” was one of the most recurring sentiments uttered during the 2011 insurrections of North Africa and the Middle East. Those were, indeed, multitudes that could no longer be “shocked and awed.” That is the affect that terrifies Brooks and that made him fantasize about a global campaign of indiscriminate state violence against rebellious hordes.

But the fear of the coming zombie insurrection may also be a tangential, not-fully-articulated recognition of the zombie-like conditions that capitalism has long cultivated at a planetary scale. After all, the global grinding machine depends on turning billions of people into passive, depoliticized bodies guided (like ticks and zombies) by just a few rudimentary affects: working, consuming, and obeying. Maybe what makes World War Z truly terrifying is the hidden recognition that the insurgent multitudes presented as lifeless hordes have woken up from their zombie nightmare to become unbearably human.

— Gastón Gordillo, “World Revolution Z,” Space and Politics, December 5, 2012

Regardless of your political leanings, watching the (extremely effective) trailer with Dr. Gordillo’s insights in mind makes for an exceptionally bracing philosophical experience full of endless epicycles of connotation and fiction-meets-real-world symbolism. See especially the iconic pyramid of zombie bodies scaling a wall near the trailer’s end.