Launching Collective Voices

Letter from the Editors - October, 2009

Thank you for joining us for the first issue of Collective Voices! Several factors contributed to the creation of this magazine. First and foremost, we wanted to give disability studies students a voice; an outlet through which to express ourselves creatively. As students so much of our time is spent on academic writing for classes, exams, conferences, publications, and hopefully dissertations. This magazine is intended for the other stuff…

Anthology of Zombiology

Posted by K. Caldwell - October, 2009

Collected works from the first inclusive conference on zombie rights -- While the recent popularization of vampires in modern culture may have breathed new life into studies of the undead, there is one population that remains overlooked – zombies. Consequently, those who identify as such, persons with un-death, remain disenfranchised and underserved by society. Not as romantic an endeavor, Zombiology as a field presents two main challenges to young scholars…

Capitalizm: The Political Economy of Zombies

Book Review by V. Cuk - October, 2009

A minority group of Afro-Caribbean origin; zombies have historically been discriminated against within societies who have overwhelmingly designated institutional or peripheral spaces for this group. It is widely known that zombies are highly photosensitive; however, without any accommodation from society it is impossible for them to fully participate as citizens. A groundbreaking theory by Alistair Moneybags attempts to provide new insights into the discrimination and “lived” experience of zombies…

The Consequences of the Costume

Posted by R. Parrey - October, 2009

There is a certain Halloween costume I’ve seen online that lets the wearer become a zombie, but not with make-up or a mask. This "costume" puts the wearer in an all black outfit to which a zombie body has been affixed. As the black-clad person moves and dances so too does the life-sized zombie marionette. The costume only works if the wearer is thought to disappear completely…

Crip the Mass

Posted by K. Caldwell - October, 2009

On the last Friday of every month hundreds of Chicagoans gather in Daley Plaza for Critical Mass. While most noted as being a sort of controlled chaos for avid bicyclists, Critical Mass has developed as a spontaneous community. Friends that you see once a month and share an unforgettable ride with. In theory the Mass is apolitical, but many people are driven to become part of it for their own reasons…

Launching Collective Voices

Posted by Collective Voices On 4:24 PM 0 comments
Letter from the Editor

Thank you for joining us for the first issue of Collective Voices!

Several factors contributed to the creation of this magazine. First and foremost, we wanted to give disability studies students a voice; an outlet through which to express ourselves creatively. As students so much of our time is spent on academic writing for classes, exams, conferences, publications, and hopefully dissertations. This magazine is intended for the other stuff… for those ideas that seem silly, bizarre, or half-baked but are still informed by a disability studies perspective. We believe that such diversions deserve to be shared too. So while our content is intended to be entertaining, we hope that you find it thought provoking as well.

Further, in bringing together our collective voices we hope to strengthen this burgeoning community of scholars, artists, and advocates. This is not just our magazine… this is your magazine.

How does this thing work?

Collective Voices will start out in bi-monthly syndication (every other month). Each issue will have a theme released the preceding month. We not only welcome and encourage submissions from viewers like you… we depend on them! Each issue will also have a contest of sorts. Now bear in mind that being students ourselves we don’t have any $$$ so the prize will be our esteem and a place of honor in the next issue. You can find the contest for this month below. Each issue will also feature a poll that can be found on the bottom, right-hand side of the webpage.

If you would like to get involved in the magazine click here for a list of open positions.

What is December’s Theme?

Wanderlust! – Let’s face it, December is depressing and often you want to be anywhere but sitting in front of a computer screen reading articles on the social construction of or theoretical approaches to disability related whatchemacallits. For this reason we have dedicated December’s issue to wanderlust. If you have an idea for an article relating to disability studies in other cultures or “Tales of Student Travels” check out our submissions page! We look forward to hearing from you.

Photo Contest – We would like to put together a cross-cultural slideshow of people with disabilities in many different countries. So if you have any pictures from home or vacation photos depicting this please send them our way!

Introducing our First Issue:

OMG Zombiez! – You may have noticed that we have chosen a zombie theme for this first issue. What began as an inside joke morphed into a kind of obsession as we found applying various theories of disability to zombies challenging. For example: how would you apply a social model to alleviate the oppression of a zombie population? How would zombies find themselves positioned in the political economy? Discussions have also led us to question how and why we have constructed the zombie as we have and what similarities exist given how disability has been socially constructed. Further, what does that say about our culture? We attempt to address these topics in the following articles, and realize that we are only starting the conversation...


Now, let our magazine’s birth begin with un-death!


Collective Voices © 2009

While the recent popularization of vampires in modern culture may have breathed new life into studies of the undead, there is one population that remains overlooked – zombies. Consequently, those who identify as such, persons with un-death, remain disenfranchised and underserved by society. Not as romantic an endeavor, Zombiology as a field presents two main challenges to young scholars who hope to analyze the “zombie experience.” First, trying to recruit a zombie in the field proves difficult because, very often, they try to eat you. Second, when a zombie does respond in person to a recruitment flier someone inevitably shoots them in the head before the interview commences. Thankfully, the following excerpts were found in the ruins of the conference hotel hosting the first zombie inclusive symposium on the topic. It appears that scholars on both sides of "the zombie question" were in attendance. We have reproduced this material as best as possible given the extreme damage and gore…

Zombie Persecution – by Frank N. Stein

For too long Zombies have been victims of a society that does not take us into account. That's right, Zombies with a capital Z! We are a people that are ignored, feared, ostracized, and eliminated. Too often my brethren and I are turned away from shopping malls and other public spaces with shouts of, "if you don't breathe, you have to leave" and worse. If Black is Beautiful then why isn't decomposition delightful? This oppressed existence has led many of us to revolt in efforts to take back the night from campers and people out walking their dogs. Unlike vampires, ghosts, and werewolves we are not "monsters" but rather a dietary minority…

Let Them Eat Cake! – by Dr. Eugene Tasteybrainz

… There is a need for more evidenced-based research on the nutritional behaviors of zombies to unearth the reasons behind why they eat the brains of healthy humans. It has been suggested this is due to inherent malnourishment and that the zombie must feed off the living to survive. However, it is my contention that this brain-eating behavior is the result of social oppression. Perhaps if we as a society ceased our discrimination of zombies they would stop pursuing and eating so-called “healthy” bodies. This begs the question, what does health really mean? Drawing on my earlier work, Toward a Social Model of Zombiology (2004), wherein our fear-fueled society views zombies not as people with un-death, but rather as un-death itself…

Resources: Zombie Anti Defamation League

Rising Up: The Story of the Zombie Rights Movement

Not Dead Yet: A History of Zombie Eugenics – by Martha Trubblehorn

Zombies have long been a part of Haitian folklore. Said to have derived from voodoo, these reanimated bodies are not believed to be self-aware or particularly dangerous unless fed salt, which is rumored to have a restorative effect on their senses. Even so, this phenomenon resonated with people’s fears and laws were put into effect that condemned zombie creation:

“It shall also be qualified as attempted murder the employment which may be made against any person of substances which, without causing actual death, produce a lethargic coma more or less prolonged. If, after the person had been buried, the act shall be considered murder no matter what result follows.”

-Article 246, Haitian Penal Code

In the early 1980’s ethnobotanist and anthropologist Wade Davis began conducting research into the causal factors of zombie accounts. Davis found these accounts might be a reaction to a chemical in “zombie powder” that makes the victim appear dead. However, zombie advocates reject the argument that their existence is merely a medicinal byproduct. Such a notion serves to devalue their personhood. Particularly since persons with un-death are already seen in the eyes of the law to have been murdered; violence, incarceration, and other forms of discrimination become moot. As such, zombie rights are not recognized or protected by the state…

The Futility of the Zombie Survival Guide Genre – by Mal F├ęssant

Countless books of the “zombie survival guide” persuasion contend that the only way the human race can survive is to kill zombies; to euthanize them in an effort to ensure the survival of true human beings. This approach assumes un-death is somehow unnatural or wrong and thus should be eradicated and zombies put out of their misery. However, take into consideration for a moment that we are all perhaps only temporarily un-dead. Further, death is one of the few certainties we have in life:

“… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

- Zombie advocate, Benjamin Franklin (1789).

If death is already the antithesis to life, then why are zombies seen as the penultimate end of life as we know it? It could be said that “life” continues on after death and in that vein un-death as such should be valued. Therefore zombie survival guide authors’ intentions are misplaced. Rather than expending their efforts in fighting zombiness, they should embrace it.

Strong opponents of this approach can be found at the National Center for Reanimation Prevention and Control (NCRPC), which urges Americans to “Fight the Bite! Protect yourself, your family, and your community from zombies.” Their deceptively compelling argument rests on the supposition that zombies are actually trying to feast on the brains of healthy citizens. A sentiment echoed in the noted Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks (2003) who asserts, “Don’t be afraid. Use your head. And cut off theirs.” It is this sort of knee-jerk reaction to difference that perpetuates zombie oppression...

The Commodification of Zombie Bodies: A Feminist Critique – by Christine Blundstone

Deformed. Desiccated. Disgusting. The media has perpetually portrayed zombie bodies in this light. Gruesome and horrific un-human creatures, zombies are believed to be mindless. However, such a limited cognitive and emotional capacity remains unsubstantiated. Perhaps it is because they are viewed as less-than-human or mindless that we, as a society, feel guiltless over the rampant commodification of zombie bodies and capitalize from their suffering. Consider how many millions of dollars are made from movies that massacre entire zombie communities. Yet little is said about how they create and maintain strong social networks and bond together in what are perceived as rabid mobs. The commercialization of zombie bodies can also be seen in the superficial performance of un-death and trivialization of the zombie experience through costuming. Such practices provide non-zombies with an illusion of control.

Whereas vampires are romanticized and epitomize a seductive monstracism, our culture’s perception of zombies represents the human condition at its worst. The work of photographer Ivan Hidalgo, Zombie Chic, raises the question – can zombies be sexy?



Collective Voices © 2009
By V. Cuk
Inclusion of zombies in the employment arena will create a significant imbalance in the market and threat to our way of life. (Moneybags 2009: 46)

A minority group of Afro-Caribbean origin; zombies have historically been discriminated against within societies who have overwhelmingly designated institutional or peripheral spaces for this group. It is widely known that zombies are highly photosensitive; however, without any accommodation from society it is impossible for them to fully participate as citizens. A groundbreaking theory by Alistair Moneybags attempts to provide new insights into the discrimination and “lived” experience of zombies in his work, The Zombie Political Economy (2009).

In contrast to Caribbean traditions, Moneybags suggests that zombies developed out of capitalism as the ultimate form of reserve army of labor. The construct of interest in this discussion is one of interchangeable workers, or what Marx calls surplus labor, which represent the foundation for the development of capitalism and industrialization. It is argued that capitalism in western civilizations was developed based on workers’ fear of being replaced. Zombies remind us that there is always someone who will do the same job as us, but cheaper and more mindlessly.

In an effort to both promote the use of zombie workers and to ensure that this labor force remains subdued, capitalism promotes the widely held belief that zombies are willing to work for brains. Russell (2002) argues that the capitalist system intentionally places some groups of people in the surplus and out of employment arena. She refers to this phenomenon as a “compulsory unemployment.” Capitalism, as conceptualized within modern neoliberal discourse, is in constant need of reinforcing the established free market to preserve the status quo. Zombies, according to Moneybags’ theory of zombie political economy, were designed to play this role and act as the ultimate surplus labor. Employers do not seek to hire people that have been summarily portrayed by society as monsters and who they feel would foster a dangerous work environment. If a change is not made, they will forever remain surplus labor. How can we get zombies to be more fun in the workplace? At this point it is unlikely that instituting “Wacky Tie Day” will be enough.

Depictions of zombies in film continue to show them attempting to get into a shopping mall while a handful of humans struggle to keep them out, this is NOT a commentary on contemporary capitalist society per se but rather the film-makers’ sympathetic portrayal of the ways that zombies are barred from participating in the traditional capitalist system. Why zombies? Why should capitalism need to design such threatening creatures to secure surplus labor? Labor is highly valued within capitalistic and Western societies. According to the theory of political economy, capitalist and neoliberal society needed to design such a surplus group of laborers considered less than human. Zombies don’t just represent this group, they are becoming it. They are part of society, but placed on the absolute periphery and ostracized, so far from the center and inclusion that they could never seek a chance for participation in society, doomed to wander the Earth in search of meaning. Given the structural discrimination against Zombies they are unable to work and therefore cannot become valued members of society. Thus, they represent a symbol for everything that non-workers are in capitalism.

There is another reason why neoliberal capitalism created zombies. There are segments of our society that do not work for various unexplainable and immoral reasons. While they once acted at the behest of their Voodoo masters, Zombies now serve the capitalist ruling discourse to draw comparison between zombies and the other nonproductive, lazy and worthless parts of society. In fact, zombies are nothing but a blessing for neoliberal discourse in the First World. In conclusion, while some T-Shirts would like us to think that “Zombies just want hugs” the truth is that zombies just want a fair wage, suitable housing, and for god sake, let them in the malls!


Collective Voices © 2009

The Consequences of the Costume

Posted by Collective Voices On 3:45 PM 0 comments
By R. Parrey

There is a certain Halloween costume I’ve seen online that lets the wearer become a zombie, but not with make-up or a mask. This "costume" puts the wearer in an all black outfit to which a zombie body has been affixed. As the black-clad person moves and dances so too does the life-sized zombie marionette. The costume only works if the wearer is thought to disappear completely. Rather than simply making the wearable zombie into an object of control, we are supposed to believe that the zombie is all there is; that there is no one in black clothes behind it. This demands that we think of the wearer (in black) not as himself but as this zombie we see before us.

The costume presents an excellent opportunity for thinking about what it means to "be" a zombie but without offering any suggestions as to how that is done. For help knowing how to be a zombie we can turn to the movies. Since zombies aren’t real we can't ask one how or why they behave as they do but we can rent a DVD or go to the multiplex and watch how directors have told actors to do it. However, the onscreen portrayal of zombies doesn't provide a unified picture of zombie comportment. For example, there is a world of difference between Ramero's slow-moving silent lurchers in Dawn of the Dead and Boyle's fast-moving eating machines in 28 Days Later. The overhomogenization of zombie identity, despite the fact that there is not simply one way to express "zombiness," is highly problematic conceptually. But, let's say you've bought the costume, watched all the movies, washed a pillowcase for all your candy, and are about to head out the door—what do you do?

If zombies were real then at this point you’d likely expect a diatribe about non-normative embodiments and social justice, but they are not. However, what if zombies were? Imagine for a moment if we were to subsist in a world where zombies actually exist as a fact of life. What would that be like for us and for them? The popular Showtime series TruBlood imagines that vampires are real and portrays their struggle to integrate into society as a civil rights issue. Similarly, we can imagine that zombies would be marginalized, seen as a threat and a burden on the larger, non-zombie society. This alternative state of zombie lives. In popular representations fictional zombies are commonly institutionalized or exterminated so it is no stretch to presume that the same would hold true for actual ones as well.

Of course there would be justifications for treating zombies this way just as there have been reasons put forward to justify the unequal treatment of other groups. One might suggest, as have authors in this collection, that zombies, like other groups, are thought to represent the worst of human nature and would thus bear the brunt of societies' displaced fears and anxieties. Briefly put, zombies are seen as representing deterioration of the mind and body, conformity, lack of self-control, and the absence of choice. We, ourselves, deride and bemoan the experience, albeit temporarily, of feeling like a zombie: working a 9-5 job, sitting in front of the TV for hours on end, or standing in lines at Disneyland. Clearly then, being a zombie entails mindlessness and drudgery within the cultural imagination.

But is it that zombies represent despised parts of ourselves, or do they instead represent despised aspects of life? Further, is that why they are the seen as the antithesis of both life and death? No one likes taking one small step after another in pursuit of an ephemeral goal but this is, after all, what zombies do. Time and again they slowly chase after someone, eat their brain or flesh, and then move on to the next. The zombie is never satiated and yet we do not get a sense that he represents gluttony. This begs the question of what zombies want after all. It has to be more than just the brains and the flesh of the living. Perhaps yet another pop culture reference will help us answer this question:

In several Hollywood films we've seen zombies clamoring to get inside a suburban shopping mall. I stipulate that the zombie horde is not trying to gain access to commerce (as has been suggested in this volume), but instead that they are trying to engage with the few remaining humans that hold up in the mall. Film depictions of zombies entering the mall and then eating the humans residing there is meant to make us afraid of them. The protestant work-ethic that still permeates U.S. culture is to blame. Remember that the "problem" with zombies is that they are largely aimless and even as they pursue their goals they do so with shuffling feet and a slow pace. While we work, shop, eat, talk on the phone, use TiVo, update facebook, sexting, blue tooth, iPods... if zombies were real they would have no use for these frivolities. The zombie is content to wander the earth at her own pace; perhaps taking pleasure in the quest for food but needing little else. The zombie is not a yuppie. The zombie is not a Japanese business man. The zombie is not even a hocky mom. And this is why they are a symbol of revulsion.

Remember a few paragraphs ago you weren't sure what to do with your new zombie costume? Well, we've seen here that the best thing to do is very little, almost nothing. If you buy this costume and take on the challenge of accurate zombie performance your friends will call you lazy. No, you are not lazy – you are a zombie! The benefit of taking the zombie costume, and your performance in and through it, seriously is that you will come to understand a different way of knowing, moving through, and being in the world. In the final analysis the performance of zombiness is varied and diverse and so too must be our collective notion of "zombie identity." The trick is to remember that the same is true of many existent identity groups. It is through understanding the experiences of other divergent groups, be they real or fictional, that we better understand our own.



Collective Voices © 2009

Crip the Mass

Posted by Collective Voices On 3:40 PM 0 comments
By K. Caldwell

On the last Friday of every month hundreds of Chicagoans gather in Daley Plaza for Critical Mass. While most noted as being a sort of controlled chaos for avid bicyclists, Critical Mass has developed as a spontaneous community. Friends that you see once a month and share an unforgettable ride with. In theory the Mass is apolitical, but many people are driven to become part of it for their own reasons such as sharing the road, advocating that motorists be more aware and alert of riders and pedestrians, and advocating alternative modes of transportation. In the past, Critical Mass has been supportive of many causes. As long as you have wheels you have been welcome; they are the common uniting theme. Yet there is one group that has been underrepresented in Critical Mass – wheelchair users. However, this September a small contingent of wheelchair users and supporters with and without disabilities could be found amidst the estimated 1,700 cyclists comprising Critical Mass.

I finally made it to the end !!! I was torn between stopping with the crips & going on. So glad I did cuz I've never been able to keep up to finish. It was so liberating. -Rachel Siler


The idea had begun simply enough: I wanted to do Critical Mass with my friends, many of which have disabilities. While before beginning to organize this I thought I understood integration, it was through working with everyone who helped to make this happen that I really gained an appreciation for how difficult a thing it is to put into action. It takes interest, planning, open-mindedness, acceptance, and resources. The cycling community was really accepting and open to the idea of involving wheelchair users. Many came to our planning meeting and helped to brainstorm solutions to potential problems. On the whole, people thought it was cool even though some had reservations about whether wheelchair users would get left behind or out-paced. For that reason we had implored various organizations in the city to donate handcycles that manual wheelchair users could use during the Mass. Schwabb Rehabilitation Hospital had actually volunteered to let us use five handcycles and a recumbent bike for the event, but decided to pull their support that morning and stated that they decided it was “not in keeping with the mission of their program.” Unfortunately, this put us at a distinct disadvantage as we were unable to find suitable alternate accommodations for people on such short notice. Further, we had unanimously agreed months before that the idea of using “tow bikes” to pull wheelchair users defeated the purpose of full and equal participation. So in the end one manual wheelchair user participated by hanging onto the back of a powerchair. It was not ideal, but it worked and presents quite a different statement.

There is a certain amount of futility in trying to plan for anarchy. That said, organizers in the cycling community really pulled together to make a final route map that incorporated Crip the Mass, the T-Shirt Art Harvest Festival, and the Pedicab Fundraiser. We began by heading down Clark St. as intended, but for some reason the turn was never made at Madison St. Instead we hit a steep incline at Roosevelt & Clark. We had been worried that inclines would cause wheelchair users to separate from the rest of the Mass, but this one broke the mass entirely. It was so steep and narrow that cyclists were at a standstill while trying to “cork” and intercept traffic. Unable to gain momentum, bikes had to be walked uphill to continue. Cars got between the front and the back halves of the mass and the Chicago Police Department’s support was focused at the front. As a result, many people were dropped from the Mass. To be quite honest, wheelchair users had the best option available as they could simply enter Target and take the elevator to the next level to rejoin the others! That is, if you can enter Target without being distracted by their bargain bins and pretty wares. I will admit that I cannot.
It also happened that one of the pedicabs had space to carry a couple of friends who had neither bike nor wheelchair…

I had always heard Critical Mass described as a whirlwind of speeding bikes, stopped cars, and shouts of “Happy Friday!” Nevertheless, I showed up with my white cane and wheelchair-using friends to be a part of it all. When I arrived Daley Plaza was just another downtown square but soon it was fairly crowded with cyclists, skaters, and pedicab drivers…was this really the place for us? As it turns out, this question need not be asked. The wind and rain made it slightly unpleasant but the crowd made us feel welcome. A deaf friend and I clambered into a hastily grabbed pedicab (thanks Matt!) and were off! Very quickly we lost sight of our friends and were in the stream of motion and excitement. It was all bikes, lights, songs, and road…for about a mile. The mass took an unexpected route and we’d totally lost our friends. One of them raced to catch up to us so we’d know to meet up with them. We did, we drank, and we talked about the mass. Not all of our plans worked out that day but, I believe the point of the mass is to let go of expectations and just go with it. As people with disabilities, some of us were nervous and so wanted to plan (perhaps too much) but we learned. As a friend from San Francisco once told me, “trust the mass and it will (usually) take care of you…if not get you lost.” - Ryan Parrey

The Chicago Tribune wrote an article about the September Critical Mass. It bears noting that the author knowingly left out the inclusion of wheelchair users in the event. Rather than simply tell you how I feel about that… I’d like to know what you think. Please take a couple seconds and fill out the poll at the right of your browser, or if you would prefer you can link to the poll by clicking here.

Critical Mass is held in over 300 cities throughout the world – does yours? Have you leant your voice to building a Critical Mass? Tell us your story.


Collective Voices © 2009

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