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…

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 Féssant

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

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