In recent years zombies and the zombie apocalypse have loomed large in the collective American imagination. From film and television, to theme parties and marathons, zombies have even been used in counterterrorism training and course curricula from elementary to college levels to teach topics from geography to public health to sociology. As recurrent monsters in the history of capitalism, with origins in New World slavery in Haiti, zombies reflect what is monstrous in an economic system "that seems designed to eat people whole" (Newitz).
As the political unconscious of late-era capitalism, what does this increasingly normalized pop culture obsession point to? What apocalyptic futures are we repeatedly rehearsing, and how do they signal both despair of, and hope for, fundamental change?
This talk examines representations of zombies in popular culture, draws out historical connections and diverse monster theories that help us see how we—in the United States in particular—are processing and making sense of systemic social and environmental horror.
Zara Zimbardo, MA, received her Master's degree in Cultural Anthropology and Social Transformation from CIIS, and has a B.A. in Religious Studies from UC Berkeley. For the last fifteen years she has been a body-based therapist both in private practice and community health centers. She was the producer of an award-winning alternative current events television series highlighting grassroots movements for social and environmental justice, and has developed critical media literacy workshops, presentations, and curricula in collaboration with a wide range of schools throughout the Bay Area, from elementary to graduate level. As a member of the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the nation's oldest interfaith peace organization, she has worked in solidarity with nonviolent activists resisting militarism in the U.S., Israel/Palestine and Colombia. Currently she participates with various anti-racism programs, including the White Noise Collective that she co-founded, as a facilitator using critical dialogue and Theatre of the Oppressed, a form of community-based education that uses theatre exercises as tools for transformation. Ongoing research interests include the politics of representation; Islamophobia; collective memory; U.S. militarism; and nonviolent social movements.