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Critical Zombie Theory – cognitive linguistics and construction of the non-creative

April 22, 2012

Critical Theory including Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory — why not Critical Zombie Theory?!

Apologies in advance that this ZombieLaw post is a digression from my previous posts which were mostly links to current events and legal opinions that used the word “zombie”. Some of my favorites are the recent use in Congress by Rep. Jared Pilos, Judge Frank’s impotent zombi Federal Baseball, “zombie-eyed-granny-starver Paul Ryan”, the cybernetic zombie that lives on in cyberspace, and child porn entrapment zombies and Sidney Hillman and Clara Luce from 1944‘. But today’s post is a bit different. I want to try to explore some theory behind what this ZombieLaw blog is trying to write about.

I hinted at these theories in my recent post about the Jared Pilos zombie earmarks. The importance wikipedia placed on the Congressman’s sexual preference reminded me that we are not yet in a post-identity politics. Zombie is a form of late-democracy political identity, a class of workers that feels powerless. It is a highly appropriate topic for post-modern post-human post-living theory. As I mentioned it is similar to Cyborg Theory. These ideas echo a 2010 blog by Harry Giles “Save our Zombies (and why it’s important)“:

zombies are in peril. The postmodern revolution of the fast zombie has freed our hungry foe to be a floating signifier, attaching itself to whatever anxieties and prejudices the filmmakers want to work out. And so, inevitably, the forces of reaction take over. Soon zombies will only ever represent the working class, the terrorists, the Other, and all our heroes will be white man.

Giles’ blog goes on to cite ‘A Zombie Manifesto: the Nonhuman Condition in the Era of Advanced Capitalism‘ and Donna Haraway’s ‘Cyborg Manifesto‘. His point is about media portrayals but his references to theory is compelling, and particularly as we see “zombie” actively used as a “floating signifier” in so many political and legal contexts. The metaphors embed themselves in the very understanding of these outsider classes as monsters.

There are many scholarly research interests in zombies. ZombieLaw has previously posted about MSU Social Work and CDC public health and zombie economics (and at MIT even). A major best seller, and important zombie-theory conversation starter, was also Daniel Drezner’s “Theories of International Politics and Zombies” (2010) which used the zombie hypothetical to explain complex foreign policy and government interactions during crisis. But what is the psychological effect of treating the scenario in this way. In a real crisis the actors are humans.

There are also ample more literary culture studies for example Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human and Generation Zombie: Essays on the Living Dead in Modern Culture are positively reviewed.

And another wordpress blogger seems to be working along similar lines with the blog “Zombies in the Academy” with a possible book of collected essay. Their most recent post suggests “Academia” is itself “Toxic” – reminiscent of my ZombieLaw post on the zombie education system. Zombies in the Academy has also compiled a lengthy APA-style bibliography of zombie research.

Still another blog by 3L Ken Kong, entitled Canons of Construction posted an entry this past January: Zombie Law, Part 1: are they “persons” or property? More recently Kong posted Part 2: a “Q&A” about zombie law answering some legal question as if zombies are involved. In these questions the zombies are first, herd animals (zombies in road), second, employees (unfair labor conditions) and third, Trayvon Martin (victim of exaggerated self defense).

As Anonymous say, ideas can’t die. They keep coming back in a Hegelian dialectic of history revisiting itself. This is the dialectic of the zombie that is immobile flesh, unable to control itself. But from an educational psychology perspective, we do not know where creativity comes from. The zombie is the anti-thesis of a creative person. The zombie is a class of drone dummy person. (note connection of the card game Contract Bridge to dummies and to Hegelian dialectics). Language itself is viral (Dangerous Memes) and in the context of a viral zombie infection, it may be biology itself attacking the organism. The question of the mind and where the mind is, remains an open cognitive question. Neuroscience may make us all zombie.

Meanwhile in a different but related vein we may consider this language study of pirates and infringers to be a type of Critical Pirate Study that might be related to our methodology. This kind of examination of language is exactly what ZombieLaw is blogging about. Asher Hawkin’s work “Are copyright infringers pirates and thieves” seeks to explain the rhetoric of digital property relations and how “pirate” is used to demonize infringers. Zombie serves similar purposes in assigning creative control.

So this has been a short digression into some more theoretical framework for this blog as a study in language use and socially constructed identity – or something like that.
We are all blinded and biased by our own perspective, all our creations are undead alienated labors, we know not what we do.
Sleep well, ya Zombies

zombie sleep mask

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