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Zombies and Autism – it’s about metaphors

August 24, 2012

CantonRep has published today a short blog by Ken Roberts, “Ghosts and Autism: You have never heard this before” suggesting an “observed psychic connection between those with autism and the spirit world”. Roberts is affiliated with a Christian based Ohio company called “Warehouse on the Canal” with ghost tours and other supernatural (and Edgar Allen Poe) themed events.

This connection of ghosts to autism reminds me of a research paper I consider strongly influential to my current research about zombies:

“Use of the Machine Metaphor Within Autism Research”
by Scot Danforth and Srikala Naraian
Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities,
Vol. 19, No. 3. (June 2007), pp. 273-290

The Danforth and Naraian paper is a content analysis of scholarly autism research examined for use of metaphors that relate to machines like programming, input/output, controls, operations, as if the children were computers, robots or mere information processors.

The word “zombie” can sometimes be synonymous with “automaton” which is then synonymous with “robot” (recall cybernetic zombies). Also “automaton” can be used as an antonym for ‘creative person’. In this way, autism is about notions of human free will and I would therefore highlight again the connection of zombie metaphors to Christian-friendly entertainment organizations. Coincidentally, Danforth was at Ohio State University when he published that paper. He is no longer in Ohio, now at San Diego State (I think), but it’s a funny connection of Ohio and the non-human autism metaphors. See also

See also, this 2005 essay in the NYTimes entitled: “Autism as Metaphor” in which a character’s symptoms of “severe autism” are interpreted “as the signals she uses to commune with extraterrestrials”. Note the obvious connection of zombies to aliens (particularly as related to Cold War type fears and psychoanalytic Otherness).

Finally, and not necessarily related, last year some girl posted a Youtube video called “Casper the Autistic Ghost” – the video makes no sense to me, but I think it must be related.

Everything is related in metaphor?!


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