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Those aren’t zombies! Bestiary of similar (or related) monsters

October 9, 2012

Sean Gandert at Paste writes “Not Undead Yet: 8 Monsters Commonly Mistaken For Zombies”:

1) Deadites
2) Necromorphs
3) Darkseekers
4) Demons
5) Conversationalist
6) Wights
7) Frankenstein Monster/Re-animator
8) Rage Virus Victims

As a social constructivist who is studying “zombies” in language, I am not sure I totally agree. From my academic perspective, anything called a zombie is a zombie. That said, anything called something else is something else. This leads to the question of whether some thing can be both a “zombie” and “not a zombie”. And I think the answer to that question has to be yes (except that who is not a zombie?). Such contradictory incoherence is the very foundation of our Modern understanding of animal rights and democratic equality (we are all animals, presumed equality).

Bruno Latour would remind that we have never been modern and that modernity is a project in dissociatively separating so-called natural categories from so-called human constructions (so as to profit from the hybrid blendings). Despite the Modern rhetoric, we live in a world that is always blended, where binomial categories are fictions – yes, sometimes useful fiction, but fictions nonetheless. So we socially construct the meaning of life and death but from a more Universal perspective, it is all the same.

Zombies are creatures that defies binomial conceptions. Neither alive nor dead but both. The mind-body problem in a body form. A humanoid animal, not human only because it is not human. A mindless violent man… but aren’t we all?!

Now zombie enthusiasts may want to protect their turf by defining the field of acceptable zombies. This is part of the us/them of group formation. But it seems to me that all the monsters listed above by Gandert are all sorts of kinds of zombies. Gandert is spokespersoning for a stronger delineation of zombies but in so doing he is also strengthening the relationship of all these characters to zombies. The most classic Romero zombies are not technically “zombies” since the word isn’t in the movie, but of course they are. So we could say also that the word and the concept have themselves already dissociated somewhat and so maybe that is precisely the issue.

Afterall, there is no real zombie. I keep saying “we are all zombies” but we are also not. We are “people”, whatever that means to you…

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