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Zombies Rule: Anarchism, Environmentalism, and the Zombie Metaphor

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Abstract:

Some of the today’s most radical environmentalists, many of whom identify themselves as anarchists, live in urban spaces. Although many reject cars and some even reject civilization, they have not moved en masse to rural locations to set up neo-primitivist lifestyles. Even those that describe themselves as “primitivists” or “neo-Luddites” often use urban spaces to construct preliminary models of their envisioned utopia. They squat in abandoned factories, build “guerrilla gardens” in abandoned lots, and “hunt and gather” from corporate dumpsters. In other words, the built environments of industrial civilization that trouble these activists also become the basis for their new world. Although many observers see such appropriations of urban spaces as hypocritical, this essay will suggest that it reflects a shift in activist perspectives that rejects utopian purity in favor of a postmodern hybridity. These anarchists recognize the fact that even an environmentalist revolution would leave humans with the remnants of the old urban and industrial environment, not a pristine wilderness, and we must learn to re-purpose the space around us, managing rather than ignoring environmental contamination.

My essay will examine the anarchist adoption of the zombie as an example of this perspective. Although zombie movies, zombie books, zombie action figures, and other ironic zombie products are widespread in popular culture today, the anarchist subculture has embraced zombies with special vigor. An anarchist website run by French Canadians titles itself Zombie Media (an acronym for Zone Ouverte de Mobilisation pour Briser les Injustices et Exclusions), and “zombie parades” organized by anarchists in several US cities mimic the structure of a mass demonstration without the overt political content: participants dress as zombies, with painted faces and buckets of “guts” (which are sometimes use to deface environmentally offensive SUVs), as they roam the streets en masse. While many analysts of zombie movies see the zombie as a representation of late 20th-century American conformity in the face of the Cold War, consumerism, military dominance, or environmental destruction, contemporary anarchists have embraced the zombie as a symbol of the masses who can change (or destroy) society. Instead of identifying with the beleaguered humans of zombie movies, these anarchists align themselves with the zombies, who destroy symbols of militarist authority such as the police and government without moving quickly or wielding any industrial weapons.

This zombie identification, I will suggest, reflects the same sentiment that guides urban-dwelling anarchists interested in radical environmentalism. All inhabitants of industrialized countries (and perhaps of the whole world) are “infected” by the productions of industrial society, from the air we breathe to the consumer economy that we cannot escape. Although we may be zombies, anarchists suggest, we should embrace our status rather than renouncing it. Just as we have to work with our industrial habitats when we move into a more sustainable future, so we will have to give up notions of activist purity and work with our status as “zombies” while we try to make the revolution.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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MLA Citation:

McTaggart, Ursula. "Zombies Rule: Anarchism, Environmentalism, and the Zombie Metaphor" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Renaissance Hotel, Washington D.C., <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p318297_index.html>

APA Citation:

McTaggart, U. "Zombies Rule: Anarchism, Environmentalism, and the Zombie Metaphor" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Renaissance Hotel, Washington D.C. <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p318297_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: Some of the today’s most radical environmentalists, many of whom identify themselves as anarchists, live in urban spaces. Although many reject cars and some even reject civilization, they have not moved en masse to rural locations to set up neo-primitivist lifestyles. Even those that describe themselves as “primitivists” or “neo-Luddites” often use urban spaces to construct preliminary models of their envisioned utopia. They squat in abandoned factories, build “guerrilla gardens” in abandoned lots, and “hunt and gather” from corporate dumpsters. In other words, the built environments of industrial civilization that trouble these activists also become the basis for their new world. Although many observers see such appropriations of urban spaces as hypocritical, this essay will suggest that it reflects a shift in activist perspectives that rejects utopian purity in favor of a postmodern hybridity. These anarchists recognize the fact that even an environmentalist revolution would leave humans with the remnants of the old urban and industrial environment, not a pristine wilderness, and we must learn to re-purpose the space around us, managing rather than ignoring environmental contamination.

My essay will examine the anarchist adoption of the zombie as an example of this perspective. Although zombie movies, zombie books, zombie action figures, and other ironic zombie products are widespread in popular culture today, the anarchist subculture has embraced zombies with special vigor. An anarchist website run by French Canadians titles itself Zombie Media (an acronym for Zone Ouverte de Mobilisation pour Briser les Injustices et Exclusions), and “zombie parades” organized by anarchists in several US cities mimic the structure of a mass demonstration without the overt political content: participants dress as zombies, with painted faces and buckets of “guts” (which are sometimes use to deface environmentally offensive SUVs), as they roam the streets en masse. While many analysts of zombie movies see the zombie as a representation of late 20th-century American conformity in the face of the Cold War, consumerism, military dominance, or environmental destruction, contemporary anarchists have embraced the zombie as a symbol of the masses who can change (or destroy) society. Instead of identifying with the beleaguered humans of zombie movies, these anarchists align themselves with the zombies, who destroy symbols of militarist authority such as the police and government without moving quickly or wielding any industrial weapons.

This zombie identification, I will suggest, reflects the same sentiment that guides urban-dwelling anarchists interested in radical environmentalism. All inhabitants of industrialized countries (and perhaps of the whole world) are “infected” by the productions of industrial society, from the air we breathe to the consumer economy that we cannot escape. Although we may be zombies, anarchists suggest, we should embrace our status rather than renouncing it. Just as we have to work with our industrial habitats when we move into a more sustainable future, so we will have to give up notions of activist purity and work with our status as “zombies” while we try to make the revolution.


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Politics of Trade and Environment and the Transboundary Trade of Genetically Modified Organisms: A Study of Institutional Process, Regime Overlap, and North-South Politics in Global Rule-making


 
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