Actor Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster

‘Zombi’ and the Politics of Representation

Instructor: Anjuli Raza Kolb
Singularity & Co
18 Bridge St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

In the last five years zombies have risen from the dustbins of American popular culture. A new zombie theme park is taking up residence in an abandoned neighborhood in Detroit. Protestors in New York staged a “Night of the Living Debt” demonstration to draw attention to the ever-growing burden of student debt. Scores of movies and big-budget TV shows are feeding the zombie craze. Following a spate of particularly violent and senseless crimes, the Assistant Surgeon General of the United States has reassured the public that there is no sign of a real zombie apocalypse, while novelists high and low are trying their hand at seemingly endless font of narrative possibilities that avail themselves when ordinary people encounter their brainless, deathless counterparts. How do we make sense of this explosion in zombie stories? What is the history of this peculiar and perennially popular genre? This course will begin with an exploration of the history of zombi, a Haitian word of uncertain provenance—most likely from the Kikongo or Yoruba words for fetish or god—that describes existence on the very edges of life. Zombi, in the voodoo tradition, is both powerful and resistant: a means of troubling the line between life and death under the conditions of slavery and the evacuation of actionable will. Does this sense of resistance, power, and godliness linger in contemporary representations of zombies? Does contemporary zombie fiction engage in a meaningful way with the history of race in America and the Caribbean that gave rise to it? We will read novels, short stories, and a small selection of secondary literature. Four films will be screened in cooperation with Observatory.

[Enrollment includes admission to these screenings!]

Course Schedule

Monday, 7-9pm
September 24 — October 29, 2012
6 weeks

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