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Zombie culture: dissent, celebration and the carnivalesque in social spaces

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Given the current popularity of the social phenomena known as zombie walks, it seems timely to interrogate what cultural meanings both the zombie walk and the zombie body hold. The zombie walk is essentially a social gathering of a number of people who dress and act as zombies in a predetermined social space and for a set amount of time: this chapter does not have space to discuss flash mobs, or the newer phenomena of zombie obstacle runs, but we can consider them as part of an overall popular cultural response to fictional depictions of the dead body, which is the main focus of this writing. Starting with a discussion of the dead body and how responses to death are both social and also spatial, we can fruitfully use the ideas of abjection, liminality and the ‘other’ to position the zombie body as socially meaningful. From this a discussion of fictional uses of the zombie, in particular its incursion into social space and how it may offer a representation of carnival through the grotesque body, is offered. This focuses on Rémi Astrucs’ contemporary re-evaluation of Mikhail Bakhtin’s seminal work on the carnival and grotesque. Finally, a discussion of other social gatherings and how their uses may indicate a thematic framework for evaluating zombie walks is considered. Characterisations of zombie walks offered here are based on informal observation of two zombie walks — Brighton’s Beach of the Dead in 2011 and the first zombie walk in Portsmouth, 2010 — and further viewing of several fan videos of zombie walks online; all of which are meant as illustrative, not definitive summaries of behaviours and costumes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Zombie Renaissance in Popular Culture
EditorsLaura Hubner, Marcus Leaning, Paul Manning
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages174-190
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-27650-6
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-27649-0, 978-1-349-44667-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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