Home / Charli Carpenter / De-<strike>composing</strike>constructing the Zombie Menace

De-composingconstructing the Zombie Menace


Daniel Drezner has expounded on his seminal “Zombies and IR” blog post
with a full spread on the topic in the July/August Foreign Policy:

The specter of an uprising of reanimated corpses… poses a significant challenge to interpreters of international relations and the theories they use to understand the world. If the dead begin to rise from the grave and attack the living, what thinking would — or should — guide the human response? How would all those theories hold up under the pressure of a zombie assault? When should humans decide that hiding and hoarding is the right idea?

What follows is an attempt to satiate the ever-growing hunger for knowledge about how zombies will influence the future shape of the world. But this is a difficult exercise: Looking at the state of international relations theory, one quickly realizes the absence of consensus about the best way to think about global politics. There are multiple paradigms that attempt to explain international relations, and each has a different take on how political actors can be expected to respond to the living dead.

Drezner’s treatise is already being referred to as the cornerstone work of “zombie theory” akin to other foreign policy crazes such as “cybersecurity” or “counter-terrorism.”

As such, therefore, I can’t help but point out this summary of relevant IR “theory” turns a blinded eye to whole range of the perspectives that might be presumed useful to comprehending this emerging transnational threat. Would not post-colonial theory help us understand the unique Haitian approach to the zombie menace? Would not constructivist IR theory contribute a more nuanced understanding of the power relations required to make the zombie community hang together, and the cultural reasons for the abject neglect of the such non-traditional threats by policymakers thus far? Would not IR feminism attune us to the impact of marauding zombie mayhem on zombie women and children, to say nothing of usefully deconstructing the gendered narrative about threats-of-the-flesh that underpins the popularity of zombie hysteria? (I hungrily await Laura Sjoberg’s take on Drezner’s piece.)

Surely a more complete understanding of IR theory would lead to a brainier policy response. Then again, this is Foreign Policy, and I suspect behind this article is a humorous back-room story about the ever-contentious process of translating academic theories and jargon to a beltway audience – a process that often takes the bite right out of IR theory.

What Drezner conclusively shows, however, is the urgency with which security specialists must sink our teeth into this body of uncharted research. Hint, hint, National Science Foundation and DoD Minerva Project: a new Cross-Cutting Program on Zombie-Human Social Dynamics?

[cross-posted at Duck of Minervaand Current Intelligence.]

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  • Surely a more complete understanding of IR theory would lead to a brainier policy response.

    Sadly, the brainier response plays right into the hands of the zombies, who will then use those delicious, brainier brains for sustenance.

  • redrob

    More fear-mongering in the Village! Are we ginning up fear of Zombies for another imperialist war?

    Dara O’Briain put it into perspective:
    “Zombies are at an all time low level, but the fear of zombies could be incredibly high. It doesn’t mean you have to have government policy to deal with the fear of zombies fer Christ’s sake!”


  • DrDick

    Now I know where the villagers and the neocons get their foreign policy ideas.

  • Some Guy

    The looming zombie threat must be calmly and rationally assessed and responded to. Now is not the time to go off half cocked, prodded by anti-zombie hysteria.

    Are the zombies the slow, lumbering, group-think automatons, who can only shuffle to and fro, thinking only of brains? If so, then chances are very good of the survival of the human race, with a simple preparation of handing out long reaching melee weapons, say a nice 2-4 pound sledge hammer, and and ample supply of high round-capacity shotguns, with ammo caches sprinkled throughout the land. After the initial panic and confusion runs its course, it’s a simple matter of clean up of the shamblers.

    If, on the other hand, the zombie threat reveals itself to be of the running, jumping, thinking variety, with the capacity to use basic hand tools or, god help us all, firearms, then I believe the best course of action is for everyone to french kiss their government issue zombie shotguns. Because we shall all be well and truly fucked.

    I’ve also given though of using road signs to craft crude but effective and weather resistant anti-zombie armor. Let’s see you try to bite through a quarter inch of anodized aluminum, you ugly undead son of a bitch!

    • NBarnes

      I really don’t have anything to add to this analysis.

      Slow zombies aren’t any more dangerous than any other high-mortality, rapid-onset, poorly-transmissible disease. AIDS didn’t wipe out the human race, and AIDS, in notable contrast to zombies, responds poorly to shotgun-based therapies. I honestly don’t know why people worry about slow zombies quite so much.

      Fast zombies, though, they’ll fuck you up sideways.

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  • Aggghhhh… puns… sapping my energy… making me a target for zombies…

    But seriously, the zombie threat wasn’t mentioned in the National Security Strategy, so I’m just not concerned right now.

  • jon

    Why is Obama doing nothing about the widening Zombie Gap, which threatens our way of life and very existence? It’s obvious that he has always been in league with the zombie menace!

  • Ginger Yellow

    A good chunk of World War Z is devoted to this very question. It’s a shame Drezner doesn’t include it in his analysis

  • Rest assured, World War Z is referenced frequently in the book. It was just not mentioned in the FP excerpt.

  • Some Guy

    Weirdly enough, I was listening to Colorado Public Radio in the car, and they had on a guest who was talking about zombies, and the potential global impact and what sort of response different political groups would have to a zombie outbreak.

    It’s very possible it was the same people you linked too, but I didn’t catch the guest’s name.

    Not something I would have expected on NPR, is all.

    • allium

      Just wait until the final broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion on December 21, 2012, when Garrison Keillor unfolds his true form into our dimension in a spray of flesh, kaons and eldritch majesty.

      Also Mark Knopfler will be on hand with The Hopeful Gospel Quartet, and our special guest will be Jonathan Winters! Check your local listings for broadcast times in your area!

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