University of Konstanz, 4 to 8 April 2016

As the Zombie specialist George A. Romero states, the dead are walking the earth because there is no more room in hell. Consequently, the figure of the Zombie has received increased attention in publications and discourses on the part of Gender and Postcolonial Studies, in Literary, Cultural and Media Studies, in Sociology and Bioethics as well as in different medial artefacts and cultural practices as e.g. the „Zombie Walk“[1] or Zombie Survival Training Camps. Within this triumphal procession, the Zombie, which for a long time had been the most unattractive of all film monsters[2], has lost its terrifying fame and is now able to live out its drive, liberated from any social taboos.[3]

As a matter of fact, the Zombie has in recent years been produced – especially in cinematic discourses – as a dazzling and manifold figuration, whose non-assignability[4]and oscillation between the human and the non-human, death and life, individual and mass enables us to think the Zombie detached from the horror or gore genre: its insatiable appetite for warm human flesh serves as a metaphor or allegory for the all-embracing power of capitalism, consumption, globalization and neoliberalism[5]; its appearance in uncontrollable masses is interpreted as a sign for collective rebellion[6] and its undead restlessness is being translated as the resistance of every being against the inevitable and definite death.

Acting on the origins of this figuration in the Caribbean voodoo culture, questions of gender, race and class can be reargued, as they already have been unfolded mainly under the focus of colonial politics in early Zombie movies as e.g. White Zombie (Victor and Edward Halperin, 1932) or I walked with a Zombie (J. Tourneur, 1943), as well as in the famous Zombie quadrilogy of the already quoted cult-director George A. Romero whose main focuses so far were filmic-historical, aesthetic, socially critical and anti-capitalist counter-strategies. By the 1980s, we can detect a new field of investigation, which, due to a profit-oriented and mass-appropriate process of mainstreaming the horror film, starts to transfer the increasingly popular Zombie into a still quite bloody, but clearly carnivalesque „Splat-Stick“. Similar elements can also be found in other media like comics, music videos or in computer games like Resident Evil, wherein the Undead are created as a side product of a pharmaceutical enterprise.

In our winter school Zombies between (Pop-)Culture and (Visual) Politics we would like to bring different figurations of the Zombie into question, regarding its materiality, its mediality, its genealogy and its narratives. Thereby we are addressing advanced master students and PhD students, who are engaged with similar problems or questions concerning the Zombie. Within five days, experts from the fields of Philosophy, Cultural and Media Studies will be presenting their theoretical approaches to the Zombie and discuss them with the participants of the winter school. Also, there will be the opportunity for selected participants to present their own research and get feedback from the experts. Through this combination of presentations, talks and comments as well as workshop units, in which the participants will be invited to systematize and refine the research field, we focus on a new and innovative methodology of teaching and learning, which is supposed to be transformed into a research network for junior scientists, connecting the University of Konstanz with distinguished scholars and its partner universities in Chile and England and other international institutions.      

[1] Wessendorf, Markus: Zombie Walks and Zombie Economics, in: Journal for Contemporary Drama in English 1 (1) 2013.

[2] Introduction to „Zombiefilm“, in: Schnitt. Das Filmmagazin 67 (1) 2012, S. 7.  

[3] Szemerey, Eleonóra: Zombies, Menschen, Kannibalen. Wer ist hier das Monster?, in: Schnitt. Das Filmmagazin 67 (1) 2012, S.32-35, hier S. 33.

[4] Rath, Gudrun: Zombi/e/s. Zur Einleitung, in: DIES. (Hrsg.): Zombies. Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften (1) 2014, S. 11-17, hier S. 11.

[5] Quiggin, John: Zombie Economics. How dead ideas still walk among us. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press 2010.

[6] Fürst, Michael/Krautkrämer, Florian/Wiedmers, Serjoscha: Einleitung, in: DIES. (Hrsg.): Untot. Zombie, Film, Theorie. München: Belleville 2011, S. 7-15, hier S. 7.