We’re on the final post! I survived the A to Z Challenge!
As a final ditch effort to convince you to take part in anthropology, I will introduce you to the anthropology of zombies!
Specifically, a very brief intro to the Haitian zonbi and a very brief summary of the symbolism behind the modern movie monster.
[I’m not putting a picture up. You know what they look like, they’re gross. This is a celebratory, victory lap.]
The Haitian zombie (Creole: zonbi) is a fringe creature in Vodou and commonly believed to be a folk myth. A zombie is created by an malicious sorcerer, or boko, who traps and controls the soul (and therefore undead but not alive body) of someone who dies ahead of their time. Not all sorcerors are so naaty; some may trap a soul and use it for benevolent purposes–to work in hard labor or help others. The latter case may actually be a good thing because the souls of those who die unnaturally are stuck at their grave until the gods approve their rejoining the ancestors.
The fear surrounding this myth comes less from the creature itself—the zombie is mindless, slow, and clumsy, it is the sorcerer who poses the greater danger—than from the horror of becoming a zombie.
Because of the inherently secretive nature of many Vodou practices and the fringe folk myth that is the zonbi, little research has been done by Western anthropologists. African and Haitian researchers have written more on the subject and they are fascinating reads if you ever have the opportunity.
Zombies as a modern movie monster have typically been symbols of things like the breakdown of society into post-apocalyptic scenarios (especially by virus outbreak, bioterrorism, or widespread violence, three very relevant fears of our time), symbols for capitalism (zombies as mindless, corporate slaves), or representatives of a master-servant relationship (the enslavement of one’s body and mind to malicious person). Modern zombies force audiences to confront death via rotting flesh and to consider such a total loss of control and humanity–as well as how society responds to such total destruction. Zombie apocalypse settings make us question how people would really act if the only allies were literally everyone else alive on the planet–and, usually, the movie’s answer is that people are selfish and act only in their interests for survival. There are some exceptions that look at an alternative solution very nicely (see The Walking Dead).
So there you go. If you become and anthropologist, you can study zombies real and fictional.
I hope you enjoyed reading these posts (I hope they stimulated your braaaaiiins)! I’ll be resuming my normal blogging schedule starting Monday and posting the A to Z Challenge recap on May 9th.
The Devil in Disguise: Modern Monsters and their Metaphors