Politics of the Living Dead: Race and Exceptionalism in the Apocalypse

07 Aug 2017

The zombie, as a Western pop culture icon, has taken up residence in International Relations. Used both humorously and as a serious teaching tool, many scholars and professors of IR have written of the zombie as a useful figure for teaching IR theory in an engaging manner, and have used zombie outbreaks to analyse the responses of the international community during catastrophe, invasion, and natural disasters. The authors of this article would like to unearth another aspect of the zombie that is often left unsaid or forgotten: namely, that the body of the zombie, as a historical phenomenon and cultural icon, is deeply imbricated in the racialisation of political subjects and fear of the Other. Through a critical analysis of biopower and race, and in particular Weheliye’s concept of habeas viscus, we suggest that the figure of the zombie can be read as a racialised figure that can provide the means for rethinking the relationship of the discipline of IR to the concept of race. We read The Walking Dead as a zombie narrative that could provide a critical basis for rethinking the concepts of bare life and the exception to consider ‘living on’ in apocalyptic times.