Neoliberalism, Zombies and the Failure of Free Trade
The popular cultural ubiquity of the zombie in the years following the Second World War is testament to that monster‘s remarkable ability to adapt to the social anxieties of the age. From the red-scare zombie-vampire hybrids of I Am Legend (1954) onwards, the abject alterity of the ambulant dead has been deployed as a means of interrogating everything from the war in Vietnam (Night of the Living Dead, 1968) to the evils of consumerism (Dawn of the Dead, 1978). This essay explores how, in the years since 9/11, those questions of ethnicity and gender, regionality and power that have haunted the zombie narrative since 1968 have come to articulate the social and cultural dislocations wrought by free-market economics and the shock doctrines that underscore the will to global corporatism. The article examines these dynamics through consideration of the figure of the zombie in a range of contemporary cultural texts drawn from film, television, graphic fiction, literature and gaming, each of which articulates a sense not only neo-liberalism itself has failed but simply wont lie down and die. It is therefore argued that in an age of corporate war and economic collapse, community breakdown and state-sanctioned torture, the zombie apocalypse both realises and works through the failure of the free market, its victims shuffling through the ruins, avatars of the contemporary global self.
Dominic Mitchell's BAFTA award-winning three-part series In the Flesh was first broadcast on BBC3 in March 2013, with a second six-part series following in May 2014. This chapter argues that the series participates in the contemporary mass-cultural deployment of the zombie as a means of exposing and exploring the impact of neoliberal economics on the social and cultural organisation of the world and, in turn, the models of subjectivity available to its inhabitants. In its deployment of mad science, its depiction of the dungeons of Big Pharma's contemporary torture-house and the bleak wildness of the rain-lashed northern moors, in its broken urban estates and hellfire-preaching villages, In the Flesh undertakes a highly gothic queering of neoliberal England. Thus it interrogates both the contemporary state of the nation and the rights, responsibilities and subjectivity of us all.
Over the course of the past twenty-five years, as neoliberal economics has transformed the geopolitical landscape, monsters have overrun popular culture. This book explores literary, televisual, filmic and dramatic works from distant and diverse countries. It traces the vampire's evolution from the nineteenth-century past of industrial capitalism to the neoliberal present's accelerated violence and corrupt precarity, and discusses the NBC television mini-series Dracula, perfectly encapsulating our own post-recessionary subjectivity. The book addresses state capitalism but turns readers' attention away from the vampire and towards the ghost, focusing on the ways in which such spectral figures have come to dominate new German theatre. On the biotechnology sector, the book presents three examples: cinematic depictions of the international organ trade in Asia, the BAFTA award winning three-part series In the Flesh broadcast in BBC3, and literary representations of the dehumanised South African poor. The book moves from the global to the local, and charts the ways in which post-2006 house owners are trapped in the house by the current economic situation, becoming akin to its long-term resident ghosts. The ghost estates, reanimated and reimagined by the Irish artists and film-makers, are shown to embody the price paid locally for failures in global economic policy. The preoccupation with states of liminality is encapsulated by showing that the borders of the nation state have become a permeable membrane. Through this membrane, the toxic waste of first world technology seeps out alongside the murderous economic imperatives of the neoliberal agenda.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book engages with the geopolitical context of the gothic's migration from the periphery to the fast-beating heart of popular culture, specifically the rise to economic and cultural pre-dominance of global neoliberalism. It traces the vampire's evolution from the nineteenth-century past of industrial capitalism to the neoliberal present's accelerated violence and corrupt precarity. The book explores the political, social and cultural contradictions that have emerged in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis. This was a period that has been characterised by substantial cuts to public expenditure, bank bailouts and mass unemployment. The book also examines the Mexican-American border as a gothic space created by a combination of postcolonial power relations and the new economic and political conditions created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).