22.9.2023 20:00
The Last of Us
Sarah Juliet Lauro

as part of Dead or Alive? The Current State of Zombie Studies.

One way in which the zombie as signifier features in contemporary public debates is as a propagandistic metaphor directed at marginalized populations and/or at ones rendered obsolete by their falling out of the matrix of surplus value extraction. We discuss these tropes against the backdrop of playing The Last of Us, a video game that features a post-zombie-apocalypse civilization that survives by erecting massive walls, guarded by countless security cameras and a heavily militarized police force. In this gameworld, players face an antagonistic horde of braindead prowlers against whom no means of material redistribution, social transformation, or housing program could ever present an adequate response. There is no revolution to be won at the side of the zombie: the only mode of interacting with it is to kill it—an activity the game problematically succeeds in rendering as fun. Here, finally, the neoliberal modes of combating poverty are symbolically rendered as inevitable. This is the zombie icon that conservative and right-wing liberal voices mobilize in their attempts to justify diverse forms of violent exclusion, repression, or displacement, stigmatizing the Other as parasitical, unproductive, and thoroughly inhuman.

With an introduction by Sarah Juliet Lauro.

Sarah Juliet Lauro is an Associate Professor of English and Writing at the University of Tampa. Her numerous publications on zombies include The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Rebellion, and Living Death, and the “Zombie Manifesto” (co-authored with Karen Embry). She is also the editor of Zombie Theory: A Reader.