Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | August 22, 2012

Zombies: the voyagers of land of the dead.

Last two decades of American capitalism has been the decades of zombies, vampires and the sorcerers. Hundreds of Hollywood flicks have been made on the zombies, vampires and sorcerers. Even there were talks of zombie politics and zombie Individuals and we saw President fighting zombies and vampires in “Lincoln: the Vampire Hunter “ and “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies”. Many other suggest that it is an endeavor for a posthuman individual in the age of cyborg and global capitalism. Postmodernists suggest reading zombies as ontic/hauntic objects. But most importantly zombie is the production of state apparatus; it makes the mutilation, and even death, come first. It needs them preaccom-plished, for people to be born that way, crippled and zombielike. Zombies like A Raja and Suresh KalmadI, Kanimozhi, Madhu Koda,etc. too are products of bourgeois state operates, they are produced as blood suckers to strengthen the economy of underground machinery of party and the blood sucking class associated with it. Congressi zombies are no less suicidal; they can go to any extent to perform their suicidal job. Zombies are democratic worker in this context because in the bourgeois democracy the state as well as capitalist produces it not as warrior rather as a worker. Deleuze says that the myth of the zombie, of the living dead, is a work myth and not a war myth; however it can’t be considered an absolute statement as they war myth as well.  It reveals much about the crisis of human embodiment, the way power works, and the history of man’s subjugation and oppression of its “Others”. Zombie is not an imagination of Capitalists; this demonic species did come to the civilized Bourgeoisie culture from dark world? In bourgeois culture light and good is less desired than dark and demonic. If the Demons and Rakshasas are ruling the roost of Indian political economy, it’s obvious. Important thing to understand in this context is that the war machine is “between” these two (good and evil, devas and rakshas) poles of political sovereignty and assures the passage from one pole to the other.  Here we can’t deny the correctness of Hindu mythology (as history) of Devasura Sangrama. Question should also be asked however, why demonicity enchants the bourgeois! But we will see it later in some other post not now, for now lets see from which terrestrial dark world zombies descend to bourgeois would. Origin of zombie is said to be Haiti. According to Haitian folk beliefs, zombies are people whose will, awareness and memory were stolen by a sorcerer.

Voodoo people during ritual

It is believed that a sorcerer called Boko accomplished this either by casting a spell over a person or by giving them a magical potion. Once the Boko had captured a person’s spirit, the victim appears dead and was usually buried in above-ground tomb common in Haiti. The Boko then steals and reanimates the body and sets it to work as a slave. According to tradition, Boko could also obtain power over a person who dies of natural causes by snatching the person’s spirit shortly after death before the spirit has wandered away. Hollywood takes the Haitian voodoo theme, metamorphosized it and concocted it with various other mythic themes of Christianity. In cinematic incarnation zombie has morphed into a convenient boogeyman representing various social concerns. The zombie can also be a metaphoric state claimed for oneself or imposed on someone else. This Zombie has been made to stand for capitalist drone (Dawn of the Dead) and Communist Sympathizer (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and, increasingly, viral contamination (28 Days Later). But it’s a limited interpretation of the entire Zombie phenomena. Majority of thinkers believe that it is an outcome of American capitalism in the crisis importantly of its ideological crisis. According to David Sirota the author of ‘Hostile Takeover’ and ‘The Uprising’, “Zombies first entered the colloquial economic lexicon during the collapse of the financial institutions that were cannibalizing the economy. From a balance-sheet perspective, many of these firms were dead. But they were quickly reanimated as zombie banks with trillions of taxpayer dollars”. Zombie phenomena operate in the site of truth called ‘Capital’, whatsoever its subjectivization has been; it revolves around the master/slave dialectics. Zombies are the slave of the ideology of state and capitalism and whole heartedly work for it within its given structure and when needed they wage war and sacrifice their lives. Zombie phenomena could also be seen from another point of view i.e. as a theological-biological manifestation of robbers. It is an imagination of monstrosity in which bourgeois uses scientific-biological elements as well as elements of Christianity. A zombie monster would be created either in a sacred place or in a laboratory and he would always carry a big Cross on his chest or some secret formula. It’s a creation of a parasitic class as Henry A. Giroux writes “flesh-eating zombies have become an apt metaphor for the current state of American politics. Not only do zombies portend a new aesthetic in which hyper-violence is embodied in the form of a carnival of snarling creatures engorging elements of human anatomy, but they also portend the arrival of a revolting politics that has a ravenous appetite for spreading destruction and promoting human suffering and hardship. This is a politics in which cadres of the unthinking and living dead promote civic catastrophes and harbor apocalyptic visions, focusing more on death than life.”

Now I would like to read this phenomenon in the light of Deleuzian concept of ‘Becoming-intense, Becoming animal, Becoming imperceptible’. I think that this reading can provide us with a more complex structure of zombie phenomena. Deleuze calls such individualities-some special beings that traverse human beings. He even calls himself ‘we sorcerers’ who is not interested in characteristics but in modes of expansion, propagation, occupation, contagion, peopling i.e. in wolfing, in Lousing and so on. Deleuze takes it in pure politico-biological term and propagates in his politics. He correctly distinguishes this individual with other two i.e. family pets and animals with characteristics or attributes; genus or animals of myths. His special being (the posthuman) is demonic who is a mode of pack which is in the constant becoming. Deleuze outlines this demon’s behavior very clearly and it’s not much different than the zombies imagined in the several novels and Hollywood films. Premise is: “Zombies propagate their ideology by epidemic or by contagion; it has nothing to do with filiations by heredity. Vampires does not filiate, it infects.” But it’s not a fixed rule because they are opportunists who can also take resort to filiations by heredity in certain conditions and environment. Zombies could also be racists in certain political situation. If they form a pack that means they have some biological rule, their becoming is biological as ‘Becoming-intense, Becoming animal, Becoming imperceptible’ is through and through a biological concept in Deleuze. Deleuze is no doubt a Darwinist in his biologism. Deleuze evolves this concept in a more subtle way and makes it almost an abstract concept. Its abstraction: the primary concept in which these multiple forms immerse, operate and dissolve.

In Hollywood imagery the charterer of Zombies has constantly been changing since its first inception on screen. At present ‘zombies’ can move faster, are more independent, more scientific and much smarter than their classical counterparts. In many films they have been depicted as an independent machine with their own ideology and law antagonistic to the existing system of capitalism but apologetically their orientation has always been theological. Even if when they would be depicted as biological machine they would be essentially a religious creature; they would appears like a warrior of secret missionaries of the middle ages. Theoretically zombies don’t form political affiliations but they could use the system cleverly; they can influence the system as a pressure group or even they can participate in it from behind the curtain. They have no leader and no hierarchy but they help each other out by moaning or howling when they find a food source, so they can overwhelm any defenses and eat people as a group. Actually, their biologism end up forming something more akin to a pack of Vampires than any human political or economic system. It should be called a close system that works secretly by contagion. They’re a purely emergent anarchist collective, instinct without thought or feeling, moving forever towards human society to transform by contamination. There are in fact the real menaces to the human society in true sense. Even bourgeois that brought them in service is threatened and it is rejected as Capitalist. What is the real threat? Real threat is losing of the ‘self’. Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry write in their zombie manifesto, “Zombie is an antisubject, and the zombie horde is a swarm where no trace of the individual remains. Therefore, unlike the vampire, the zombie poses a twofold terror: There is the primary fear of being devoured by a zombie, a threat posed mainly to the physical body, and the secondary fear that one will, in losing one’s consciousness, become a part of the monstrous horde… The zombie is different from other monsters because the body is resurrected and retained: only consciousness is permanently lost. Like the vampire and the werewolf, the zombie threatens with its material form i.e. its atomicity. Whereas the vampire and even the intangible ghost retain their mental faculties, and the werewolf may become irrational, bestial only part of time, only the zombie has completely lost its mind, becoming a blank—animate, wholly devoid of consciousness.” On this point Deleuze would agree that Zombie phenomena have only affects it has no subjectified feelings. They are pure molecular entities without soul.

Deleuzian interpretation of these phenomena called zombies (Deleuze and Guattary would love to call it a phenomena rather individual or species) is abstract concept, as they believed that an imminent system is an abstract system. ‘Becoming animal of the human being’ always happens in a pack without leader, however, if there would be a leader of the pack its position is defined by its exceptionality i.e. its anomalous nature which is not a characteristic but his ability to perform or to affect or to contaminate. Anomalous is not simply exceptional, it is extra exceptional that has transcended all human and animal limitations and has incarnated as a true demon with affects and dimensions.It has only affects, it has no subjectified feelings. The greater affect and dimensions of actions gives one a better position in the pack but it’s not hierarchical. The phenomena are not defined by characteristics or the elements that composes it but by the lines and dimensions it encompasses in ‘intension’. The pack of these affect-individuals is a killer machine which is exterior to the state (often it is the case), even if state uses it, appropriates it. But this is also true that the pack -the becoming animal of the human being or becoming demon of the human being has its own politics, its own line of flight, and its own intensions. It has no problem plying politics and waging war against the state. When it is parasitic and no revolutionary it establishes an independent politico-economic relationship with the state. It can help state run properly or bring it to chaos if state interferes in their becoming. Zombies have only one goal, only one politics that is: to infect.

Deleuze and Guattary go father in this concept even to make this phenomenon molecular and imperceptible phenomena and introduce another concept of molecular transformation. It is largely based on molecular Darwinism of chemistry.  Its journey is an ongoing process- now from the howling of animals to the wailing of elements and particles. According to Deleuze multiplicities are continuous intensive multiplicities; its pattern of behavior is defined by their abstraction. In other words, any alteration (brought to it by connection with other multiplicities) to an intensive multiplicity means a total change in its nature – a change in its intensive state. On this point one can say that it is a rhizome with its multifarious dimensions; it is an always changing phenomena. A principle and heterogeneity of rhizome is this that any point of it can be connected to the any other points. It changes that too to which it is connected; it makes that itself its part and inversely changes its own dimensions. It has its own language and grammar of connection but also it plays in the space of the probability. These phenomena, the multiplicity is prismatic; it needs no principle of unity as the individual forming multiplicity has lost their ‘self’. Thus there is no subjective clash, its binding principle is determinations, magnitudes and dimensions which can not increase in number without its changing in its nature. They can manifest in multiple avatars in this way. There is no essence of particular multiplicities which can remain unaffected by encounters with others, it is always open to change, it is real openness; it’s virtual in the sense that it has no essence and it’s real because it is real openness to change. Multiplicities are virtual and the real at the same time.

But what kind of relationship can be established to this zombie phenomenon which is largely not a part of the state but exterior to it especially in relation to Capitalism. Which kinds of threat it poses to the human society? The individual under capitalism is often characterized as a zombie individual. But as Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno write, our zombie individuality is one that relies on the illusion of self: Under such a system, “nothing is left of him but that eternally same ‘I think’ that must accompany all ideas. Subject and object are both rendered ineffectual”.  The Cartesian ego “I think according to bourgeois aspirations’ is a premise of capitalist happiness and guaranty of future , obviously at cost of present. Zombies have no independent desire so as worker individuals in Capitalism. If zombie becomes violent and revolutionary and moves to eat out system itself, it would be an expression of the affirmation of their desires. What Horkheimer and Adorno and others illustrate is that the illusory separation of subject and object, the fata morgana of individualism, keeps happy the camp of zombies—the slaves to capitalism who are merely deluded into thinking that they are free. Horkheimer and Adorno claim that subject and object are rendered ineffectual categories under capitalism, as the commodity fetish animates objects, and reification objectifies the worker. But identifying this conflation is not enough—in the figure of zombie, subject and object are obliterated. Zombie phenomena have two faces one that works under capitalism and another that is outside of the capitalism. Horkheimer and Adorno seem to be right as for as zombies under capitalism is concerned but zombies situated outside the capitalism could be revolutionary force because they can evolve and transform themselves into great demons through contamination when they evolve in absolutely free environment. Deleuze’s Communist politics is of this outside Zombies-the voyager’s of land of the dead.





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