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Kotaku and “Infection vs. Resurrection: The New Science of the Zombie”

Kotaku has an article of interest titled “Infection vs. Resurrection: The New Science of the Zombie.” The article contrasts the changing explanation for the reasons why these undead creatures come back from the dead as it chronicles a shift from supernatural to more “natural” and scientific explanations.

Where once they shuffled, now they run. Initially born of forbidden voodoo rituals or the sign of a religious apocalypse, for the past decade zombies have slowly metamorphosed into the by-products of something else entirely.

Science now, not the supernatural, is most often to blame when loved-ones become something less than human and begin to prey on the survivors.

While earlier works of fiction have played with the notion of what a zombie is and how it comes to be, it is pop culture’s modern influence on an ancient fear that has had the greatest impact on the undead’s evolution.

But why?

Although the supernatural expression of the zombie was never widespread in film, I think the author rightly recognizes the explanatory shift in zombie causality which reflects changing cultural dynamics in relation to religion, technology, and potentially apocalyptic anxieties as particularly popularized by George Romero with his groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead. A similar dynamic can be seen in depictions of vampire causality. Even so, in my view the “technological zombie” still has a lot to say to us about ourselves, even on a religious level. As theology and religious studies interacts with cultural studies we might consider whether our fascination with the zombie in more technological than supernatural fashion is indicative of the continuing influence of Judeo-Christian concepts of bodily resurrection, but with the post-Christendom context altering this idea so as to remove the idea of bodily redemption and transformation. Things to ponder in light of “the new science of the zombie.”

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Titus Hjelm – From Demonic to Genetic: The Rise and Fall of Religion in Vampire Film

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