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1.5 Deslandes Adamson FINAL

1.5 Deslandes Adamson FINAL

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Published by: ana_australiana on Sep 28, 2012
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Ann Deslandes and Kristian Adamson, 'Zombie solidarity' 1in
Zombies in the academy: Living death in higher education 
, Intellect Books, forthcoming 2012, eds. Andrew Whelan, ChristopherMoore and Ruth Walker.Pre-publication copy, please do not cite without permission.
Zombie solidarity
Resisting corporatism on campus 
As the chapters in this collection testify, the system of higher education in the Anglosphere is presentlyoverdetermined by the imposition of scarcity via corporatization and neoliberalization. These phenomena arecharacterized, respectively, by excessive regulation of academic practice and deregulation of capitalcirculation in the sector. However, far from symbolizing the downfall of higher education as a public good, thezombie can offer a model of collective resistance to this state of affairs. The cinematic zombie, we note,possesses a radical disinterest in participating in this deadening culture as well as a palpable – indeeddeeply threatening – lack of desire for the goods this culture produces and the differentiated class status itcompels us to pursue. By radical disinterest we don’t simply mean the state of a "disinterested observer" orto having a “lack of interest”, rather a conscious refusal of the terms in which one can be 'interested'. As inthe scenes of everyday capitalist life in zombie films, on the scene of higher education we propose that a‘zombie solidarity’ offers the most chance of resistance to the exhausted world that many of us writing in thiscollection are experiencing on and around the campuses we are attached to.However, in the rampant majority of cases, the zombie appears as a negative figure, with the epitext for thisbook being no exception. In Gora and Whelan’s op-ed introducing the book in
The Australian,
the zombiecharacterizes the life-sucking practices of institutional bureaucracy and management and the stupefiedundergraduate, as well as the vacated ambience of university campuses (2010). As they put it, ‘the deadlyhand of corporatism has drained all life from campus’, affecting all who set foot upon it. Tenured academicshave become ‘incapable of responding meaningfully’ to the encroaching virus, whilst sessional staff wanderas ‘a legion of lost souls’, supplying ‘the raw material for University Inc.’. As for students, they ‘occupy a joyless twilight world that, superficially at least, resembles a university, although in reality they are vocationalcharnel houses’. Further afield, the global economic system governing this parlous state has beencharacterized by John Quiggin as ‘zombie economics’, whereby – despite a global financial crisis – the ‘deadideas’ underpinned by market liberalism ‘still walk among us’, threatening mass contagion (2010; see alsoPeck 2010). For Henry Giroux, ‘zombie politics’ dominates the public sphere (2011).Taken together, these critiques for which the zombie is the vehicle are targeted at neoliberalism – theeconomic ideology that places the agency of the free market at centre-stage and reduces the responsibilityof states (as collective expressions of social governance) to provide the conditions for ‘the good life’– including higher education, which instead becomes corporatized and standardized. As with othercontemporary critiques of neoliberalism, these writings present us with the imposition of scarcity onto suchagencies of the good life, regulated through deadening systems of accounting such as the ResearchAssessment Exercise in Britain and the Research Quality Framework in Australia. As a loosely convergentworld-view, these critiques of neoliberalism articulate with many sophisticated analyses of, and stridentcampaigns against, the enculturated marketization of the higher education sector in the Anglosphere overthe past decade (see e.g. Gregg 2009, National Tertiary Education Union 2009, Gill 2009, Ross 2008). Theyare marked, we suggest, by a profound attachment to a particular kind of good life. This is the good life ofcritical debate and democratic liberties, buttressed by a middle-class standard of living and characterized byfinancial stability and opportunities for self-actualization.
Ann Deslandes and Kristian Adamson, 'Zombie solidarity' 2in
Zombies in the academy: Living death in higher education 
, Intellect Books, forthcoming 2012, eds. Andrew Whelan, ChristopherMoore and Ruth Walker.Pre-publication copy, please do not cite without permission.
In this chapter we consider the dominant critique of corporatization-as-zombification alongside a closer-uppicture of those who co-labour on university campuses: not only salaried academics, union organizers andstudent activists but also cleaners, caterers, casual research assistants, casual tutors and lecturers, retailstaff, undergraduate students, postgraduate students, administration managers, administration assistantsand governors. We ask: what is it like to be together on campus under conditions of apparent zombification?Who, exactly,
the zombies? What are those of us in the humanities who critique current higher educationcultures, and models of policy and funding, compelled to resist? And most importantly, how might we resist?What kind of solidarity is called for? We begin our exploration with the cinematic (primarily Romero) zombieas our touch point.
Resisting corporatism in the mall 
Where can we find solidarity in zombie lore? Is it with the frightened survivors boarding themselves up insidea farmhouse, as in
Night of the Living Dead 
(Romero 1968)? No: driven by fear, paranoia and a little racism,the living ultimately cause as much grief to themselves as the walking dead do. Is it in between the citizenryand the military as their nations are swamped by undead invaders, as in
28 Days Later 
(Boyle 2002) and
Day of the Dead 
(Romero 1985)? Again, no. The brutality of the military over the civilians ultimately jeopardizes the survival of both. In
Land of the Dead 
(Romero 2005) and
Resident Evil 
(Anderson 2002) it isgreedy and corrupt corporate entities who destroy the cities. Consistently, we find that it is the living, not thedead, that are the true danger in most cinematic representations of the zombie. Indeed, the zombie operatesmerely as background to a distinctly human – or, more precisely, living – drama. When this human dramabecomes too much, the doors begin to rattle and the moaning hordes shuffle out of the darkness. As such,the experience of the zombie is rarely central to the narrative. Besides occasional identifiable vestiges oftheir former lives, the zombies are as anonymous as they are many. The genre then tends to be more aboutus, as living; rather than about them, as dead. Indeed, Romero's zombie quartet has always beenrecognizable as social commentary, dealing with Cold War paranoia and racism (
Night of the Living Dead 
),consumer culture (
Dawn of the Dead 
) militarism (
Day of the Dead 
) and class (
Land of the Dead 
).Take the opening credits of
(Fleisher 2009). Two men are fleeing a casino, zombies in closepursuit. One of the men is clutching wads of cash, the other his mug of beer, taking care not to spill toomuch. Neither is willing to let go of these material icons of consumer culture. For the two men, not even thewalking dead can disrupt the value of consumption. Likewise, in Romero's cinema the living continue tooperate within the discourses of the old world – consumption, competition, consumerism and so on, trying torebuild their place in the world. The zombie is a disruption to this – a force that keeps interfering with theattempts of the living to reconstitute the world that was. To be sure, this is usually by eating the living: but ifwe take a second look at the zombie inside the iconic mall of
Dawn of the Dead 
(Romero 1978), we find thateating the living is not all that zombies ‘do’.The standard interpretation of
Dawn of the Dead 
is that it is a commentary on the mindlessness of consumerculture (e.g. Paffenroth 2006: 45-69). The zombie/consumer moves about the mall unable to critically engagewith their environment in pursuit of the commodity. Though this interpretation was clearly the intention ofRomero, the consumer-as-zombie and zombie-as-consumer equivalence may be broken by the observationthat the zombies are obviously not consuming anything within the mall at all – at least, not until the living turnup. This break between consumption and place-of-consumption is significant in our rethinking of the zombie.
Ann Deslandes and Kristian Adamson, 'Zombie solidarity' 3in
Zombies in the academy: Living death in higher education 
, Intellect Books, forthcoming 2012, eds. Andrew Whelan, ChristopherMoore and Ruth Walker.Pre-publication copy, please do not cite without permission.
The shopping mall is a particular kind of built environment, specifically designed to attract and facilitate theconsumption of goods and services. The centre itself regulates these demands, both by formal (securityguards ensuring teenagers aren’t loitering, restrictions on dress) and informal means (pricing to attractdifferent demographics, physical layout), and also by broader social and cultural habits: rules of interpersonalinteractions, acknowledgment of private property, consumer culture, etc. (Voyce 2006). In
Dawn of the Dead 
many of these regulations are broken down: security guards are long gone; price no longer has meaning.Nonetheless, the survivors that begin to build a new life within the otherwise abandoned mall are stillenthralled by the commodities the mall offers. In other words the
that the mall demands remainswithin their relation to the mall and continues on the terms that were originally laid out, symbolically andphysically. The survivor's attraction to the resources of the mall goes beyond what is needed to survive. Withfood and shelter secured they indulge in the luxury items around them and go ‘shopping’ for expensiveclothing, fancy watches and so on.The zombies in the mall, however, are marked by an absolute disinterest in these luxuries and habits. Theundead treat the mall as any other space, and the demands of consumption it makes and signifies arerefused and go unrecognized. Everything from the pleasures of luxury commodities to the safe operation ofescalators is not only foreign to the zombie but a matter of complete disinterest. So, far from being the idealconsumer subject, the zombie is a nightmarish subject that fails to be interpellated by the economicdiscourses of consumer spaces. This does not result in the loss of desire. The zombie does not need to giveup something in this mode of resistance, but rather the resistance of the zombie comes about because of thekinds of desires it has. It emerges as a subject defined by a disinterested refusal of the privilege, pleasureand leisure the corporate world permits.This refusal is transformative in that it interrupts the consumerist cycle of desire and consumption that themall both caters to and encourages. Through their lack of engagement with the mall as consumer space, theundead dissolve the consumerist imperative the mall fulfils – it becomes just another concrete building. Inmore militaristic terms, their refusal of the
of consumer culture liberates the mall from its social andeconomic regulations. In such a way, the zombie can provide us with a cultural resource for imaginingresistance to the corporatized campus, based on autonomous and collective refusal. We suggest that thisdisinterested refusal might be a means to disrupt the
of the present-day campus, just as we havesuggested it was within the consumer space of the shopping mall. So, rather than being something to avoid,zombies in the academy may be precisely what is required.
Campus co-labourers 
Last year Tara Brabazon, a media studies professor at the University of Brighton, wrote her regular column inthe prominent
Times Higher Education 
(2011) in the form of a bilious take-down of a metaphoric member ofthe administrative staff at her workplace. The staff member, she suggested, was pathologically unable tocommunicate appropriately and had a particularly problematic use of e-mail; using it too frequently andwithout due consideration of the busy and important schedules of the academics she was employed toserve. Running through the article is a clear distinction between the academic and the administrator – notonly the tasks performed and the status of those tasks but also their respective class positions. Brabazonpaints herself as extraordinarily busy and important and the administration staff member as a majorimpediment to this performance. Particularly troubling to Brabazon is the administrator’s ‘personal’ use ofemail – its use for soliciting expressions of interest in ‘[renting her] sister’s flat in Maidstone’ or adopting ‘oneof [her] mother’s kittens’ – as well as the form or style of emails (‘please stop using caps lock’), and the

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