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Apocalyptic Idealism & Zombie Revolution

Apocalyptic Idealism & Zombie Revolution

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Published by mstigergun
Zombies have become an American pastime. In the words of Warren St. John, “zombies are back” (2). Whether evidenced in the popularity of The Zombie Survival Guide, novels ranging from World War Z—soon to be a movie starring Brad Pitt—to Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, the popularity of the ever-expanding Resident Evil franchise, the epic comic book series The Walking Dead and its subsequent television adaptation, or the recent teen romantic comedy Warm Bodies in which a zombie and a girl fall in love, zombies are on the tip of our cultural tongue. Novels, comic books, and video games about zombie apocalypses are being translated across media forms, into television series and movies, in the desperate scramble to keep up with the cultural thirst for apocalypse and the undead. This obsession is long-standing, even if it ebbs and flows: the zombie is a discursive site with a rich history. Zombies exist as a site upon which the anxieties of predominant social groups—usually white, middle- to upper-class Americans—can be off-loaded and explored.

While zombies represent and embody the anxieties of predominant social groups and function as an abjected Other, whether that Other is a person of colour (Canavan 433), an immigrant (Comaroff and Comaroff 797), a threatening colonialized subject (Fay 82), or a racialized terrorist (Bishop “Dead Man” 24), that same abjection and fear can be utilized to subvert dominant and exclusionary ideologies. By mobilizing abjection as a site of cultural anxiety, abjected individuals can use negative symbolic connotations to break free of repressive structures. This type of activism is what Imogen Tyler describes in her book Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain: “[There are] dual meanings of ‘abjection’ and ‘revolt’: the processes through which minoritized populations are imagined and configured as revolting and become subject to control, stigma and censure, and the practices through which individuals and groups resists, reconfigure and revolt against their abject subjectification” (4). It is precisely this attempt to take abject subject position(s)—in this case, the culturally-loaded zombie with all of its symbolic iterations—and then to use it to break free of repressive ideologies that hip-hop artist Kyle “Guante” Myhre employs in his album “An Unwelcome Guest.” By using the abjected zombie, Guante poses an alternate apocalypse, one unlike many of the zombie apocalypses wherein class divisions are reified almost as a means of comforting the ruling social groups. In Guante’s apocalypse, the abjected Other becomes a figure for revolution and the social Others reclaim rejected spaces and forge new nations.
Zombies have become an American pastime. In the words of Warren St. John, “zombies are back” (2). Whether evidenced in the popularity of The Zombie Survival Guide, novels ranging from World War Z—soon to be a movie starring Brad Pitt—to Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, the popularity of the ever-expanding Resident Evil franchise, the epic comic book series The Walking Dead and its subsequent television adaptation, or the recent teen romantic comedy Warm Bodies in which a zombie and a girl fall in love, zombies are on the tip of our cultural tongue. Novels, comic books, and video games about zombie apocalypses are being translated across media forms, into television series and movies, in the desperate scramble to keep up with the cultural thirst for apocalypse and the undead. This obsession is long-standing, even if it ebbs and flows: the zombie is a discursive site with a rich history. Zombies exist as a site upon which the anxieties of predominant social groups—usually white, middle- to upper-class Americans—can be off-loaded and explored.

While zombies represent and embody the anxieties of predominant social groups and function as an abjected Other, whether that Other is a person of colour (Canavan 433), an immigrant (Comaroff and Comaroff 797), a threatening colonialized subject (Fay 82), or a racialized terrorist (Bishop “Dead Man” 24), that same abjection and fear can be utilized to subvert dominant and exclusionary ideologies. By mobilizing abjection as a site of cultural anxiety, abjected individuals can use negative symbolic connotations to break free of repressive structures. This type of activism is what Imogen Tyler describes in her book Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain: “[There are] dual meanings of ‘abjection’ and ‘revolt’: the processes through which minoritized populations are imagined and configured as revolting and become subject to control, stigma and censure, and the practices through which individuals and groups resists, reconfigure and revolt against their abject subjectification” (4). It is precisely this attempt to take abject subject position(s)—in this case, the culturally-loaded zombie with all of its symbolic iterations—and then to use it to break free of repressive ideologies that hip-hop artist Kyle “Guante” Myhre employs in his album “An Unwelcome Guest.” By using the abjected zombie, Guante poses an alternate apocalypse, one unlike many of the zombie apocalypses wherein class divisions are reified almost as a means of comforting the ruling social groups. In Guante’s apocalypse, the abjected Other becomes a figure for revolution and the social Others reclaim rejected spaces and forge new nations.

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Published by: mstigergun on Jul 27, 2013
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07/30/2013

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“We call it renaissance and you’re callin’ it apocalypse”: Apocalyptic Idealism and ZombieRevolution in Guante and Big Cats!’s “An Unwelcome Guest”
mstigergun
http://mstigergun.tumblr.com
See I've learned a little bit about energy I've learned when it enters you it loses chargeSo the negative and positive are worth the same amount The passion and the pain, the smiles and the scarsWhether you lost your job or won the lotteryThat energy enters you, like a lightning bolt  And no matter how dark its origin, once it's inside you It's yours to control So what this means, is that thoseWho've been through the most have the most to let goThere is strength in our anger, power in our pain Even beauty in the hourglass' grains It all depends on how we use it 
(Guante, “Lightning” from “You Better Weaponize”)Zombies have become an American pastime. In the words of Warren St. John, “zombies are back” (2). Whether evidenced in the popularity of 
The Zombie Survival Guide
, novels rangingfrom
World War Z 
 —soon to be a movie starring Brad Pitt—to Mira Grant’s
 Newsflesh
series, the popularity of the ever-expanding
 Resident Evil 
franchise, the epic comic book series
The Walking  Dead 
and its subsequent television adaptation, or the recent teen romantic comedy
Warm Bodies
in which a zombie and a girl fall in love, zombies are on the tip of our cultural tongue. Novels,comic books, and video games about zombie apocalypses are being translated across mediaforms, into television series and movies, in the desperate scramble to keep up with the cultural
 
thirst for apocalypse and the undead. This obsession is long-standing, even if it ebbs and flows:the zombie is a discursive site with a rich history. Zombies exist as a site upon which theanxieties of predominant social groups—usually white, middle- to upper-class Americans—can be off-loaded and explored.While zombies represent and embody the anxieties of predominant social groups andfunction as an abjected Other, whether that Other is a person of colour (Canavan 433), animmigrant (Comaroff and Comaroff 797), a threatening colonialized subject (Fay 82), or aracialized terrorist (Bishop “Dead Man” 24), that same abjection and fear can be utilized tosubvert dominant and exclusionary ideologies. By mobilizing abjection as a site of culturalanxiety, abjected individuals can use negative symbolic connotations to break free of repressivestructures. This type of activism is what Imogen Tyler describes in her book 
 Revolting Subjects:Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain
: “[There are] dual meanings of ‘abjection’and ‘revolt’: the processes through which minoritized populations are imagined and configuredas revolting and become subject to control, stigma and censure, and the practices through whichindividuals and groups resists, reconfigure and revolt against their abject subjectification” (4). Itis precisely this attempt to take abject subject position(s)—in this case, the culturally-loadedzombie with all of its symbolic iterations—and then to use it to break free of repressiveideologies that hip-hop artist Kyle “Guante” Myhre employs in his album “An UnwelcomeGuest.” By using the abjected zombie, Guante poses an alternate apocalypse, one unlike many of the zombie apocalypses wherein class divisions are reified almost as a means of comforting theruling social groups. In Guante’s apocalypse, the abjected Other becomes a figure for revolutionand the social Others reclaim rejected spaces and forge new nations.2
 
Travis Gosa, in his review of three books about the intersection of hip hop and activism,writes that, while hip hop has its origins in activist and resistant discourses, it seems to have lostmuch of its original drive and has become a commercial vehicle for the reinforcement of capitalist, racialized, and sexist ideologies (240, 245). M.K. Asante disagrees, claiming that hiphop has entered the hands of the “post-hip-hop generation” (qtd. in Gosa 241) one that isconcerned with “social justice issues including women’s rights, gay rights, and the anti-war movement” (Gosa 241). Ray Waddell writes that “a new wave of artists is taking hip-hop toanother level with expressive, message-filled rhymes laced over inventive beats that entertainand inform—without preaching” (n. pag.). Activist hip hop, also known as conscious rap, has“has a small but loyal audience that has the potential to expand” (Waddell n. pag). Ultimately,Gosa finds the case for revolutionary hip hop unconvincing (242), but the case is certainly far from settled.
1
Hip hop, then, and its potential for activist and revolutionary thought is just asfraught as the zombie: both zombies and hip hop can be seen as repressive vehicles
and 
potentialsites of challenge.First, I articulate my theoretical apparatus, grounded in Judith Butler’s understanding of Julia Kristeva’s
abject 
. A clearer lens through which to approach the same intersection is JeffreyJerome Cohen’s Monster Theory, an approach to analysis that aligns itself with Tyler’s ideasabout abjection and revolt. Next, I trace the many anxieties that have been off-loaded onto the3
1
One might contend that the heart of this debate has much to do with whether 
anything 
can ever be trulyrevolutionary. Certainly, Louis Althusser makes the claim that it is impossible to exist outside of ideologicalapparatuses (1505); similarly, Judith Butler writes that, even in the expulsion of the abject, the abject is brought
back within
the symbolic system (
Gender Trouble
181). If ideological systems account for revolution and find a way tocommercialize and tame that impulse, then no revolution can be possible—or rather, and more hopefully,revolutionary communities must always stay one step ahead of the systems that would tame them. I would thusargue that Goya’s contentions have much more to do with the nature of systemic representation and oppression thanhip hop in and of itself. Guante is clear in his belief that hip hop can be the domain of activists, and his latest album“You Better Weaponize” is a clear call for his listeners to step up and engage in activism.

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