THURSDAY & Friday, April 16th & 17th, 2015 Union College
Humans vs. Zombies:
Humanistic and Scientific Reflections on the Apocalypse
This event is co-sponsored by Sigma Phi and Sigma Delta Tau
Thursday, April 16th
(Karp Hall 005: Location Map here
5:30 - 7:00pm Film Screening and Discussion (Karp Hall 005)
"Of Men, Zombies, and Other Demons: Science Fiction, Horror, and Masculinities in Juan
de los muertos by Alejandro Brugués.”
Guest Speaker: Prof. Angel Rivera, Associate Professor of Spanish and International Studies
Department of Humanities & Arts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Christopher Watt’s (St. Lawrence university) created a video presentation called ‘The Zombies Are Already Among Us” for a Mini Think Tank
The Cuban film Juan de los muertos (2011) is a complex example of the emerging trends in the Spanish Caribbean filmmaking industry and social imaginary. Juan de los muertos responds to the idea that: “all [horror] literature, both in print and on screen addresses society’s most pressing fears and is nothing less than a barometer for measuring an era’s cultural anxieties” (American Zombie Gothic 9). This film, through a unique arrangement of elements (politics, fatherhood, masculinity, comedy and the zombie/horror/science fiction genre), depicts the portrayal and construction of manhood during a time of crisis. It is through this combination of elements that the film offers insight into how a given population may react to extraordinary events by reconstructing broken imaginaries.
For many critics, masculinity plays a central part in the production of political legitimacy. As with issues of fatherhood, any man facing a zombie and, therefore, a society in crisis, confronts the problematic of legitimation. The disaster that Juan and other characters in the film face is related to a crumbling political system that is not able to control the country’s decay. Through the zombie, the film portrays the absence of any real authority (represented in fatherhood): Cubans have been abandoned to the fury of God, and left to fend for themselves. In this case, I would like to highlight the issues of manhood in a time of apocalyptic crisis, and particularly how this film portrays the manner in which Cubans may re/define manhood, fatherhood, and citizenship when civilization crumbles.
Friday, April 17th
All events on Friday to be held at the Greek House, Sigma Phi (building is connected to Davidson Hall. Map location is here.)
ALL DAY STICKER EXHIBIT:
DEAD AND ALIVE! Zombie Narratives in Artistic, Commercial, and Political Stickers
Directed by Catherine Tedford, Director of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery @ St. Lawrence University.
9:00 - 9:15 Introduction and light breakfast
Introduction: William García and Christine Henseler
9:15 - 10:00 - (20min. talk and discussion) Erika Nelson (Prof. of German), Union College
"A Girl's Guide to Zombies: Everything You Need to Know About Gender, Feminism, and These Undead Monsters"
10:00-10:45am (20min. talk and discussion) ~ Kirk Wegter-McNelly / Prof. of Religious Studies, Union College
"Zombies on the Right, Zombies on the Left: Conservative and Liberal Religious Responses to the Recent Resurrection of the Undead in American Culture."
In 1951 theologian and ethicist H. Richard Niebuhr published his now-classic Christ and Culture, which constructed a five-fold typology for understanding the diverse ways in which Christian communities relate to and think about their cultural context. In this talk I will use Niebuhr's typology to examine responses by Christian bloggers, pastors, and theologians to the recent popularity of the "zombie" in American culture. Niebuhr's typology is helpful for understanding the divergent theological appropriations of the zombie trope, even as the rise of "zombie theology" can stimulate critical reflection on Niebuhr's typology as a theoretical tool for analyzing the relation between religion and culture.
1:00-11:45am (20min. talk and discussion) ~ Brad Hays / Prof. of Political Science, Union College
"Land of the Dead: Zombies and the Loss of Faith in the State"
In contemporary zombie narratives, the real horror is the state. It provides false hope. It fails to protect. And when the state rises again, so, too, do oppression, violence, and conformity. This narrative taps in to conflicting contemporary anxieties about the state: the state cannot save humanity from a dangerous, chaotic world but the order the state imposes is no less threatening to our humanity.
12:00-1:00pm ~ LUNCH & LIGHTNING TALKS (to be announced)
Lightning Talk #1: Dr. Ronnie Olesker / Associate Professor of Government St. Lawrence University
Biting Synergies: What Zombies teach us about International Relations and What International Relations teach us about Zombies
Can zombies teach us about the function of the international system? Can they help us explain why Putin annexed Crimea or why the international community was so slow to respond to the Ebola Crisis? I argue yes! After teaching Zombies and International Relations for four years, I found that the flesh eating ghouls teach us quite a bit about the function of the international system and about conflict and cooperation, while international relations theories help us understand some of the constant zombie narratives. In other words, Zombies and International Relations theories are quite symbiotic. In this lightning talk I hope to expose participants to some of the ways zombies advance student learning, how they can be used to effectively simulate realistic responses to international crisis and help us understand and anticipate human behavior while developing critical thinking.
Lightning Talk #2: Dr. Christopher Watts / Director, Newell Center for Arts Technology, St. Lawrence University
The Zombie Apocalypse Already Happened and We Didn’t Notice
The cultural cachet of our undead friends and relatives has been strong for years now. Why is that? What is it about the zombie apocalypse that catches our society’s collective imagination? I invite you, in the second person, to pick up some seemingly disparate threads—social media, partisan gridlock, cellphone video, bad science, pop music, the quantified self, movie sequel franchises, Valley-style disruption, YouTube, even the university under siege—and trace them all to the same tattered cloth: maybe the zombies have already taken over, have already eaten our brains, and we didn’t notice. Oops. If there is one fundamental difference between a person and a zombie, it is simply this: one is a subject and other is an object. This is precisely why the arts and humanities must literally save the world.
More: Our practices surrounding the list items above (and not necessarily the items themselves) lead us to another list. We tend to lower our expectations; to over-simplify complexities; to document our lives instead of living them; to homogenize our experience; to relinquish our shared responsibilities; to sell our futures short in the name of practicality. Thank goodness for zombies, because they show us exactly where that future leads. Artists and humanists, unite!
Lightning Talk #3: Dr. David Ogawa / Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Visual Art, Union College
Humanists vs. Zombies
This performance/talk/thought experiment will reinterpret the "Humans vs. Zombies" narrative through a high-stakes, visionary, apocalyptic lens. I will propose reading the "Humans vs. Zombies" narrative on its own terms - as a survival struggle between humanity and mindless obedience. The Zombie state, in which all of the productive capacities of instinct are reduced to a machine-like functionality, represents the ultimate corruption of humans as animals. The Human state, in which the faculties of instinct, critical analysis, ethical judgment, and aesthetic appreciation, remain intact and coherent, represents the preservation of humans' potential. Ultimately, I will argue for the relentless destruction of the Zombies, which will take the form of an assertion that the Humans, Humanists, and Humanities are more important than disciplines driven by quantification and statistics. I will propose a radical position that refuses capitulation to and coöptation by the Unhuman.
1:00 - 2:00pm ~ Guest Speaker: Dr. Matthew Burns (20min. talk and discussion)
"We Are Here--Messages from the Living: Graffiti and Zombie Narratives"
Matthew Burns’s scholarly work often focuses on the less-than-common and has included papers and courses on subjects such as Graffiti Linguistics, 20th Century Music Subcultures, Hobos and Contemporary Transience, and Punk Rock. In 2013, he served
as guest editor for a special graffiti-themed issue of Rhizomes (www.rhizomes.net/issue25) that tackled the burgeoning field of contemporary Graffiti Studies. His essay “Marks, Monikers, and the Boxcar Art Tradition”—a cultural history of the nearly 200-
year-old tradition of transients, railroad workers, and artists “doodling” on America’s rolling stock—first appeared in Folk Art magazine and is currently the basis for a larger book that traces the evolution of the artform to its present-day incarnation in a post-9/11 world. Beyond the academic, Dr. Burns’s creative work has been widely published. His poem “Rhubarb” won the 2010 James Hearst Poetry Prize from North American Review, and his other poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Graze, Quiddity, Ragazine, Spoon River Poetry Review, Memoir (and), Camas, Lime Hawk, Paterson Literary Review, and others. He is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at SUNY Cobleskill.
The relationship between the seemingly disparate worlds of graffiti and the zombie may appear at first to be little more than that of two things camped out in larger community that is Popular Culture Studies. However, as with any community, the connections between and among its inhabitants are deep. In order to explore this (admittedly unusual) relationship, Burns will look at the ways in which those contemporary visions of the post-“zombie apocalypse” in popular television, film, and literature use graffiti as a means to convey an explicit crumbling of social order. Simply: it means we have lost control. But control of what? By looking at the work of scholars who have considered the role of graffiti in actual post-“apocalyptic” situations—Doreen Piano’s study of a post-Katrina New Orleans and John F. Lennon’s discussions of the role of graffiti during/in the Arab Spring, for example—we can better understand just how the absence of “humanity”-- be it through a mass zombification of the public or government abandonment of an entire city’s residents—gives rise to a need for a wholly egalitarian form of communication.
Graffiti, whether in The Walking Dead, the lower Ninth Ward, or even the streets of Manhattan, bubbles up through the fissures and gaps left in the wake of this loss. In doing so, it is becomes both effect and signifier of a different (but very real) world.
2:00 - 3:30pm
Graffiti and Zombies Makerspace, Demo, & Installation, directed by Matthew Burns
With surprise guest appearances of several graffiti artists!
As a way to demonstrate the transformative (and creative) power of graffiti, we will be constructing a length of temporary double-sided walls and inviting contemporary graffiti writers to paint one side as they choose while leaving the other for students, staff, faculty, and community members to paint. This twofold approach will allow participants and viewers to (1) see the wide spectrum of what we/they may consider to be graffiti; (2) mentally and physically move between and among various modes of expression—from the “artistic” to the “common”; (3) engage in the creation of manipulation of public space; and (4) see how this space evolves as participants “cross sides” and layers of paint are added, edited, covered, and changed to fit the whims of each.
ThinkTank BrainyStorming with Appetizers & Refreshments
Your Brain on the Humanities
This will be an interactive workshop experience in which we will brainstorm ideas for the purpose
of writing publishable blogs on the subject.