While I was on my working leave, Foreign Policy asked me to write a response to Dan Drezner’s “Night of the Living Wonks. They published it, in abridged form, about a month ago under the title of “America’s Triumph over the Zombie Horde”. Predictably, they misspelled my name.
What few people know, however, is that my typically skewed sense of priorities drove me to write not one, but two responses.
Daniel Drezner deserves much praise for his courageous attempt to bring rigor to our understanding of the Zombie apocalypse. From the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the Alpha Draconis threat, international relations theorists have a poor track record of anticipating major developments in world politics. Drezner’s brief account provides much for readers to chew on, and I look forward to his book-length analysis of the Zombie menace. But it also suffers from a number of problems. Chief among them is its failure to challenge a central bias of international-relations theory.
Realism, liberalism, and other major frameworks assume that world politics is a realm exclusively populated by homo sapiens sapiens. This human-centrism has long prevented us from recognizing, let alone making sense of, non-human actors in world politics: whether dolphins, whales, or malevolent subterranean reptiles. It also renders these frameworks unable to adequately account for the impact on world politics of homo coprophagus somnambulus.
What, then, would a post-Zombie international relations theory look like? It would attempt to capture the subjectivity of reanimated corpses, starting with ethnographic data from George Romero’s later films and from Shaun of the Dead. It would recognize that Zombies are more than flesh-eating ghouls: they have the capacity to hunger, to shamble, and to chart their own destiny. Post-Zombie IR would provide a potent critique of the xenophobia lurking behind the genocidal violence characterizing interaction between the two species. In time, it would provide a basis for negotiation and mutual recognition. With the aid of the critical tools provided by post-Zombie IR, we might one day look into the glassy, decaying eyes of our former friends and neighbors, and see that we are all the victims of the hegemonic discourse of late-capitalism’s incessant consumerism. After all, Zombies only seek to eat our brains; the contemporary global order devours our souls.