Expert answer:University of Missouri St Louis Zombie Paradigm Re

  

Solved by verified expert:Part One (~1-1 1/2 pages): Respond to Helen Kang’s essay. Why would a Cultural Studies scholar write something like this? What is she trying to show/prove/teach? What does she want us to get out of it?Part Two (~1/2-1 page): We are about halfway through the summer session, so I’d like you to reflect on how the class is going. What is going well? What could be improved? What do you like or dislike? What suggestions do you have for me to improve the class? For part two, just blah blah your way through it. The class is going well and “I like learning about urban legends.” You know, just shmoosh it up a little bit.
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Copyright © 2011. University of Ottawa Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted
under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
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The following events are entirely fictional. None of the names, except appropriately referenced authors, pertain to actual people.
The events of February 2012 conjure up a multitude of confused images. It is almost too early to contain the memories
of the events in manageable stories that we can tell and retell so that we can command some mastery over the chaos. The
events are still fresh in public memory and in the memories of
all the individuals who were affected by them, which is to say
every person within range of international travel and media reception. All we “know” for now is that words such as nightmare,
apocalypse, the plague, Armageddon and pandemic currently
circulate as though they mean the same thing, at least in the
English-speaking parts of the world affected by the events.
One word in particular entered our collective consciousness
in ways that it hadn’t before: zombies. It’s a word that had resided in the pop cultural sub-genre of horror and science fiction to
describe the once-human figure doomed to an eternal hunger
for human flesh and blood. When we started to use the word
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The Zombie Paradigm
zombie to describe the events of February 2012, something
happened in our cultural consciousness. Every word has a history and carries with it a baggage of meaning as it travels across
cultural domains. When zombies emerged out of the fictional world of horror films and entered news media, biomedicine
and public health to give description to what was otherwise indescribable, the word created a bridge between fictional and
non-fictional worlds. And when zombies joined with the words
disease and outbreak to name this unnameable, incomprehensible thing as zombie disease and zombie outbreak, these words
had specific and profound consequences.
You, reader, who managed to survive February 2012, might
be puzzled, even enraged, that I have the audacity to speak
of meanings, images and culture at a time like this. I, too, am
a person of this world. I have been deeply affected by the chaos, both as a victim and as a witness. I, too, have used the words
above to describe the events in my futile attempt to make
sense of the absurdity of what I saw. But I am also a critical cultural studies scholar, and my immediate reaction is to jump into
analysis of what I see and hear and do not see and hear. Yet the
unfathomable number of those who died, the kinds of deaths
they experienced and the degree of trauma suffered by those
who survived make it almost impossible, morally unthinkable,
to call for an analysis of symbolism, metaphor and imagery.
Yet meanings matter. How we represent the events of February 2012 matter. Because, when we represented them with
images of zombies, diseases and outbreaks, the meanings associated with these words shaped our perceptions of these
events and the people involved. These perceptions in turn informed how everyday people reacted to someone foaming at
the mouth and dragging his feet on the street. These perceptions informed how scientists agreed to name the “cause” of
the “disease” as acute necrotic virus (ANV), which is transmitted by biting and results in massive cell death in a human body.
These perceptions informed how journalists and public health
workers told the public about which “symptoms” to watch out
for in others and how the military justified forced quarantine of
tens of thousands of people. And these perceptions will inform
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how we decide to look back and assess how we reacted as a society to these events.
Diseases and illnesses are not just about health and medicine, though the latter tends to have a lot of authority on the
matter. The work of historian Sander Gilman (1985, 1988a,
1988b) and philosopher Susan Sontag (1990) has shown that
disease, or being diseased, has always been linked to perceptions of moral integrity and moral degeneration. To be diseased is to be feared, to be blamed or to be pitied (depending
on one’s moral standing), to be pushed out, to be contained for
fear of infecting others, or to be “othered.” “Other” is a term
used to describe social groups who are not considered to be
part of the “norm,” which is racially white, Christian, heterosexual, male, middle class and able-bodied. Through histories of colonialism, racism, homophobia, sexism, classism and
ableism, these social traits have gained dominance so that individuals who possess them not only have power, but are also
considered morally superior. Alternatively, those who are other to this norm are considered morally suspect. Being diseased
also tends to fall under the category of other as being associated with moral degeneration.
The naming of a disease is an important part of creating
the cultural line between norm and other. Twenty years ago,
groups of gay men in major cities in the United States died of
unknown causes; then similar symptoms were identified in
intravenous drug users who were generally urban, poor and
racialized. Before the names AIDS and then HIV became the official names of this illness, several informal names circulated
that took on an explicitly moral tinge: “gay disease,” WOGS or
“Wrath of God Syndrome” and GRID or “Gay-Related Immunodeficiency.” It was not only everyday “ignorant” people who
used these names, but also medical researchers who published
in medical journals and doctors at hospitals, people whom we
expect to be completely objective and neutral. These names
simultaneously drew on existing stereotypes of gay men and
intravenous drug users as morally degenerate and further amplified these discriminatory sentiments by linking the illness to
being a certain type of person rather than a series of activities
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The Zombie Paradigm
that lead to infection. These moralizing tendencies lingered in
the names AIDS and HIV and had profound social, economic and
political consequences. In the United States, the religious right
found moral justification in HIV/AIDS to demonize what were
perceived as “deviant” behaviours and systematically to deny
care and support to those most affected by the early wave of
the epidemic, leading to countless deaths.
The social, moral, cultural, political and economic impacts
of HIV/AIDS have been vast, and prominent scholars in cultural studies have engaged with these effects over the past two
decades. One of the central questions that they have grappled with concerns the processes by which a disease, such as
HIV/AIDS, is named. Paula Treichler (1988, 1999) and Cindy Patton (1990) in particular have extensively examined news media, public health and biomedical discourses on HIV/AIDS to
untangle the complex processes by which the names HIV and
AIDS, as well as the meanings and knowledges associated with
them, emerged. The authors pay attention to power struggles,
ambiguities, controversies, conflicts and uncertainties along
the way in the conversations among journalists, scientists, doctors, patients and activists that over time were lost and forgotten. These forgotten stories remind us that, when we name a
disease in a way that draws on notions of “otherness” and “deviance” from the social “norm,” news media can become a vehicle for mass panic and scapegoating, that scientific “facts”
are grounded in interpretations and cultural meanings, and
that how we define symptoms and identify who is afflicted
draw on and amplify pre-existing stereotypes.
The literature on cultural studies of HIV/AIDS can provide us
with the framework and tools with which to understand and
analyze the recent events of February 2012. These events are
now simply called “zombie outbreak,” “zombie epidemic” and
“ANV outbreak,” but we must remember that these are shorthand forms that mask a multitude of complex and conflicting stories and representations. The simplicity and increasing
ubiquity of these names and associated “symptoms” can hide
the fact that the processes whereby we came to understand the
condition were full of uncertainties and ambiguities, not just
in news media and perceptions of everyday people, but also in
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scientific research, public health and the military. A disease is
not just about medicine, health or science but also about social
and cultural struggles over how a disease is named and then
taken up to reinforce moral boundaries between those who are
at fault and deserve to die, and those who are innocent and deserve sympathy or protection.
The Birth of the Zombie
The first high-profile use of the word zombie is attributed to the
medical journalist Caroline Peters from the New York Times. In
an article on 3 February 2012, which appeared on page 5 of the
main section, she quoted an interview with Dr. Dan Morgan, a
clinician at New York Downtown Hospital:
The patient is in a comatose state but still has full motor function.
He can walk and move his arms. He also retains certain basic physiological functions, such as the need to expel urine and feces and
the need to eat and drink. But the patient can’t judge what is edible and what is not. One patient in our emergency ward chewed on
a metal bedpost for hours overnight and completely destroyed the
right side of his teeth and gums. It was incredible. A normal person
wouldn’t have been able to stand the pain. They are like zombies.
They move, make noises and eat, but the lights are out inside.
The headline for this article read “New Disease Makes People into ‘Zombies.’” The caption beneath a close-up of the
patient’s ravaged jaw, which took up the top half of the front
page, read “‘Zombie’ patient eats bedpost. ‘A normal person
wouldn’t have been able to stand the pain,’ says Dr. Dan Morgan at New York Downtown Hospital.” This story marked the
beginning of media frenzy over “the zombie disease.” The
combination of the words disease, zombies and normal with images of visibly sick people made this article not only strictly a
medical story, but also a moral one. To talk about what is normal means to refer to what is abnormal. Gilman (1985, 1988a,
1988b) has argued that these ideas are as much about morality
as they are about health. His extensive work on the history of
representation of illness, such as syphilis, tuberculosis and HIV/
AIDS, shows that illnesses in Western culture have always been
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The Zombie Paradigm
associated with moral judgments about the conduct and innate
qualities of the person who is afflicted. The “zombie disease”
was no exception.
English newspapers quickly jumped on the word and “zombies” began to appear in headlines within a matter of hours
across the globe. Newspapers such as the Globe and Mail and
the National Post in Canada retained the quotation marks
around this fictional word as if reluctant to indulge in fantastic imagery to describe what was quickly becoming a public
health catastrophe. Within forty-eight hours of the word’s first
appearance on the cover of the New York Times, the quotation
marks were dropped altogether in the majority of English national newspapers, as though it was now an indisputable fact
that people were turning into zombies. Soon afterward, zombie disease, zombie outbreak and zombie epidemic became
part of the daily repertoire of news broadcasters, such as CNN
in the United States, the BBC in Britain and the CBC in Canada.
An early preoccupation in the news coverage of February
2012 was to ascertain the origin of the disease. It was as though,
if we can find where it comes from, then we can automatically
gain control of it. Gilman (1988a) and Treichler (1999) have explained that the impulse to find out who or what “brought” a
disease into the nation is more about the need to place blame
for the disease than about medical problem solving. Two distinct stories of the origin of the zombie disease circulated in
the media: Haiti and contaminated meats from East and Southeast Asia. These stories were also about placing blame and
punishing those who were deemed “guilty” of spreading the
zombie disease to the rest of the world.
Haiti has historically been linked to the zombie and voodoo, but the recent earthquake disaster amplified the fear of
the origin of the zombie in Haiti. Some media reports linked
extremely impoverished and unhygienic living conditions in
the aftermath of the earthquake with stereotypical ideas about
primitiveness and barbarism of the “Third World,” suggesting
that Haitians cannibalized one another, leading to the spread of
the zombie disease, which was “encoded in their genes.” Alternatively, recent scares with H1N1 combined with the epidemiology of the avian flu, resulting in stories about contaminated
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meats from Asia, again suggesting stereotypical notions of dirtiness and barbaric livestock-farming practices. These images
of barbarism and backwardness are age-old myths that framed
non-Western, non-European places and people as inferior to
white Europeans to justify colonial conquest and imperial rule.
In February 2012, these mythical images were invoked to create
sensationalistic stories about the origin of the zombie disease,
with severe economic and political consequences: wealthy nations stopped sending relief aid to Haiti and ceased importing
meats from Asian countries in acts of economic and moral punishment for the “guilt” of spreading the zombie disease.
The media stories in February 2012 uncritically combined
cultural myths and pseudo-scientific explanations to talk about
the events, especially when they put zombies and disease together to create a media shorthand: zombie disease. The term
circulated so widely that it became taken for granted, unquestioned and incorporated into common-sense knowledge, even
before biomedicine and science formulated their own theories. On 9 February, the Ottawa Citizen published an article on
the mathematical model of the zombie outbreak. Previously, a
group of mathematicians at the University of Ottawa (Munz et
al. 2009) had produced what was conceived as a playful model
of the spread of a hypothetical zombie outbreak. For the mathematicians, the fictional “communicable disease” had presented interesting parameters that are absent in nature: those
who died from the disease “returned” to become new vectors
of the disease. Upon its publication, this academic article had
received widespread attention in news media in the Englishspeaking world, including the BBC, the CBC, the Wall Street Journal and the Ottawa Citizen.
The article was part of a broader resurgence of the zombie
trope in the popular cultural imagination: novels such as World
War Z by Max Brooks (2006) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (2009); films such as 28 Days Later
(2002), the remake of the 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead (2004)
and its parody Shaun of the Dead (2004); and video games such
as the Resident Evil series (1996 onward) and the Doom series
(2003 onward). Kyle Bishop (2009) explains this resurgence
by pointing out that the zombie theme resonates with post-
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The Zombie Paradigm
9/11 cultural consciousness in the United States, namely the
fear of disasters such as viral outbreaks and terrorism. Munz
et al.’s (2009) article was part of this cultural play: part horror,
part comedy and part intellectual musing. However, shortly after the New York Times article appeared with the first reference
to zombies, the article became the explanatory guide of the
outbreak. By the end of the second week, it reached the hands
of every journalist, policy-maker and public health worker in
Canada.
Munz et al. (2009) directly drew on zombie films to come up
with their formulae and parameters, which in turn were now
being used to inform journalism and health practices. The immense popularity of this article beyond scientific circles shows
how seeing the events of February 2012 as a zombie outbreak blurred the lines between fiction and reality. Zombies
of Romeroesque horror films became the primary lens through
which the events of February 2012 were imagined, told, conceptualized and problematized. The imagery became the single paradigm that dominated how all the different stories of
this illness were to be told, including scientific explanations.
Biomedical Uncertainties
It is unclear how many who were infected actually recovered.
The different avenues of transmission are also unclear. In fact,
because the outbreak was so sudden and so recent, there is insufficient clinical research on this event to make any reliable
findings or comprehensive countermeasures. Scientists and
doctors know so little about it that even the transmission theory of the disease is just that, a theory. It is unclear where the
belief originated, but biting was the most commonly perceived

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