There are many sources of fear in world politics -- terrorist attacks, natural disasters, climate change, financial panic, nuclear proliferation, ethnic conflict, and soforth. Surveying the cultural zeitgeist, however, it is striking how an unnatural problem has become one of the fastest-growing concerns in international relations. I speak, of course, of zombies.
Forour purposes, a zombie is defined as a reanimated being occupying a human corpse, with a strong desire to eat human flesh -- the kind of ghoul that first appeared in George Romero's 1968 classic,Night of the Living Dead, and which has been rapidly proliferating in popular culture in recent years (far upstaging its more passive cousins, the reanimated corpses of traditional West African andHaitian voodoo rituals). Because they can spread across borders and threaten states and civilizations, these zombies should command the attention of scholars and policymakers.
The specter of an uprisingof reanimated corpses also poses a significant challenge to interpreters of international relations and the theories they use to understand the world. If the dead begin to rise from the grave andattack the living, what thinking would -- or should -- guide the human response? How would all those theories hold up under the pressure of a zombie assault? When should humans decide that hiding andhoarding is the right idea?
Serious readers might dismiss these questions as fanciful, but concern about flesh-eating ghouls is manifestly evident in today's popular culture. Whether one looks at films,video games, or books, the genre is clearly on the rise. According to conservative estimates, more than a third of all zombie films ever made were released in the past decade. Zombies are clearly aglobal phenomenon: Beyond the United States, there have been Australian, British, Chinese, Czech, German, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, and Norwegian zombie flicks.
Zombie video games,...