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In Session: Horrors of Capitalist Modernity: The Vampire, Zombie, Cannibal, and Plague
1: From Vampire to Zombie: Neoliberal Governance in the Covid-19 Pandemic India
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Aarhus University, Denmark
Drawing on Karl Marx’s reference to capital as vampiric, Franco Moretti describes vampire in Dracula as hoarders. Hailing from the cosmopolitan metropolis, they aspire to an ontological monopoly by siring an army of subservient beings, rendering their life surplus by subsisting on their blood within the hierarchy. While vampires possess the ability to cloak themselves in invisibility, their exploitations are tied to localized sites of production within the fabrics of classical capitalism. In contrast, the metaphor of zombie effectively instantiates the mechanism of neoliberal capital in their redundancy, free from the burden of being ploughed back into the cycle of production and trade in their proliferation; capital in the neoliberal era is buoyed by the myth of voluntary work. Telecommuting options and start-up cultures feed into the illusions of disembodied labour and the power dynamics of exploitation. Under the neoliberal regime of our time, none other than we ourselves appear to be the affecters of exploitation; as its cultural purveyor, zombies indeed defy hierarchy in their indiscriminate contagion of populist communality and autopoietic production mechanism. Tracing the trajectory of capital’s evolution from Adam Smith’s classical vision to its neoliberal successor of our time through the metaphorical lens of vampires and zombies, I explore how India’s official response to the COVID-19 pandemic is symptomatic of neoliberal governance, echoing the epidemiology of zombification – its invisible infection, caste-like untouchability, and its rampancy beyond control, COVID-19 showcases the illusion of ‘one nation’ as armies of unemployed workers roam the street in universal destitution.