Session Abstract: This panel investigates vampires, zombies, and cannibals as our deepest fears of capitalist consumerism and anxieties over the inescapable grasps of neoliberalist modernity. The three figures’ epidemiological implications – labor exploitation and collective dehumanization that spread in a virus and contaminate everyone within – allegorizes and foreshadows our neoliberal perils especially in the post-pandemic world.
Tabish Khair departs from the genre of vampire that visualizes classical capital’s exploitation and its tie to localized sites of production and arrives at the metaphor of zombie that symbolizes the mechanism of neoliberal capital in their redundancy and the myth of voluntary work. Echoing the epidemiology of zombification in its embodiment of indiscriminate contagion and caste untouchability, Khair represents India’s pandemic response as indicatively problematic of neoliberal governance. Haerin Shin continues examining the resurgence of neoliberalist discourses of progress and its discontents through the trope of zombie in South Korean films. Shin proposes the circular mechanism of victimization in zombie narratives as an indication of the society’s resistance against its own complicity. Tiffany Yun-Chu Tsai demonstrates that Chinese literary cannibalism conceptualizes how the meaning of human existence is redefined through postmodern disillusionment of progressivism and a post-revolutionary frenetic pursuit of consumption in the dynamics of nationalist authoritarianism and neoliberal capitalism. The three literary tropes allegorize involuntary incorporations in global neoliberalism at the cost of environmental and labor justices. The panel concludes in discussing the world’s struggles with pandemic transmissions as symbolic compliances with and resistances to the contagion of postsocialist, neoliberalist governance.
Paper Presenter: Tabish Khair – Aarhus University
Paper Presenter: Haerin Shin – Vanderbilt University
Paper Presenter: Tiffany Yun-Chu Tsai – The Citadel