The Return of IR and Zombies (the straight to dvd sequel)
Third post in a row referencing The Disorder of Things – I hope it isn’t against the law to stalk a blog. International relations theorists are still making a fuss over Dan Drezner’s International Relations and Zombies, whether they are cooing over it or slating it as LSE’s George Lawson does.
A while back on the Duck of Minverva, a few people commented on the rather high-handed way in which Drezner apparently deals with non-mainstream and critical accounts of international relations in his book. What would radical theories have to say about how to cope with a zombie plague wondered commentators?
The problem here is that the primary goal of radical theories in international relations is not to provide policy-ready solutions for existing problems. Rather, they seek to unveil the power relations which result in those ‘problems’ in the first place and confers authority on certain political actors over others. They disagree fundamentally with the narrative presented by orthodox approaches. So the critical theory perspective on zombies, had it been included in Drezner’s book, could possibly be introduced through discoveries that the accepted aetiology of the zombie outbreak was incorrect and covered over the real power relationships involved. To use a clichéd example, perhaps that the zombie plague originated in the machinations of evil megacorporations dumping toxic waste in helpless developing nations. The monster was us all along! [gasps from the audience] What’s more, military solutions against the zombie plague only reinforce the power of those who caused the problems in the first place! Voila, a nice little example of the operation of what Susan Strange called ‘structural power’.
As for extant examples of contributions to the zombie genre, John Arvide Lindquist’s Handling the Undead really strikes me as having lots of affinities with critical or constructivist accounts of international relations (although the scenario he presents is much more subtle and powerful than the one I sketch above). I don’t want to give any of the plot details away, but if you’re an international relations geek looking for an unorthodox and even radical take on the zombie plague it might make a refreshing read by subverting the idea of the zombie as a mindless, external threat to which the only response is violence.