For the penultimate episode of our Parallax Views Halloween series, John Cussans joins us to discuss his book Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror, and the Zombie Complex. Believe it or not, the zombie wasn’t always simply a figure of flesh-ripping, brain eating apocalyptical disease and undead horror. The zombie begins as a figure within Haitian folklore and Voodoo (Voudon) before eventually coming to Western pop culture. John argues that the zombie’s migration to the West was underpinned by white Western fears of voodoo-fueled black slave uprisings in Haiti and has evolved from there. In addition, he makes the case that the myths of Haitian voodoo has been used, at least in terms of its imagery and cultural power, as a weapon of control by Western elements such as intelligence agencies (WWII black ops; see: Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die), journalists, white liberals who seek to “carebearize” the religion, and transgressive revolutionaries like George Bataille, etc. We delve into all these topics as well as the connection between mesmerism and the early zombie in pop culture, Wade Davis’ The Serpent and the Rainbow and John’s critique of it, thoughts on Frank Wilderson III and Afropessimism, conspiracy theories and Videodrome, the dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier, Western “ju ju journalism”, Baron Samedi, the Bizango secret society, and much, much more.
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