I remember the first time I sat down and watched Night of the Living Dead. I was 16 years old, and I rented the VHS tape, no joke, from my local video store. Around this time of year. And I was blown away by the aesthetic of the film, the black and white, the social commentary, and what I would later come to know as the zombie motif in fiction.
And I’ve been - not obsessed - but heavily interested in this motif since then. And I’ve been looking for someone to chat with about it for two years now. Because not only is the zombie an integral part of horror fiction and greater pop culture, it’s an integral part for an entire sociopolitical and religious structure that emanates in Haiti.
You wouldn’t know that if all you know about the zombie is from George Romero films or Walking Dead comic books. Thankfully, our guest this time, Dr John Cussans, is in the house to dig deep into the history of the zombie and tell us about something he calls the zombie complex.
John is an artist, writer and educator based in London with an academic background in art history and theory, and cultural history. His work is informed by critical re-evaluations of anthropological theory in the mid 20th century, and investigates patterns of theoretical and practical convergence between contemporary art, philosophy, psychology, social movements and popular culture from a post-colonial and anti-imperialist perspective.
That is the foundation for his book Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror and the Zombie Complex, which explores the uses of Haiti as a locus for Euro-American fears about African culture and spirituality in the Americas, and their sublimation into popular horror tropes, and which forms the basis for our chat here.
More about the book The Magic Island and its fascinating, enigmatic author William Seabrook, who apparently was a pioneer in S&M, bondage, and also spent some time with one Aleister Crowley
Seabrook’s supposedly cannibalistic tendencies
The legacy of the first zombie film, White Zombie
Cinema as hypnosis
The evolution of the zombie motif in cinema with the release of Night of the Living Dead
John’s idea that all horror expresses what we desire
PRODUCTION & LICENSING
This podcast is produced in the Kingdom of Ohio and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International.
Executive Producers: Mike K., Carter Y., Mauricio G., Alyssa S., Daniel R., Kelly C., Kaleb H., Bruce H., David B., Corey T., David G., Jeremy V., Marcelo T., Christopher B., Colleen F., Leonidas, Timothy W., Caleb C., VH Frater RC’s Hermetic Study Group, Nick F., Michael Q., Jamaica J., Mute Ryan, John W., Paul S., Maginfinit, Andy E.