Policing Resource Extraction and Human Rights in The Land of the Dead

"The humor, bravery, and rude strength, as well as the vices of the frontier in its worst aspect, have left traces on American character, language, and literature, not soon to be effaced."

– Frederick Jackson Turner

 

Zombies emerging from the river to attack the city
Figure 1: Water is life?

 

            From their African origins as captured souls, through the Caribbean connections to slave labor, to modernist reanimated cannibals, zombies have always represented subjugation, by being under the control of a master, or driven only by appetite instead of volition (Rushton and Moreman 1-4). Labels of servility, violence, intemperance, and cannibalism have been used to debase Indigenous populations since Columbus, reflecting the oppositional definition of civilization versus savagism present in Europe well prior to the Renaissance (Berkhofer 71-72). Zombies are likewise “old-fashioned savages, descending immediately into cannibalism and irrational, uncontrollable violence” (Paffenroth 11-12). They require violent management at every point of contact and interaction. Throughout Romero’s zombie films, there are frontiers, and echoes of Old Western movies. Therefore, Romero’s zombies can only be fully comprehended in relation to European traditions of primitivism, slavery, and colonialism, so they are a fitting subject for Indigenous criticism.

 
 

 

John Wayne standing in a doorway shot from John Ford's "The Searchers"If there’s one thing I’ve tried to keep in mind as someone invested in Ojibwe language revitalization, it is the fact that languages change over time. This is part of the life of a language; any language that remains vital, creative, and useful will change according to the needs and interests of its users. So while I pretty much think that idealizing linguistic purity is antithetical to language preservation or revitalization, once in a while I do feel a need to intervene against a change that goes against the spirit—and more importantly, the usefulness—of a particular word. One English word that seems to have lost much of its critical and analytical edge is "liminality." Too much has been made of its sense of being stuck “betwixt and between,” like in a doorway between rooms, and not enough attention has been paid to what lies on either side of the threshold.

 
 

 

While talking about stereotype has become rather boring, stereotypes themselves have not gone out of fashion, nor have they lost much of their ability to stand in for real people and real issues. Stereotypes fill films and literature, and allow their audience to quickly follow plots and conflicts without much explanation of character motivation or social context. They also fill academic work and journalism for the same reason. Whether through cultural appropriation, or misrepresentation in literature or journalism, the results are the same: stereotypes help us all consume ideas, and often that includes consuming the labor, lives, and lands of Indigenous peoples.

 
 

 

The German Ideology is full of snark and drama, a glimpse into debates occurring in the 19th Century among followers of Hegel. It is prime evidence for “call out culture” being more than an Internet 2.0 phenomenon. While it helps to have some familiarity with the players, or at least the debate between anarchism and communism, a reader lacking such background would still appreciate the great joy evidenced by Marx and Engel’s lambaste. Or maybe I am projecting too much, and thereby revealing my own desire to be a derisive trickster.