About the Author(s)

Samiksha Laltha Email symbol
Department of English Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa


Laltha, S., 2023, ‘“Creatures in our bed”: Pandemics, posthumanism and predatory nature in World War Z (2013)’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 79(3), a7935. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i3.7935

Note: Special Collection: African Women and Pandemics and Religion, sub-edited by Sophia Chirongoma (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe) and Linda Naicker (University of South Africa, South Africa).

Original Research

‘Creatures in our bed’: Pandemics, posthumanism and predatory nature in World War Z (2013)

Samiksha Laltha

Received: 18 July 2022; Accepted: 05 Nov. 2022; Published: 18 Jan. 2023

Copyright: © 2023. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This article provided a literary analysis of the film text World War Z (2013, dir. Marc Forster) with a specific focus on the pandemic depicted in the film and its relationship to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This discussion foregrounded the figure of the ‘zombie’ and the cultural anxieties that this literary figure represents. The pandemic in the film is brought about through an environmental crisis that mimics our own. Mother Earth and nature, personified as female, feature significantly in the film and evoke a discussion on survival, human nature versus animal nature and the figure of the posthuman. This article also employed a cultural studies approach to analyse how the pandemic depicted in the film evokes a Christian religious dimension through a particular scene that takes place in the Holy Land, Jerusalem. The film’s depiction of pandemics, religion and the environmental crisis makes it worthy of discussion, especially in light of the current pandemic that the world is facing, with particular focus on humanity’s response to it. The dystopian warnings that the film projects have echoes of the current social and ecological challenges that we are grappling with. The conclusion of the film deviates from the ‘happy endings’ indicative of Hollywood; rather, it engages with a situation where a temporary, substandard solution is found to an ongoing world-wide catastrophe. The ending of the film draws intriguing parallels to our own experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic and the absence of a cure.

Contribution: This article provided a literary analysis of a film text. The discussion drew on cultural studies, popular culture and religion through the lens of Christianity, with a particular focus on the social and cultural anxieties that the figure of the ‘zombie’ holds as well as cultural interpretations of Mother Earth and nature as female.

Keywords: Environmental crisis; nature; pandemic; posthumanism; zombie.

There is a structure of feeling and a repetition of content wound through the cultural production of certain periods that is fundamentally apocalyptic: a deep-seated conviction that things are teetering on the precipice, that disaster is not just around the corner but the corner has already been turned. Now is one of those times. The anxiety and urgency are palpable, and not just because movies about the dead returning to life and waging war on us all are making a killing at the box office. We stand on the nervous razor edge of bad years bound to go worse, if we don’t intervene, and we can’t help but feel this.

– Williams (2011:11)


This article explores the relationship between Mother Nature and pandemics as depicted in World War Z, a 2013 American action horror film directed by Marc Forster, in light of our recent, first-hand experience with a pandemic that has had an impact on a global scale. Through the expression of fear, the relationship between the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the virus in the film is highlighted. Through a literary analysis of reading the film as text, the figure of the zombie (created by the virus in the film) is analysed through the lens of posthumanism and popular culture. The film also foregrounds the relationship between Christianity and the human and zombie nature, through the religious and cultural interpretation of the Holy Land, Jerusalem.

The film World War Z (2013) takes its name from a book of the same title, written by Max Brooks (2006). The film follows the main protagonist, Gerry Lane (portrayed by Brad Pitt) as he attempts to investigate the source of a mysterious virus that turns its victims into zombies,1 flesh-devouring entities that prey on human beings with the sole aim of spreading the virus. Gerry Lane, who works for the United Nations, is sent to South Korea to escort a secondary character, virologist Dr Andrew Fassbach (portrayed by Elyes Gabel), in an effort to find the source and a possible cure for the viral outbreak. After Dr Andrew Fassbach is killed, Gerry Lane is led to Jerusalem, where he meets Jurgen Warmbrunn (portrayed by Ludi Boeken), an official from Mossad. It is in Jerusalem where he gains the knowledge that the zombies become blind to those who are sick and terminally ill. He uses this knowledge and tests his theory through injecting himself with a deadly pathogen to avoid being attacked by the zombies. This camouflage only buys humanity time to find a cure, which is never actually discovered by the film’s conclusion.

Representations of Mother Nature in World War Z (2013)

Mother Nature ‘produces particularly evocative images of what it means to live in a natural environment’ (Roach 2003:9). This is seen explicitly in the opening scenes of the film, which feature serene natural images of nature and animals. Most dystopian films do not place an emphasis on nature, ‘other than by its absence’ (Hughes 2013:22). World War Z (2013) differs from this representation through the depiction of nature and natural images through the ocean, clouds and birds. As the tempo of the montage increases, so does the violence perpetuated by the predatory animals on screen. The predatory nature of crocodiles and wolves devouring their prey foregrounds the rapidly altering states that nature embodies and projects this on human nature through the figure of the zombie which I address shortly.

Nature is personified as female in the film. The relationship between nature and the feminine ‘reveal not simply connection but complex, ambivalent tendencies towards both violent control and loving repair’ (Roach 2003:9). Depicting nature as female foregrounds the creative and destructive potential of Mother Nature, as is depicted in the film through the words of Dr Fassbach, the virologist, when Andrew Fassbach observes:

‘Mother nature is a serial killer. No one’s better, more creative. But like all serial killers she can’t help the urge to want to get caught […] so she leaves crumbs […]. Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armor, and she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She’s a bitch.’

The image of Earth and its associations to femininity ‘evokes a whole range of both patriarchal and feminist notions of what “mother” means and then projects these meanings into the environment’ (Roach 2003:9). Fassbach’s assertion uses not just derogatory terminology but also an analogy of ruthlessness and contradiction. Mother Nature is depicted as both perpetrator and victim. References to the Mother Goddess and the ‘generative, parthenogenetic mother […] exists in the mythology of all human cultures’ (Creed 1993:103–104). The creative and destructive nature of the Mother Goddess is the ‘black hole from which all life comes and to which all life returns’ (Creed 1993:109). In the film, the virus emerges from Mother Nature, and she also provides the closest thing to a cure. Ironically, the cure is found in other deadly and life-threatening viruses. Mother Nature is thus ‘outside morality and law’ (Creed 1993:114). The ambivalence of Mother Nature and the duality that she represents can also ‘undermine its own activism and support a non-environmentalist stance’ (Roach 2003:9).

In most dystopian filmic representations, humans are placed in opposition to nature. In the film World War Z (2013) it differs from this representation as Mother Nature is intrinsically linked to human nature, in the same manner that the zombie is linked to the human. Dystopian texts function to warn humanity about its future if precautions are not taken in the present. When we are, according to Bump (2021), able to:

[H]umbly learn from the examples of science fiction and climate fiction [literature, then] we will be in a position to cite more traditional literary examples of unitive consciousness replacing the destructive dualistic of man vs. nature that is driving both zoonotic pandemics and climate change. (p. 43)

The unsettling of the binary between nature and human is premised upon ‘the certainty of what counts as nature – a source of insight and promise of innocence [and this] is undermined, probably fatally’ (Haraway 1985:12).

Our current environmental situation has revealed that we are ‘living in the sixth major extinction event on this planet’ (Bump 2021:43). Following other films in the dystopian genre, humanity and human nature are blamed for bringing about their own downfall in World War Z (2013). Jurgen Warmbrunn:

‘The problem with most people is that they don’t believe something can happen until it already has, it’s just human nature, it’s not stupidity or weakness’.

Nature (the natural world) and human nature are intrinsically linked.2 Not only is this reflected in the beginning of the film, but it is also clearly represented through the relationship that humans share with the figure of the zombie, for in the film, the zombie is a derivative of the human. As animals feed on their prey in the beginning of the film, so too do the zombies feed on human beings. The zombies become the predators that prey on the rest of humankind. When the montage at the beginning of the film increases in tempo, it foregrounds the manner in which the zombies move when stimulated to feed. Their rapid movements are highlighted when they hunt and attack humans in cities such as New York and Philadelphia. Nature thus becomes a word with ‘amphibolous potential’ as it carries ‘meanings of both “it” and “us”’ (Roach 2003:13).

The image of the zombie can also be seen in nature and the natural environment. The zombie acts as a ‘multifarious metaphor for complicated phenomenon’ which can help us ‘understand the perplexing world around us’ (Bishop 2015:16). This:

[A]pproach has already been applied to the natural world, a world in which zombie fungi can take over the brains of ants and control their bodies, in which zombie maple trees continue to live despite failing to grow, and in which zombified caterpillars transmit their controlling virus by dying before molting. (pp. 16–17)

The anxieties projected by the figure of the zombie

The environmental crisis projected by the film mirrors our own challenges with climate change. The plot is set against the backdrop of an environmental crisis which has seen a dramatic increase in carbon dioxide emissions, numerous incidents of dolphins stranding themselves on beaches and the outbreak of avian flu that has become transmissible between humans. Once the virus has breached the animal–human barrier, the figure of the zombie is created, as the film informs us of news reports of humans behaving strangely and the sick attacking other humans. The plausibility of such a scenario is further highlighted by our own experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, with its origins still unidentified (Bolsen et al. 2020:564).

The zombie ‘lacks identity, personality, and intellect’, thus making it the ideal metaphor upon which ‘one can project any symbolic, metaphoric, or allegorical meaning’ (Knickerbocker 2015:72). The zombie is an expression ‘of our most profound anxieties and fears’ (Knickerbocker 2015:62), and these anxieties are also projected onto the viewer. The figure of the zombie and the zombie horde is directly linked to the problem of overpopulation and the strain that is placed on available resources. Nowhere is the problem of overpopulation seen more clearly than in the zombie horde and the ‘pressing problem of the modern world’s sheer number of people, the population explosion, bodies crammed into super-cities and suburban sprawls, demanding satiation beyond any plan for sustainable living’ (Luckhurst 2015:7).

In popular culture, zombies represent the human fear of death and the dead. All human cultures ‘resist this fear through funerary rituals designed to reintegrate the recently deceased into the cycles of nature’ (McFarland 2015:57). In the film, the figure of the zombie explicitly represents ‘viral contamination’ (Lauro & Embry 2008:88), as ‘the figure of the infectious, consuming zombie illustrates humanity’s attempt to transfer its burden onto others – as well as our fears of increasingly publicized diseases’ (Lauro & Embry 2008:100). The figure of the zombie then functions as a ‘skin through which to model the spread of epidemics’ (Pielak & Cohen 2014:44).

World War Z (2013) neatly fits into what has been termed ‘critical posthumanism’. This viewpoint (Knickerbocker 2015) sees:

[H]umanity as just one of many species inhabiting Earth, each with an equal right to exist on it and enjoy it […] a diversity that puts the lie to any pretense of an essential, universal, and transhistorical ‘human nature’, favoring instead a vision of the species as a collective of individuals each the product of specific material and historical circumstances. (p. 68)

The image of the zombie in the film only becomes effective when the horde is created. The representation of the horde is emphasised through the effectiveness of the virus. In the film, once one is bitten, it only takes 12 seconds for a full transformation to occur. The effectiveness of the virus is thus brought to light, and the zombies in the film do not rise from the dead but rather rapidly transform into zombies with the sole purpose of spreading the virus. The ‘Hollywood zombie of today does not produce anything except for more zombies’ (Lauro & Embry 2008:99), giving rise to the horde.

The figure of the zombie (Lauro & Embry 2008) is the:

[O]nly imaginable specter that could really be posthuman […] [as the zombie is a] celebration of its immortality and a recognition of ourselves as enslaved to our bodies […] [and the] urge of the individual body is the same as the collective. (pp. 89–99)

In a traditional zombie film, attacks punctuate the narrative, and World War Z (2013), is no exception. These scenes evoke fear in the protagonist and in the viewer. Fear (Lauro 2008):

[H]eightens our awareness of ourselves as individuals because our individuality is endangered in life-threatening situations [and this fear is] acutely embodied in […] the model of a zombie attack. […] primary fear of being devoured […] [exists, and this is a] threat posed mainly by the physical body, and the secondary fear that one will, in losing one’s consciousness become part of the monstrous horde. (p. 89)

The horde is ultimately ‘overwhelming and overpowering’ (Pielak & Cohen 2014:46) and is:

[I]tself a figure of consensus and normative assimilation; the human figures defending themselves from that horde are perforce defending sympathetic human idiosyncrasy and individual moral dignity from a mercilessly coercive collectivity. (McFarland 2015:28)

The zombie horde, as a collective, expressing (Knickerbocker 2015):

[G]enocidal […] behavior serve as a vengeance fantasy on the part of any group to have suffered at the hands of powers created during a modernity informed by humanist ideology: workers, minorities, ethnicities, colonized cultures, non-normative sexualities, colonized civilizations, or even as justice on behalf of all the species annihilated by human ‘civilization’. (p. 70)

The zombie then becomes a symbol of rebellion, fighting against humans to transcend humanity and exist as something beyond.

Jerusalem, Christianity, and its relationship to the figure of the zombie

During his investigation into the origin of the virus in World War Z (2013), Gerry Lane travels to Jerusalem after discovering that the country is successfully separating its citizens from the zombie horde through the building of a wall, which began two millennia ago and was concluded two weeks before the attacks began. The wall is considered the greatest feat of engineering in human history and stands as a testament to humanity’s desire to protect itself from the zombie ‘other’.

Through the vivid images of Jerusalem, a religious dimension through Christianity is evoked by the film. Not only is Jerusalem the birthplace of Jesus Christ, but it is also the site of his crucifixion. Within the narrative of the film, the Holy Land should signal hope and salvation, standing in for the last refuge against the pandemic. The city of Jerusalem is the symbolic heaven on Earth and thus the only place that could promise salvation and redemption. When the city is breached by the zombie horde, the film unsettles the city’s associations with positivity and signals that ‘religion has come to an end’ (Baldwin 2007:424). The collapse of religion is depicted graphically through the infectivity and failure of the wall to protect the people inside its enclosure. The presence of the figure of the zombie in Jerusalem foregrounds the notion that the zombie is beyond religion, as ‘Religion cannot convert it’ and ‘evil has already been chosen […] whether or not a person chooses to be good or evil’ (Baldwin 2007:423).

Becoming the zombie actively partakes in the ‘devaluing of the body’ as the ‘non-living reanimation of the human being becomes the “damned,” the ultimate “unsaved” and the “unsaveable”’ (Baldwin 2007:422). As the zombies breach the wall, they attack and quickly spread the virus. Within the figure of the zombie, there is religious ambivalence. A discussion of the figure of the zombie within a Christian religious paradigm coupled with popular culture reveals the representation of Jesus as ‘zombie’ (Tan 2016:1), the first zombie in Christianity. This ‘whimsical claim’ centres on ‘Jesus having exalted all to eat his flesh and risen from the dead’ thus becoming ‘history’s first zombie’ (Tan 2016:1). The dystopian impulses of the film reflect a ‘genuinely apocalyptic image, a radically contemporary version of the cannibalistic horde of living corpses’ and promises ‘beyond any emotional response, what all apocalypses promise: revelation’ (McFarland 2015:58). The word revelation comes from the Greek word apokalypsis, meaning an ‘unveiling’ or ‘revelation’, which in the ‘Judeo-Christian tradition refers to the things known to God which are revealed as a means of providing comfort and hope of ultimate divine deliverance to a persecuted people’ (Morehead 2012:105).

The figure of the zombie becomes significant as ‘stories of “the End,” are especially prevalent’ in popular culture (Morehead 2012:101). Christianity is ‘one of the strongest influences shaping American apocalyptic consciousness’, resulting in apocalyptic imagery being quite prevalent ‘in the Western imagination’ (Morehead 2012:105). It would then follow that stories about ‘the End of Days’ and the destruction of ‘civilization are not only found in sacred texts such as the Bible of the Judeo-Christian traditions, they are also found in a variety of pop-culture manifestations’3 (Morehead 2012:101). These stories are largely pessimistic, so the zombie apocalypse ‘fits well into the “neo-apocalyptic variant” of postmodernity where human beings are beyond saving’ (Morehead 2012:106).

The emphasis on salvation and hope is signalled in the scene in Jerusalem, when rejoicing and singing break out among the ‘survivors’ inside the safety of the wall. The singing and rejoicing act as a form of worship but quickly turn into horror as the singing attracts the attention of the horde and, stimulated by the noise, they build a wall of their own with their bodies and are able to breach the wall and attack. The zombie attack concreates the notion that there is ‘no New Jerusalem on a New Heaven and Earth’ (Morehead 2012:106).

The scene in which the zombies breach the wall is arguably the most terrifying scene in the film. The vantage point is a bird’s-eye view, and this angle only highlights the helplessness of the situation. The zombies will successfully breach the wall, and no force can stop them, slow them down or save the inhabitants inside the wall. The pervading brown colour palette of the shot (see Figure 1) highlights the ocean of zombie bodies as they trample each other to breach the wall. The colour palette of the shot aims to homogenise the infected and effectively shows the disparity between the sick and those inside the confines of the wall. The yellow-brown colour palette of the shot is effective in depicting an ocean of sickly bodies, and this is juxtaposed to the vibrancy in colour to those inside the confines of the wall. In the film, in order to stay protected, one must remain inside the walls. Our struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic saw us engage in ‘social distancing’, and this had a direct impact on our ‘intrapersonal relationships’ (Schimmerati, Billieux & Starcevic 2020:42).

FIGURE 1: One of the most iconic scenes from the film, where the zombie horde breaches the wall using other zombie bodies for leverage.

The title of the film also signals that the war has been lost and that civilisation is drawing to a close. A connection is created between the letter ‘Z’ and the word zombies. Labelling the war ‘Z’ is signalling that this is the last war that humanity will fight and ultimately lose. The purpose of the film then becomes apparent (Pielak & Cohen 2014) as:

[W]e tell the stories of humans facing cataclysmic destruction by zombie hoards [sic], knowing that they are not real (at least not yet), but believing that the conditions for the apocalypse stories are in place. (p. 47)

The film, although dystopian in nature, evokes the critical dystopia which retains ‘the potential for change, so we can discover in our current dark times a scattering of hope to aid us in transformation of society’ (eds. Baccolini & Moylan 2003:235). The critical dystopia is reflected through a small glimmer of hope emerging from the trip to Jerusalem. When Gerry Lane is forced to run for his life amid the ensuing chaos, he witnesses the horde avoid an elderly man and a young boy. It is from this experience that he is able to deduce that the zombies avoid terminally ill individuals, as they require a healthy host. Gerry Lane uses the insights from this experience to create a ‘vaccine’ which makes healthy humans invisible to the horde. They are not bitten and thereby are not infected; however, it is not a cure, it is camouflage. The wall acts as a measure to prevent the virus from spreading, even though it fails quickly and with deadly consequences. The vaccine also does not provide a suitable cure against the virus in the film. In a similar manner, ‘the observations of new and daily mutations of [the COVID-19 virus and the] definitive treatment of this disease is becoming more and more difficult’ (Mohammadi & Sabati 2022:98). The bite of the zombie transfers the virus, and it is even suggested by one of the characters that the only way to stop the spread of the virus is to have everyone’s teeth removed, ‘for it is always at the mouth that the zombie feeds, and it is where the physical boundary between zombie and not-zombie is effaced, through its bite’ (Lauro 2008:99). The zombie horde and the contagion that they represent is undefeatable, and this can be paralleled to our battle with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The camouflage can be found within the same vessel that is responsible for spreading the virus – the human body – and this brings about a true awareness of the self. Because the zombie is derived from the human, the ‘zombie-image has a unique historical origin to the extent that it registers an objective historical rupture in the cultural traditions of human self-representation’ (McFarland 2015:23). In the book by Max Brooks, ‘the war never ends’ (Baldwin 2007:412), and the same can be said for the film. Gerry Lane:

‘This isn’t the end. Not even close. We’ve lost entire cities. We still don’t know how it started. We bought ourselves some time. It’s given us a chance. Others have found a way to push back. If you can fight, fight. Help each other. Be prepared for anything. Our war has just begun.’

The zombie pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic

Current research on the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn on previous research on the long-standing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic. Both are without cure and both pose a ‘global threat’ (Eaton & Kalichman 2020:345), with the current pandemic having taken more than six million lives across the globe to date, with the ‘lack of public health preparedness’ being ‘well recognized’ (Eaton & Kalichman 2020:345).

From our struggle with the HIV pandemic, we ‘have learnt a considerable amount about the reliance on social behavioral approaches to slowing infectious disease’ (Eaton & Kalichman 2020:341). This notion foregrounds the film’s emphasis on the behaviour of not just the zombies but the horde. They act in unison with the sole aim of spreading the virus, even at the cost of their own destruction. This is seen explicitly in the scene where they built a wall with their own bodies to create a zombie ladder to breach the wall to feed on human flesh. The horde foregrounds the ‘sinking into indifferent mass’, a mass which grows exponentially, and they are ‘driven by an empty but insatiable hunger to devour the last of the living and extend their domain until we reach the End of Days’ (Luckhurst 2015:1).

Fear underpins any zombie narrative, and it also plays a key role in interpolating the audience by inciting the viewer’s fears. Fear is defined as ‘a basic human emotion that is activated in response to a perceived threat’ (Schimmenti, Billieux & Starcevic 2020:41). With specific reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, fear is expressed through ‘fear of the body, fear of significant others/fear for significant others, fear of not knowing and fear of taking action/fear of inaction’ (Schimmenti et al. 2020:41). The fear of the body is explicitly seen in the film through infection and the attempt by the zombies to infect others. Living in a COVID-19 pandemic situation has shown that ‘the body is a potential source of danger and [it] cannot be trusted’ (Schimmenti et al. 2020:41). This holds true for the contagion situation in the film, as it highlights ‘a sense of physical vulnerability’ (Schimmenti et al. 2020:41). During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was and still is ‘a need to protect the body’ (Schimmenti et al. 2020:42). This is explicitly seen in the film when Gerry Lane uses magazines to protect his forearms from being bitten when he goes up against a group of zombies. As in the film, the pandemic has revealed that the body is ‘a treasure that may be lost’ (Schimmenti et al. 2020:42).

The ending of the film World War Z (2013) differs from other Hollywood films that depict zombies, one such film being I Am Legend (2007), where a cure to the virus is actually found by the end of the film. Forster’s film ends with no resolution and no cure, and this mirrors our own experience with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our emotional response to the film is reflected in our own experience with a pandemic that does not have a definitive end. Like Gerry Lane, we can only be hopeful about the future, but we are aware of our vulnerability.

As in the case of the virus in the film, we are currently ‘unable to clinically manage the onslaught of the coronavirus disease’ (Eaton & Kalichman 2020:341). In the film, injecting oneself with a deadly pathogen provides camouflage, as the zombies desire to feed and infect only those that are viable. This cloak of invisibility is far from anything that resembles a cure, and Gerry Lane notes that some sects of humanity have decided to fight back. This further highlights the notion that the war is far from over. The war against the zombie horde reflects a war with our selves. Zombies are ‘simply us reflected back, depersonalized, flat-lined by the alienating tedium of modern existence’ (Luckhurst 2015:4).


One of the first lines spoken in the film is that of Gerry Lane’s wife, Karin Lane (portrayed by Mireille Enos) who remarks about the children joining them in bed in the morning. Karin Lane: ‘Oh, creatures in our bed’. This makes direct reference to the creatures they will encounter and have to fight off to ensure their survival. By the end of the film, there is no cure in sight but rather just a method to cope with the infection rate. Mother Earth is both creative and destructive; the zombie is both dead and alive, ‘human and inhuman’ (Pielak & Cohen 2014:44), ‘powerless and powerful’ (Lauro & Embry 2008:98), and it is perhaps these ambivalences that are suggestive of our own human nature, and perhaps we really are the creatures after all.


Competing interests

The author declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

S.L. is the sole author of this research article.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards for research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

The financial assistance of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation towards this research is hereby acknowledged.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency or funder of the author.


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1. The historical references to ‘zombis or zombie-like entities’ can be found ‘in Equatorial and Central Africa and the Caribbean’ (Ackerman & Gauthier 1991:466). The figure of the zombie has its origins in folklore, where it was ‘raised by Voodoo priests to labor in the fields’ (Lauro & Embry 2008:90). The term ‘zombie’ is an ‘American importation of the monster, which in its cinematic incarnation has morphed into a convenient boogeyman representing various social concerns’ (p. 87).

2. Donna Haraway (1985:10) observes, ‘by the late twentieth century in U.S. scientific culture, the boundary between human and animal is thoroughly breached’. There are similarities between the figure of the cyborg, which Haraway bases her theory on, and the zombie. Both the cyborg and the zombie are ‘programmed to destroy humanity’ (Knickerbocker 2015:70).

3. The ‘zombie walk’ event has become significant in and through popular culture (Morehead 2012:101). The first documented zombie walk took place in Sacramento, California, in August of 2001, and it has become a global phenomenon (p. 102). The image of Jesus as zombie also makes an appearance at such events, and it is directly related to the notion of resurrection, in relation to Easter festivals which foreground the death and resurrection of Jesus (p. 103).

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