July 21, 2011

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse, Part VI: Mapping the Living Dead

The following is an excerpt of our upcoming chapter in the edited collection Zombies in the Academy: Living Death in Higher Education.

Building on our earlier analysis of zombie-related keywords as a way of understanding the geographies of the undead, it is also helpful to return more directly to one of the cultural sources of zombies by mapping references to some of the most important and seminal zombie films: George Romero’s Living Dead series.

Geographies of George Romero's Living Dead
One of the most noticeable elements on the map of references to the films is that there are many more references to “Day of the Dead” than any of the other film titles. While also the third film in Romero’s series, Day of the Dead is much more notable as a Mexican holiday to commemorate the deceased (Dia de los Muertos). The geography of references to Day of the Dead, in which references are largely clustered in heavily Hispanic areas of the US southwest and northeast, strongly suggests that most references are to the holiday rather than the film. Here again, we observe the ways that online representations mirror material sociospatial practices, including the religious and spiritual practices of Mexican immigrants in the US, even if it was not necessarily intended as the object of focus.

The second discernible spatial pattern is the clustering of references to Dawn of the Dead, with some mentions to the other film titles, in Pennsylvania. This is unsurprising given Romero’s connections to the state and the fact that the film was set and filmed there. This connection (like that of AK-47 references in Eastern Europe) is a useful way of illustrating how cultural artifacts and practices are intimately tied to material places, not just physically, but also in digital reflections of material places. And in this specific case, forming a virtual “zyberscape” of undead references splattering and spotting the cartographic representation of reality.

Be sure to check out the previous iterations of our Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse series in Parts I, II, III, IV and V.

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