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No More Room in Hell: A Half-Century of Undead Media

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Sarah Juliet Lauro, University of Tampa, Department of English

University of Pittsburgh, September 28th-29th, 2018
Hosted by the Film and Media Studies Graduate Student Organization (FMSGSO)
Call for Papers | Deadline Extended: July 15th, 2018

2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of George Romero’s groundbreaking zombie film Night of the Living Dead, while Romero’s death in 2017 had provoked renewed attention to his career. We currently see the zombie across numerous genres and formats; its evolution over the last fifty years is so pervasive across media and genres that a “zombie” can be evoked through recognizable gestures and movements. 2018 is, therefore, a good year to reflect on the popular, cultural, and academic fascination with the concepts of “zombie,” “dead,” “living dead,” and “undead” across media. We propose to explore the zombie as a metaphor for death in and of film and media in a broader sense. “Film is dead” is a frequently-contested declaration among filmmakers and theorists, but the persistence of an appearance, a revitalization, and a nostalgia of and for film continues to complicate this idea. Film and media seem bound up in an endless recycling of ideas, formats, and images, all foregrounded by an idea of “death” or “living dead.”

This conference will take the following questions as its foundation: how has the concept of “zombie,” “dead,” “living dead,” or “undead” developed and changed, in textual analysis and theoretical exchange, over the last fifty years? What do we mean when we talk about the “living dead”? Why is the undead such an important and oft-chosen vehicle for social or political critique, and what metaphors or themes does it tend to concretize? How has the zombie “epidemic” developed and spread across national boundaries, different media forms, and generic cycles? This conference also invites papers that speak to the notion of “zombie” or “living dead” and their modern iterations across disciplines and contexts. The idea that friends and family urge media-addicted loved ones to live their “real life” suggest that the stupor of the computer or television screen makes people more dead than living. What effect does modern technology — particularly social media and the Internet — have on our idea of living people as “zombies”? How can the revitalization of certain media forms, softwares, websites (i.e. LiveJournal or MySpace), or even dead actors (Peter Cushing in Rogue One) fit into a conversation about “living dead”? How are the memories and spaces we’ve historically reserved for the dead complicated by the lingering Facebook accounts of deceased friends or websites such as FindAGrave? What, in short, is the fascination with the “dead” within the context of the “living”?

We are particularly interested in submissions that engage Film, TV, New Media, Feminist and Queer Studies, Visual Culture, Literature, Critical Theory, Communications, and Historiography. Other topics might include:

– the zombie film across genres, cycles, and TV

– the national/international/transnational zombie (i.e. Japan, Korea, India, Italy, UK, Spain)

– retro-gaming, pixel art; zombie games

– connections between zombies and mass hysteria, contemporary fascism, and intolerance

– issues & representations of race, gender, and class in zombie film & media

– folklore/religion, voodoo & the zombi

– the “Other” and cultural appropriation

– CGI or rotoscoping & the digital recreation of dead actors

– aesthetics, politics, & questions of taste

– (media) consumption, cannibalism

– recycling, revitalization, or rethinking of “dead” concepts or media forms

– the archive as tomb

– reappropriating or recycling footage

– the “deadening” of cultural or media forms through technology, mechanical reproduction, or other avenues (Benjamin, Adorno)

– sex(uality) and the dead

– theories of the body, embodiment, & affect

– fandom, audience, & reception studies

– disgust, decay, abjection, the boundary between living and dead

– war, terrorism, & violence

– conformity, brainwashing, addiction, & internalization of ideas

– ontological considerations; death & photography

Please send your 500-word abstracts to by June 30, 2018.