Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ANTH 499: The Anthropology of Zombies

ANTH 499: The Anthropology of Zombies


Dr. Carl Lipo, Associate Professor

Department of Anthropology

Office: PH1 Rm 202

Phone: 562-985-2393

Email: clipo@csulb.edu


Class Hours:            MW 3:30-4:45 PM

Room:                        PE1-059

Office Hours:            Tuesday 1:30-3:30

Required Textbooks:

Davis, Wade, 1985 The Serpent and the Rainbow. Simon and Schuster.

Brooks, Max 2003. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. Three Rivers Press.

            Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith 2009. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now With Ultraviolent Mayhem! Quirk Books.

            Brooks, Max 2007. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Three Rivers Press.

            Ewald, Paul 2002 Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease. Anchor.

            Cronk, Lee. 1999. That Complex Whole: Culture And the Evolution of Human Behavior. Westview Press.



ANTH 499 is an exploration into the phenomenon of the plague of flesh-eating living dead (aka Zombies) that plague our society. This course investigates the history of zombies, the evolutionary processes that lead to the living dead, instances of zombie-ism in the natural world, philosophical issues of consciousness, and the role zombies have played in popular culture. Through readings, films and discussions we will attempt to frame the zombie scourge in historical and evolutionary context and provide insight on how one should deal with this clear and present threat to human life.

As everyone knows, zombies are a major social concern. With millions of infectious flesh-eating undead wandering our streets, it is essential that we construct an academic understanding of zombies. Many of society’s most pressing questions depends on our ability to ask and answer questions about WHY ZOMBIES. Why do they seek to eat living flesh? Why do we make things? What caused their evolution? Why do zombies depend on the flesh of living beings? Are zombies part of a larger unseen natural cycle? Does the insatiable desire for flesh constitute consciousness? What is the history of zombies? What is the role that zombies play in popular culture? Why zombies now? How do zombies impact the structure of our social and economic organization? Determining why zombies (and ourselves) are they way they, and learning about origins provides us a means to understand the nature of zombies and change as well as what we might expect in the future. Answering these questions requires having information about the evolutionary history of zombies – since that history is the ultimate reason WHY we are here. Put simply, we are here because zombies exist and have reproduced.

In the Anthropology of Zombies, we will examine how anthropology is able to address some of the key why questions linked to the nature of zombie existence: the origin of our species, origins of zombies, zombie society, zombie culture, zombie biology, zombie philosophy, etc.. We will also examine common approaches used by anthropologists to study zombies. In particular, we will explore how anthropology is a discipline that uses an evolutionary conceptual framework for explaining our zombie origins. This framework is the basis of the zombie sciences, a realm of the sciences dedicated to the study of the major why zombie questions. It is distinct from the non-zombie sciences such as physics and chemistry. The zombie sciences build explanations that account for patterns of zombies and culture change through time and across space. While subject matter may vary, zombie scientists share explanatory frameworks and make use of measurements of the empirical world – a framework in common with evolutionary biology, evolutionary philosophy and other evolutionary disciplines. In anthropology, this consists of the zombie horde – the undead, their behavior, their culture, their biology and their spatial relations. Measurements of zombies are recorded in the field and laboratory by instruments and analytical techniques developed in the physical sciences, yet explained within the zombie paradigm.

This course will include lectures and material that will permit you to:

·      Comprehend the difference between scientific and pseudo-scientific understanding of the zombies;

·      Know how physical-science techniques, such as molecular biology, have contributed to the development of a zombie science;

·      Be able to identify and illustrate the scientific tools that anthropology has developed on its own in order to produce knowledge about zombies that is falsifiable;

·      Be able to apply the basic principles of measurement and quantification used in zombie studies;

·      Comprehend the evolutionary processes that shaped zombie history and biology

·      Be able to summarize the major changes in zombie-ism that has occurred over the past 6 million years;

·      Understand why zombies occur in the natural world;

·      Be able to explain the role of zombies in popular culture;

·      Discuss the differences between consciousness and mindlessness;

·      Track notions such as zombies in popular culture through time and space.

You will have succeeded in this course when you are able to:

1.     Contribute to the class discussion of assigned topics, current zombie events, zombie literature, and classroom exercises.

2.     Distinguish zombie science from stories and demonstrate an understanding of how science works in the study of the zombies.

3.     Demonstrate knowledge of zombie methods, theories, science, analytic techniques, zombie management, and zombie stewardship on the midterm exam.

4.     Incorporate an understanding of zombies in the context of disease and the evolution of coevolutionary relationships.

5.     Analyze details of important features of zombies worldwide, describing major transitions in zombies and how this knowledge is important for modern humans.

6.     Demonstrate writing skills on assignments that indicate good preparation and organization.

7.     Discuss the value of zombies to your own life and to modern society.


The course meets two times a week: Mondays and Wednesdays @3:30-4:45. Class announcements, additional reading, and assignments will be posted on BeachBoard (http://beachboard.csulb.edu). All class assignments must be turned in on time. Late assignments, without a valid reason for absence (see below) will be accepted, but count for no more than 50% of the full value.


A traditional grading scheme will be used (>90%=A, 80-89%=B, 70-79%=C, 60-69%=D, <60%=F). Your grade will be based on four separate components:

Attendance and In-Class Activities (15%)

Attendance is required for this class. Attendance will be evaluated through discussions, attendance roll, in-class exercises, assignments and quizzes. The standard University criteria for absences will be used. Valid excuses consist of (1) Illness or injury to the student, (2) death, injury or a serious illness of an immediate family member or the like due to zombies, (3) religious reasons (4) jury duty or government obligations in zombie defense, (5) university sanctioned or approved activities (examples include: artistic performances, forensics presentations, participation in research conferences, intercollegiate athletic activities, zombie hunting, student government, required class field trips, etc.), (6) zombie attacks. When any of these reasons directly conflict with class meeting times, students are responsible for informing faculty members of the reason for the absence and for arranging to make up missed assignments, tests, quizzes, and class work insofar as this is possible. Evidence of zombie attacks may be requested. Note per University policy, faculty members are not obligated to consider other non-zombie related absences as excused.

Film Discussion (25%)

There will be five film exercises during the semester. These films will be made available at the library for you to watch in advance. You must watch the films in advance. On the lecture days corresponding to the films we will view key scenes and discuss the major points made in each. Film discussion write ups are due the Monday following the filmsand are worth 5% each for a total of 25% of your grade.

3/15            Dawn of the Dead

3/22            Day of the Dead

3/29            Shaun of the Dead

4/5                        28 Days Later

4/19            28 Weeks Later

Evening Lectures (10%)

During the course of the semester there will be three evening lectures given by internationally-known zombie specialists. The lectures will be held off-campus – at the Aquarium of the Pacific in downtown Long Beach. Each of these individuals is an engaging speaker who will be discussing a zombie topic that we will also cover in class. The talks begin @7:00PM and will be followed by a reception at the aquarium so that you can talk with the speakers. The schedule of the talks is:

  • Wed., Feb. 1: Dr. Paul Ewald, Evolutionary Studies of Disease
  • Wed., March 8: Dr. Lawrence Gilbert, Zombie Ants
  • Mon., March 27: Max Brooks, The Zombie Plague and What You Can Do About It.

You are required to attend at least one of these lectures. For this lecture (your choice) you must provide a type-written, brief summary and critique of the talk. This critique should examine whether the author is able to say something about the past in a scientific manner – what evidence and theory are they using to make their zombie points? This paper is due 24 April. The paper must be 2-3 pages, double-spaced, typed, and in a professional format. LATE PAPERS WILL NOT ACCEPTED. E-mailed papers are not accepted.

Mid-Term Exam (25%)

There will be a mid-term exam on Monday, March 1st. This exam will include essay-type questions on zombie issues as well as so-called objective questions, and will cover assigned readings for that time period as well as lectures and other class materials. There will be NO makeup exams except in fully documented serious circumstances.

Final Exam (25%)

There will be a final exams scheduled during the final period, April 24 @2:45 – 4:45PM. This exam will include essay-type questions as well as so-called objective questions, and each will cover assigned readings for that time period as well as lectures and other class materials. The final will be cumulative to a small degree in that you will need to know the basic concepts of zombies to explain the natural world.


·      15 Feb: Exercise 1 Due

·      1 March: Midterm Exam

·      24 April: Zombie Lecture Paper Due

·      18 May: Final exam

Throughout entire class: Class participation, in class quizzes, discussion and knowledge of readings, laboratories, etc.


25% = Midterm exam

10% = Lecture Report

25% = Laboratories

25% = Final exam

15% = Class Participation, exercises, quizzes, including class discussion


100% (+10% extra credit possible)






Week 1: 1/25           



Zombie: Introduction and overview

Week 2: 1/30 & 2/1



What are Zombies?

Origins, science and zombies: How can we get answers to the past?

  • Science
  • Scientific methods
  • Falsification

Brook 2002: 1-43



Science and Pseudo-science: How can we distinguish zombie pseudo-science from science?

Cronk: 1-90


Week 3: 2/6 & 2/8



Hoaxes and Zombies

Zombies and the scientific method.

Cronk: 91-200



MOVIE: Dawn of the Dead

Exercise 1 due in class

Week 4: 2/13 & 2/15




·      Biology

·      Behavior

·      Explanations of the zombies

·    Functional

·    Historical

Brooks 2007: 1-99



Zombies, Evolution and Science

Week 5: 2/20 (Presidents’ Day) & 2/22



NO CLASS – Presidents’ Day – Campus Closed



MOVIE: Day of the Dead

Brooks 2002-50-199

Week 6: 2/27 & 3/1



Zombie origins: Where do zombies come from?

·      Evolution

·      Coevolution

·      Historical evidence

·      The First zombies and culture

Cronk 1999: 101-187



Midterm Exam

Week 7: 3/6 & 3/8



Evolution of Infectious Diseases

Ewald: 1-204



Zombies in the Natural World

Zombie Ants


Ewald: 205-324

Week 8: 3/13 & 3/15



How did zombies get to the New World?

Brooks 2007:190-321



FILM: Shaun of the Dead

Week 9: 3/20 & 3/22



Zombies in Literature

  • Who where first Zombies?
  • Traditional Zombies
  • Neo-traditional Zombies
  • Post Modern Zombies

Austen and Grahame-Smith: 1-204



MOVIE: 28 Days Later

Week 10: 3/27 & 3/29



The Rise of “Zombie Culture”

  • Popular culture

Austen and Grahame Smith: 205-328

Cronk 200-397

Davis (all)



Traditional Zombies in Haiti

Week 11: 4/3 & 4/5



Philosophy of Consciousness

Are Zombies Conscious?

Cronk: 144-165



LAB: Left 4 Dead

SPRING BREAK 4/10 to 4/14

Week 12: 4/17 & 4/19



The future: Preparing for Zombies

Defense and Offense

Brooks 2007: 211-391



LAB: Left 4 Dead Playoffs


Final Exam is scheduled 2:45 – 4:45 Wednesday, April 24.

Cheating and Plagiarism: Plagiarism is using the words and/or the ideas of another person without giving them credit. This is academic zombie-ism. Plagiarism and cheating are serious academic offenses. Read the section on cheating and plagiarism in the CSULB catalog, and note that faculty are free to take a wide range of actions in cases of cheating and plagiarism. If you are caught cheating or plagiarizing in this course, you will experience severe consequences with the undead.

Withdrawal Policy: Please keep in mind that you are held responsible for completion of every course for which you register or for withdrawing during the first two weeks of classes from courses that you do not intend to complete. You may pick up a copy of the CSULB withdrawal policy, as well as withdrawal forms, in the Anthropology Department office.

Miscellaneous: Please notify me in advance if you require accommodation for a disability (it is your responsibility to do so). The information provided in this syllabus is subject to change.


Hiwi said...

Are there pre-requisites for this course??

Unknown said...

zombies are def 400-level material! hey, don't forget to add "The Serpent and the Rainbow" to your reading list! (steer clear of the movie though...)