Protocol Z

The social organization of zombies

Presentation abstract: The object of my research is the representation of distributed social organization in popular culture through zombie narratives. As evident in Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel series The Walking Dead (2003–), there is a tension between the hierarchical structure of the family and the “flat” organization of zombies crowds. I argue that this tension stems from a cultural fear of not only zombies but also anxieties surrounding the information age. In fact, the first decade of the twenty-first century has seen a trend of non-fiction books, such as “Crowdsourcing” (2009), “The Cult of the Amateur” (2007), and “You are not a Gadget” (2010), that warn of an oncoming horde. However, the zombies of these books are the participants and users of the internet. By articulating the concept of crowds by E. Canetti with A. Galloway’s “Protocol” (2004), I form an analytical framework that addresses the issues posed by S.J Lauro and K. Embry’s “Zombie Manifesto” (2008). The goal of such an analysis is to first question how zombies have become the vessel for fears surrounding the distributed network crowd and second, suggest that this horror sub-genre is an important space to experiment and to investigate organizational possibilities.


Critical Themes, The New School (New York), April 16, 2011,

Presentation site


zombies, crowds, networks, social organization, protocol

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