Pandemics and 'Zombies': How to Think Tropical Imaginaries with Cinematic Cosmologies
Keywords:cinematic cosmologies, bio-social imaginaries, corporeal heteronomy, zombie cinema, tropical imaginaries, Buddhist imaginaries
The tropics in occidental imaginaries are typically coded as either edenic paradise or as hell. It is in the latter mode that they come to be linked with zombies, diseases, and questions relating to the autonomy of the human body. In this article I first summarise historical connections between colonialism and the tropics as expressed through dealings with disease set against a background of Christian-secular cosmology. I then further think the issue with two films that approach disease and the tropics through the zombie, which I conceive of as radical heteronomy. One film, Zombi 2, is a Euro-American engagement with the tropics as imagined from a temperate zone and a Christian tradition. The other, Cemetery of Splendor, is a Thai film that engages notions of disease and the autonomy of the human body from within the tropics and a Buddhist imaginary. I tie these questions of disease, ‘zombies’ and the tropics in with more general discussions of cosmologies, including those of the moderns. The displacement of modern ontological certainty (which is imagined through the zombie and conditioned by cultural and ideological imagination) opens a space for engaging the problem of a pandemic with notions of subjectivity and corporeality. An underlying thematic throughout this article is an argument for the importance of the cinema image in dealing with bio/socio/political issues. Here, in this translation of the cinematic world into discourse we are engaged at the intersection of tropics, disease, bodies and heteronomy.
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