Zombie Culture in Relation to Cultural Appropriation

The Kardashian family are no strangers to controversy surrounding their lives. However, around July, the attention shifted to Kylie Jenner’s Instagram selfie picture showcasing her cornrows. Some might say, the picture ‘broke the internet’, meaning that it stirred up debates about cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is the borrowing of cultural practices of a given culture by that of a privileged other without recognizing the history or cultural meaning thus deemed as a negative social phenomenon. In the article, Chera Kee expounds on the history of Zombies t explain how contemporary depiction of Zombies are a form of cultural appropriation.

Kee suggests that contemporary American Zombies are distinguished by their cannibalism characterization. However, the article continues to explain that the initial Zombies derived from Haitian ancestral practices of Voodoo during the Haitian Revolution of 1986.

The article expounds on the first book The Magical Island by Willian Seabrook in which he described as “Dead Man Working in the Cane Fields”. Therefore, the Zombie was identified as a slave; more importantly, the implication was that Zombies were corrupted figures on the hunt to corrupt others. The American unfamiliarity with Haitian Voodoo paralleled their colonial fear of an Independent Haiti which would spread and corrupt Voodoo to the rest of the Americas. Kee argues that the depiction of Zombies emphasized otherness of the Haitians. Clear binaries of black and white, slave and master were reinforced. Nevertheless, these binaries are suggested to have been blurred through the formation of white zombies in the film industry. White zombies were the manifestation of the Caucasian destruction by the black uncontrolled slave.

According to Kee, the evolution of Zombies in films illustrate the power dynamic that allow Caucasians to freely borrow from others without having any experience in that matter. Relating back to Kylie Jenner’s case, the debated centered between those who thought the picture (like many other magazine advertisements of afros as the new fashion look,) only glamourize the hairstyle without recognizing the history of discrimination due to hair texture in the professional world. On the other hand, others argued that cultures are always appropriated. Black people also do appropriate Caucasian hair through weaves and wigs, therefore Kylie Jenner’s hair choice is independent outside opinion.

Although two completely separate examples of cultural appropriation, both confirm that cultural appropriation is part of our lives however we should acknowledge the origin when borrowing ideas.


Christie, Deborah. Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human. Fordham University Press, 2011. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.


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