Zombie Invasion in the Context of International Relations


In the spirit of Halloween festivities around campus, the Political Science Department hosted a discussion panel regarding International Relations of a Zombie apocalypse. Both Assistant Professor Matt Fehrs and Visiting Assistant Professor Katie Martin presented their Zombie-themed lectures at the event, combining the energy of the spooky holiday with a scholarly discussion of their expertise.

The inspiration for the panel was the Daniel Drezner’s book, Theories of International Politics and Zombies, a twist on the traditional analysis of International Relations (IR) that incorporates these theories to decision-making in a world zombie scenario.

“We thought this would be a fun idea for a Halloween panel,” explained Martin. “It’s sort of a fun way for us to think about ways that Political Science theories can be applicable even through topics of pop culture.”

First to present was Assistant Professor Matt Fehrs, in his presentation of “Nasty, Brutish and Short: International Relations Considers the Zombie Apocalypse.” In this, he explained this particular scenario in relation to the founding political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature and an absolute sovereign. He explained the need for an authoritative state in such a scenario, and suggests that there is an inevitable need for order in a zombie invasion. His primary focus was the decision-making process of humans struggling to survive, and what that sense of panic causes humans to do to one another in such a scenario without an authority.

“When we think about the zombie invasion, we’re thinking about two things that make us afraid: One is zombies….but there is something else that we should be possibly more afraid of, and that’s us.”

Martin followed that philosophical introduction by laying out the logistics of a zombie apocalypse scenario outside of state authority. She suggested that while government or state authority reactions are dependent on the speed of the zombies, the zombies will always win. Using game theory, she broke down different outcomes of state cooperation in the threat of a zombie scenario.

“The zombie apocalypse is a unique circumstance. Democracy is a slow-moving process… ‘slow moving process’? Not the words you want to hear in the event of fast or slow zombies. As we have been seeing in the U.S. legislature lately, an inability to make any sort of political decision is going to work against you. We can expect this to be even more protracted in a democracy because the decision making process is slow.”

A Question-and-Answer panel then followed the presentations, where students and faculty in the audience could have their own opportunity to pick the brains of the political zombie experts.

Overall, the event had a full Halloween turnout.