Cite as: Discussion of the keynote Jack Halberstam, ‘Zombie Humanism at the End of the World’, part of the conference Weak Resistance, ICI Berlin, 27 May 2015, video recording, mp4, 33:00 <>
27 May 2015


Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:33:00
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Keynote

Zombie Humanism at the End of the World / Jack Halberstam

In this talk, Halberstam argued against new versions of humanism that seek life at all costs, that seek to extend life, prolong life, invest in the good life, and that see death as the ultimate form of failure. Halberstam used the metaphor of the zombie to explore new dynamics between prolonged life for the wealthy and the diminished opportunities for longevity for everyone else. Our current matrix of extended life can be understood in terms of the bio-political but this is a ‘zombie biopolitics’ that creates new balancing acts between bio- and necro-political regimes. Zombie humanism, accordingly, arrogates liveliness, dynamism, vibrancy and resonance for itself and consigns all other forms of being to the status of inertia and stasis.

Judith Jack Halberstam is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at USC (University of Southern California). Halberstam is the author of five books including Female Masculinity (1998), The Queer Art of Failure (2011), and most recently Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of the Normal (2012). Halberstam works generally in the areas of queer theory, visual and popular culture, gender studies and art, and blogs at as well as Halberstam is currently working on a book on “the wild.”


ICI Berlin
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Organized by

ICI Berlin

Part of the Conference

Weak Resistance: Everyday Struggles and the Politics of Failure

As a practice, failure recognizes that alternatives
are embedded already in the dominant and that power
is never total or consistent; indeed failure can exploit
the unpredictability of ideology and its indeterminate qualities.
J. J. Halberstam

Revolutionaries are everywhere,
but nowhere is there any real revolution.
Abdelkebir el-Khatibi

The word resistance usually evokes images of struggle, of opposition, but also of power, of domination, and oppression. In its concrete manifestations, however, resistance is more of a process of trial and error; it is often a story of failures intersecting, weaknesses combining and of building precarious solidarities in times of crisis. In this sense, revolution is never a simple story of ‘success’.

This one-day conference aimed at exploring resistances as a multiplicity, as practices and modes of thinking that challenge normative values of success and failure. Resistances act on the mechanisms of power in particular places, in concerted actions, as well as in daily routines of living, being, working, imagining, and organizing. They can manifest as coalitions of the weak and dispossessed but also as coagulations in that in-between, uncomfortable space of the semi-peripheral. The panels investigated resistances in the decolonial queer context, the cultural field at large, protest politics, and sex work, and involved researchers alongside activists and other agents.


ICI Berlin
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Heather Love
Zairong Xiang
Pearl Brilmeyer
James Burton
Margarita Tsomou
Liad Kantorowicz
Laboria Cuboniks

Organized by

Rosa Barotsi
Walid El-Houri
Ewa Majewska
An ICI Berlin event