The Zombie Epidemic: Hypermodern Version of the Apocalypse : 25th September 2013: New York: Jorge Assef

by Julia Evans on September 25, 2013

The Zombie Epidemic: Hypermodern Version of the Apocalypse : by Jorge Assef: published in LC (Lacanian Compass) Express : Vol 2, Issue 7 : 25th November 2013 : Speech given before The New York Freud Lacan Analytic Group, 25th September 2013, The New School (New York, NY)

Available here or at  /authors by date or authors a-z

Related texts on  Coronavirus  here  

I have found much food for thought in this analysis of contemporary symptoms of how power works. Who are today’s Zombies? Maybe the 2012 rioters? May be those entrapped by standard treatments in the Government’s risk-free provision of ‘wellbeing and health’ (HPO2001)? In other words those who do not register within these systems of power and whose individuality and subjectivity is wiped out, by decree from the Government.

The Author:

Jorge Assef, psychoanalyst and head of Cinema and Psychoanalysis at the University of Cordoba, Argentina, presented on a topic ubiquitous in current American popular culture: the zombie. The seminar focused on the zombie’s perpetuation into the hypermodern era (from “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) through to the current “World War Z” and the AMC TV series “The Walking Dead”), examining its manifestations as pandemic and apocalyptic from a psychoanalytic orientation. In light of the them of the upcoming IX Congress of the WAP, A Great Disorder in the Real, in the 21st Century, the zombie reveals that death itself has been contaminated by the laws of nature. 



I. The Hypermodern Zombie

II. The Uncanny and Hypermodernity Let us clarify two key concepts first: 1. The Uncanny 2. Hypermodernity

III. The Zombie Non-Body: A Machinery that Becomes Widespread

IV: Outside of Language, Only Biting. Pure Animality without Desire

V. The Epidemic and the Policy of Fear

VI. Salvation through Science

VII. Final Ideas

References to Sigmund Freud

Quote: In 1919, Sigmund Freud turned the German word umheimlich into a concept. Translated as “uncanny” in English, the term refers to an affect which is perceived as distressing by the subject. But what is peculiar about this word is clearly visible in the German language: unheimlich has the term “heim”, that which is familiar, intimate.

From The Uncanny: 1919h: SE XVII: p217-252 or Penguin Freud Library: Vol 14 – Art and Literature: p335-374 : Published at and available here  

References to Jacques Lacan

Quote: Thus, Freud states that “the signifier unheimlich has a double antithetic and paradoxical sense: it is the most familiar and the least familiar and, in this sense, it articulates with the Lacanian concept of extimacy.” Jacques Lacan returns to the notion of “the Uncanny” in his seminar Anxiety, where he works on it in relation to object a[3]. Footnote 3: I will quickly say that Lacan’s explanation is that the unheimlich phenomenon appears when object a —that which in the subjective operation the subject had yielded to the field of the Other, and which then remains integrated in the subject’s phantasmatic framework— returns suddenly and unexpectedly in its oral, anal, gaze or voice modalities.

See Seminar X : 5th December 1962 : pIV 32 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation. :  Jacques Lacan: Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962- 1963: Text in English & References or here


As to the notion of “extimacy” mentioned above, it was introduced by Lacan in Seminar VII, where he said, “this central place, this intimate exteriority, this extimacy, which is the Thing”

P139 of Denis Porter’s translation : Seminar VII 10th February 1960 :  ‘Perhaps what we described as the central place, as the intimate exteriority or “extimacy,” that is the Thing, will help us to shed light on the question or mystery that remains for those who are interested in prehistoric art, namely, its site as such.’ : See Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan or here


Quote:  In 1975, Lacan visited the United States. In his conference at Yale he said: “What is called history is the history of epidemics.” To Lacan, the plague is what becomes established as the social discourse of a time.

From questions and answers following Yale University: 24th November 1975: ‘Kanzer Seminar’: Jacques Lacan or here, p17-18 of Jack W. Stone’s translation : MS. TURKELL – How would you articulate the idea that psychoanalysis aspires to the status of science to what you have called an epidemic? In a sense, it is a social phenomenon . . .

LACAN – An epidemic is not a social phenomenon, at least not in science’s case.

MS. TURKELL – What is a scientific epidemic?

LACAN – It is when something is taken as a simple emergence when in fact it is a radical rupture. It is a historical event that has propagated itself and has greatly influenced the conception of what one calls a universe, which itself has a very narrow base, except in the imaginary.

PR HARTMAN – You have devoted a lot of time and wisdom . . .

LACAN – Since I have benefited from your attention, I will try to say a little more about this tomorrow.

PR HARTMAN – You ended your presentation with the word “destiny” and we will now end with the word “epidemic.” You have, in fact, answered an epidemic of questions and we very much appreciate it.


Quote: Like Miller, we might say: “This is all coherent and implies a devotion to science in the face of which even our conquering Catholicism backs off (…) such devotion to science is called scientism.” In fact, as we have already declared God dead, we have science left. Paradoxically, here lies the root of what Lacan announced as “The Triumph of Religion”.

Note: The “Triumph of Religion” comes from a press conference held in Rome on October 29th 1974, at the French Cultural Centre, when Lacan was there for a conference: See Press Conference at the French Cultural Center, Rome (The Triumph of Religion) : 29th October 1974 : Jacques Lacan or here


Quote: In ‘The Third’ Lacan states that what we see of science are its gadgets, the objects made possible by scientific research and which are then put into circulation by the market.

p98 of Yoland Szczech’s translation, available at, It gives us plenty to get our teeth into, as a substitute for what we lack in the relationship, in the relationship of knowledge [connaissance]. As I said earlier, what it [science] gives us in its place at the end of the day, what for most people, in particular everyone here present, is reduced to gadgets: television, the moon landings, and yet, the moon landings, you won’t go there, it’s only for a selected few. But you saw it on television. That’s it! That’s science, right there. And that is why I place my hope in the fact that, in bypassing any representation, we will achieve, perhaps, more satisfactory information about life.

 p99 of Yoland Szczech’s translation :  Now we have come full circle and what I have said to you just now: it is namely… that the future of psychoanalysis is something that depends on what will come out of the real, namely if gadgets for example, will really get the upper [196 196. TN: From the audio (at 2h 22’ 58”) appears that Valas’ “à la main” is correct, rather than Staferla’s `a la masse]. hand, if we ourselves actually come to be brought to life by gadgets. I must say that it appears to me unlikely. We will not actually get to the point when the gadget is not a symptom, because for the time being it is absolutely obvious that it is one. For sure, when you have a car… as a fake woman, you absolutely insist that it is a phallus, but that has nothing to do with the phallus except that it is the phallus that prevents us from having a relationship with something that would be our sexual partner. This is our parasexual partner, and everyone knows that the “para” entails that everyone keeps to themselves, that everyone remains by the side of the other. 

See La Troisième (The Third) : 1st November 1974 (Rome) : Jacques Lacan or here 


Quote: But Lacan points out – and we can verify so – that, eventually, when science begins to show the effects of its discourse: that the natural order doesn’t exist but is contingent, when science opens that hole in the traditional sense of the knowledge about nature, the discourse of religion appears and demand “Let’s not touch the order of nature”; the discourse of religion fills with sense the hole which science opened. And that would be the triumph of religion.

Note: This is probably a further reference to ‘The Triumph of Religion”

P7-8 Translator unknown : See Press Conference at the French Cultural Center, Rome (The Triumph of Religion) : 29th October 1974 : Jacques Lacan or here  

Mme Y. – Why use this expression the triumph of religion over psychoanalysis? Do you think religion will triumph?

LACAN – Yes. It will triumph over psychoanalysis, and over many other things too. We can’t even begin to imagine how powerful religion is. I mentioned the Real a moment ago. In this regard religion is going to have many more grounds for soothing people’s souls, as it were, because science will hardly be able to ground the Real from its perspective, since science, as I just said, is about novelty, and it is going to introduce tons of absolutely earth-shattering things into people’s lives. And religion, especially the true one, possesses resources for grounding things that we haven’t even begun to suspect. It’s absolutely teeming with them, it’s incredible. It took them a while, but they finally figured out what a boon science is for them. Science is going to introduce such earth-shattering things that religion is going to be needed to make sense of them. And they know a thing or two about making sense out of things. They can make sense of anything, no matter what, out of human life for example. This is what they’re trained to do. From the very beginning “religious” meant making sense out of formerly natural things. But just because things are becoming less natural, thanks to the Real, doesn’t mean religion is going to stop spitting out its meanings. It is going to make sense out of some of the most unheard-of future ordeals, the ones I mentioned earlier which the savants are beginning to get slightly anxious about. Religion will make very earthy senses out of them. All you have to do is watch how it has already kicked into gear. They are going to great lengths.

See Press Conference at the French Cultural Center, Rome (The Triumph of Religion) : 29th October 1974 : Jacques Lacan or here


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  Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, London


Other texts

Of the clinic here 

On Ordinary Psychosis here

On Lacanian History here 

Use of power here  

Lacanian Transmission  here  

Some Lacanian History  here 

Topology  here

From LW working groups here

By Jorge Assef  here     

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here 

By Julia Evans here