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The living dead? The construction of people with Alzheimer's disease as zombies

  • SUSAN M. BEHUNIAK (a1)
Abstract

In the literature on Alzheimer's disease (AD), scholars have noted how both the disease and the people who are diagnosed as having it have been stigmatised. I argue here that the AD stigma is of a specific sort – it is dehumanisation based on disgust and terror. Although the blame for negative perceptions of people with AD has been placed on the biomedical understanding of dementia, I argue that strong negative emotional responses to AD are also buttressed by the social construction of people with AD as zombies. To illustrate this point, this paper identifies seven specific ways that the zombie metaphor is referenced in both the scholarly and popular literature on AD. This common referencing of zombies is significant as it infuses the social discourse about AD with a politics of revulsion and fear that separates and marginalises those with AD. It is in recognising the power of this zombie trope that its negative impact can be actively resisted through an emphasis of connectedness, commonality, and inter-dependency.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Susan M. Behuniak, Department of Political Science, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY 13214, USA. E-mail: behuniak@lemoyne.edu
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