Anakin Xersonsky: Politics of Contagion: Against Purity and the Authentic Self


Advisor/tutor: Ana Teixeira Pinto

August 2020


“Politics of Contagion: Against Purity and the Authentic Self” looks at three popular media depictions of contagion. Constructs of blackness, transness, and biological impurity haunt the hegemonic imagery as infectious tropes. Resident Evil is a revenge story in which displaced people resist confinement, even confinement in mortality, and become undead zombies. Our Chemical Lives documents its protagonists' search for hormonal purity. When hormonal pollution threatens the stability of sex and gender, being trans itself becomes contagious. Stranger Things fictionizes an entire parallel dimension as infectuous decay and toxicity. Although it is often deadly, its contagion also creates new possibilities of precarious survival. This thesis recognizes the mechanisms of violent mapping in its media and resists them by zooming into the troubled stories instead of out. Ultimately, contagion is a series of encounters. Social contagion, as fictionalized by popular culture, destabilizes categories of identity, and can be reimagined as a transformative political force.