• 2016 AA Editor Search
  • Get Ready for the Annual Meeting

    From t-shirts to journals, 2014 Annual Meeting Gear Shop Now
  • Open Anthropology
  • Latest AAA Podcast

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 17,358 other followers

‘Doomsday Preppers': Our New Threat?

Today’s guest post is written by AAA member, Chad Huddleston. He is a cultural anthropologist currently studying preppers. Dr. Huddleston is an Instructor at SIUE in the Anthropology department and an adjunct Assistant Professor at St. Louis University in the Sociology and Anthropology department. He can be reached at chhuddl@siue.edu.

Survivalism has been dragged back into the news lately with details about the ‘prepping’ done by Nancy Lanza, Adam Lanza’s mother. For many, this may have been the first time they have heard the term ‘prepping’ or ‘prepper’. Some may be familiar with the term due to the show Doomsday Preppers on NatGeo, of which Nancy Lanza was rumored to be a fan. As I read through the various stories coming out on this specific detail of the very large and complex story of the shooting in Connecticut, I was interested in tracking the creation of a discourse on this new category of possible threat – the prepper. Who are these people and should we be worried?

I have been doing ethnographic research over the past 3 years with preppers based in the Midwest. Some of the preppers with whom I do research watch ‘Doomsday Preppers’ just like Nancy Lanza. They watch it as entertainment and like most that watch the show, they think the people featured on the show tend toward the extreme. At the same time, these are people that may have hundreds of gallons of water, months worth of food, materials, and (yes) guns and ammunition stored in their homes. Not one of them has ever called themselves a ‘doomsday prepper.’ That term would be an alternate version of another term that most preppers are looking to avoid – survivalist.

Survivalist came to the fore in the news throughout the 1990s in stories on the events at Ruby Ridge (1992), the Branch Davidian Complex (1993) and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building (1995), among others. These survivalists tended toward being anti-government, white supremacist, millennialist, isolationist, and violent. It should be easy to see why many preppers would want to distance themselves from such individuals and groups.

However, the primary reason those with whom I have done research want to distance themselves from these stereotypes is due to the simple fact that they do not hold those views or opinions. In fact, they are just the opposite in their mindset: inclusive in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, supportive of the current form of government, and interested in teaching others about how to be prepared for possible adverse events. The only similarities between survivalists and preppers may be some of the skills that they acquire to be ready for such events, including firearms training.

I am not arguing that all preppers are engaged in prepping activities for altruistic reasons. Many of them just want to keep their families and neighbors safe. I am also not arguing that all survivalist are crazed, religious, anti-government racists. Many of them would easily slide into the prepper category, even if they call themselves a survivalist. Continue reading

Are You Prepared for Zombies?

In light of all the end of the world talk, a repost of this Zombie preppers post from last spring:

Today’s guest blog post is by cultural anthropologist and AAA member, Chad Huddleston. He is an Assistant Professor at St. Louis University in the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice department.

Recently, a host of new shows, such as Doomsday Preppers on NatGeo and Doomsday Bunkers on Discovery Channel, has focused on people with a wide array of concerns about possible events that may threaten their lives.  Both of these shows focus on what are called ‘preppers.’ While the people that may have performed these behaviors in the past might have been called ‘survivalists,’ many ‘preppers’ have distanced themselves from that term, due to its cultural baggage: stereotypical anti-government, gun-loving, racist, extremists that are most often associated with the fundamentalist (politically and religiously) right side of the spectrum.

I’ve been doing fieldwork with preppers for the past two years, focusing on a group called Zombie Squad. It is ‘the nation’s premier non-stationary cadaver suppression task force,’ as well as a grassroots, 501(c)3 charity organization.  Zombie Squad’s story is that while the zombie removal business is generally slow, there is no reason to be unprepared.  So, while it is waiting for the “zombpacolpyse,” it focuses its time on disaster preparedness education for the membership and community.

The group’s position is that being prepared for zombies means that you are prepared for anything, especially those events that are much more likely than a zombie uprising – tornadoes, an interruption in services, ice storms, flooding, fires, and earthquakes.

For many in this group, Hurricane Katrina was the event that solidified their resolve to prep.  They saw what we all saw – a natural disaster in which services were not available for most, leading to violence, death and chaos. Their argument is that the more prepared the public is before a disaster occurs, the less resources they will require from first responders and those agencies that come after them.

In fact, instead of being a victim of natural disaster, you can be an active responder yourself, if you are prepared.  Prepare they do.  Members are active in gaining knowledge of all sorts – first aid, communications, tactical training, self-defense, first responder disaster training, as well as many outdoor survival skills, like making fire, building shelters, hunting and filtering water.

This education is individual, feeding directly into the online forum they maintain (which has just under 30,000 active members from all over the world), and by monthly local meetings all over the country, as well as annual national gatherings in southern Missouri, where they socialize, learn survival skills and practice sharpshooting.

Sound like those survivalists of the past?  Emphatically no.  Zombie Squad’s message is one of public education and awareness, very successful charity drives for a wide array of organizations, and inclusion of all ethnicities, genders, religions and politics.  Yet, the group is adamant on leaving politics and religion out of discussions on the group and prepping. You will not find exclusive language on their forum or in their media.  That is not to say that the individuals in the group do not have opinions on one side or the other of these issues, but it is a fact that those issues are not to be discussed within the community of Zombie Squad.

Considering the focus on ‘future doom’ and the types of fears that are being pushed on the shows mentioned above, usually involve protecting yourself from disaster and then other people that have survived the disaster, Zombie Squad is a refreshing twist to the ‘prepper’ discourse.  After all, if a natural disaster were to befall your region, whom would you rather be knocking at your door: ‘raiders’ or your neighborhood Zombie Squad member?

And the answer is no: they don’t really believe in zombies.

Are You Prepared for Zombies?

Today’s guest blog post is by cultural anthropologist and AAA member, Chad Huddleston. He is an Assistant Professor at St. Louis University in the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice department.

Recently, a host of new shows, such as Doomsday Preppers on NatGeo and Doomsday Bunkers on Discovery Channel, has focused on people with a wide array of concerns about possible events that may threaten their lives.  Both of these shows focus on what are called ‘preppers.’ While the people that may have performed these behaviors in the past might have been called ‘survivalists,’ many ‘preppers’ have distanced themselves from that term, due to its cultural baggage: stereotypical anti-government, gun-loving, racist, extremists that are most often associated with the fundamentalist (politically and religiously) right side of the spectrum.

I’ve been doing fieldwork with preppers for the past two years, focusing on a group called Zombie Squad. It is ‘the nation’s premier non-stationary cadaver suppression task force,’ as well as a grassroots, 501(c)3 charity organization.  Zombie Squad’s story is that while the zombie removal business is generally slow, there is no reason to be unprepared.  So, while it is waiting for the “zombpacolpyse,” it focuses its time on disaster preparedness education for the membership and community.

The group’s position is that being prepared for zombies means that you are prepared for anything, especially those events that are much more likely than a zombie uprising – tornadoes, an interruption in services, ice storms, flooding, fires, and earthquakes.

For many in this group, Hurricane Katrina was the event that solidified their resolve to prep.  They saw what we all saw – a natural disaster in which services were not available for most, leading to violence, death and chaos. Their argument is that the more prepared the public is before a disaster occurs, the less resources they will require from first responders and those agencies that come after them.

In fact, instead of being a victim of natural disaster, you can be an active responder yourself, if you are prepared.  Prepare they do.  Members are active in gaining knowledge of all sorts – first aid, communications, tactical training, self-defense, first responder disaster training, as well as many outdoor survival skills, like making fire, building shelters, hunting and filtering water.

This education is individual, feeding directly into the online forum they maintain (which has just under 30,000 active members from all over the world), and by monthly local meetings all over the country, as well as annual national gatherings in southern Missouri, where they socialize, learn survival skills and practice sharpshooting.

Sound like those survivalists of the past?  Emphatically no.  Zombie Squad’s message is one of public education and awareness, very successful charity drives for a wide array of organizations, and inclusion of all ethnicities, genders, religions and politics.  Yet, the group is adamant on leaving politics and religion out of discussions on the group and prepping. You will not find exclusive language on their forum or in their media.  That is not to say that the individuals in the group do not have opinions on one side or the other of these issues, but it is a fact that those issues are not to be discussed within the community of Zombie Squad.

Considering the focus on ‘future doom’ and the types of fears that are being pushed on the shows mentioned above, usually involve protecting yourself from disaster and then other people that have survived the disaster, Zombie Squad is a refreshing twist to the ‘prepper’ discourse.  After all, if a natural disaster were to befall your region, whom would you rather be knocking at your door: ‘raiders’ or your neighborhood Zombie Squad member?

And the answer is no: they don’t really believe in zombies.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,358 other followers