Anthropologist and explorer Wade Davis gave a couple of inspiring talks to the TED conference on how the beliefs and traditions of different cultures fundamentally alter not only views about the world, but the experience of reality itself.
Both are fantastic, not only because Davis is a gripping speaker, but also because he highlights the sheer beauty and diversity of the world’s peoples and cultural practices – from Voodoo rituals in Haiti to the Inuit of Northern Canada.
This work was published in the scientific literature, but also in two well-known books, The Serpent and the Rainbow and Passage of Darkness.
Administration of tetrodotoxin is unlikely to be the sole explanation for zombification, however.
A 1997 paper in the medical journal Lancet reported on three cases, where what Western medicine would call mental illness and neurological impairment seemed to be present in three cases of people labelled zombies by locals in Haiti.
Anthropology is perhaps one of the smallest schools of human study, but, I think, one of the most important. It constantly reminds us that our way of seeing the world is firmly located in the culture that we live in, and that everything we understand is filtered through our own perspective.