Anthropology professor publishes guest blog about ‘preppers’

If you’re prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you’re prepared for anything.

At least that is what anthropology professor Chad Huddleston has found through his research with the St. Louis-based Zombie Squad.

“Their story is that they’re an anti-zombie squad, but really in reality they’re a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and they’re very interested in educating the public about prepping, being prepared for a disaster…” Huddleston said.

Huddleston recently had a guest blog published by the American Anthropological Association based on his research thus far with Zombie Squad.  He began researching with the group about two years ago after seeing them on the highway with “militarized vehicles.”

“People think that if you have 500 gallons of water in your basement and three months of food and 10,000 rounds of ammunition then you’re crazy,” Huddleston said, “but there’s more and more evidence that there’s lots more of those kinds of people, maybe not to that extent, but a lot more people out there are prepping for anything that might come along …”

Huddleston said when he began researching, he was initially interested in why people prepare for catastrophic events, but that has evolved, which the blog shows.

“This is becoming something that’s going on in our society and there are lots of government organizations, non-governmental too … and organizations like that that say you should have some extra stuff in your house in case something happens…,” Huddleston said, “whereas before that was seen as crazy and now it’s becoming like if you’re a good citizen you have these things. But where is the line between good citizen and what might be dangerous?”

Kristan Nickels, a member of the board of directors for Zombie Squad International, said Zombie Squad is supportive of Huddleston’s research.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Nickels said. “I think it actually represents Zombie Squad in a good light.”

Nickels said the organization is “not just a zombie club,” and they have a “very serious message.” The two main goals of Zombie Squad are community building and teaching disaster preparedness. The idea behind Zombie Squad, according Nickels, is to use zombies as a metaphor.

“That’s our bait to the bait and switch,” Nickels said. “Using the zombie as a metaphor, we’re able to touch into that [18 to 35] age group that organizations like Red Cross… [have] not been able to reach.”

How Zombie Squad operates is “completely opposite” of most people, such as those in militias or survivalists groups, according to Huddleston.

“[Militias and survivalists groups are] all based on a very specific vision of the world – We need to get rid of the government or be careful of the government. Or it’s the millennium so Jesus Christ is going to come back and save us all or something…,” Huddleston said.

There are also difference between “preppers” and “survivalists,” according to Huddleston.

“Zombie Squad folks usually call themselves survivalists. But they’re survivalists in a new way,” Huddleston said. “Usually the stereotype is the survivalist is anti-government usually; kind of white supremacists; extremely, fundamentally religious; extreme to the right side of the political spectrum in every discernible way, whereas preppers, Zombie Squad folks and those that I deal with are usually less political or a political.”

Nickels said she does not consider Zombie Squad to be either “preppers” or “survivalists.”

“Survivalists have always been kind of that lone wolf, that person that will stockpile all of their stuff, have secret place to go, [and it’s] them against world,” Nickels said. “Preppers are kind of lumped into that as well.”

Nickels said the group began about 10 years ago in St. Louis as a web-based forum with a link to community building and disaster preparedness. There are currently about 50 chapters around the world and 50,000 web-based members, according to Nickels.

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