Monsters of the Anthropocene

We are happy to introduce the final event of the Monsters of the Anthropocene collaboratory!

Time and place: Apr. 27, 2023 2:00 PM–3:30 PM, Zoom

A glass case on a metal trolley. The class case is filled with toy animals whose fur has been removed. A thick line of cords is connected to the glass case, and there is a painting of a small child hanging on the white wall next to the glass case. There is a window directly behind the glass case.

Image credit: We are grateful to Tove Kjellmark for letting us use her artwork as part of the Monsters of the Anthropocene Collaboratory. The image is called ‘non-humans only’ (2011). Find out more about Tove Kjellmark’s work here

About the event

Over the past two decades, ‘the Anthropocene’ has emerged as a term to describe the geological epoch in which we live (as was its original terminological provenance), but also as a tool for a wider understanding of how human activity is shaping all aspects of our world. What kind of monsters populate the Anthropocene, and how can they be good to think and live with in this era of uncertain futures and rapid ecological change? The Monsters of the Anthropocene collaboratory invites to our final event, where we gather a panel of artists and scholars to explore imaginaries of the Anthropocene, with a particular focus on othering, vulnerability and marginalization in our times. Which possibilities do the increased attention to human-nonhuman relationships in the Anthropocene offer for thinking and living with the monster? How can a range of non-human companions, like monsters, robots, animals, and land teach humans something about co-dependencies and shifting positionalities?

Our panel consists of artist Tove Kjellmark (S), Senior Lecturer Ildikó Limpár (Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, HU) and Professor Neel Ahuja (University of California, Santa Cruz, US). Kjellmark’s recent work The Robot, the Horse and the Immeasurable explores the connections between bodies, movement and agency. Limpár has worked extensively on the monster in her research, with her monograph The Truths of Monsters: Coming of Age with Fantastic Media (2021) addressing themes of climate crisis and science fiction. Ahuja’s work tackles the interstices between imperial expansion, human-animal relationships, and warfare, amongst other themes. The moderator will be Sara E. S. Orning (N).

The Monsters of the Anthropocene is a collaboratory between the Monster Network and the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities (OSEH). Its aim is to negotiate the role of the monster as part of the ongoing decentring of the human and exploration of vulnerability and inclusion in feminist, posthumanist, critical disability and decolonial studies, and in environmental humanities. 


This is an online Zoom webinar that will be recorded. The event will be live-captioned by Zoom and a transcript will be made available afterwards. 


In the webinar mode, only the panel participants and the moderator will be visible. The audience can engage with the event through posting questions in the Q&A box, and by commenting and discussing as the event unfolds in the concurrent Discord channel made available to everyone. 

Participation is free, but you must register to receive the Zoom link. 

About the speakers

An image Tove Kjellmark touching a white sculpture.

Tove Kjellmark was born 1977 and is based in Stockholm, Sweden. She is educated at École des beaux arts and The Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, where she received her M.F.A. 2009. Kjellmark is initially trained as a sculptor. Besides working in her studio she teaches, mentors and collaborates with humans and non-humans of various types and technologies.

Tove Kjellmak’s work can be described as visual appropriations of forms and structures from the complex world in which we live. She is currently looking at the glitches in transformations between the digital and the organic; the gaps in the experience when moving from one world to another. Tove Kjellmark is recognized for creating spaces of critical reflection about techno-scientific acceleration, artworks that asks questions about the nature of human and nonhuman agency in a highly ‘indoctrinated’ post-human world. Over a longer period of time she dealt with techno-animalism, giving rise to another type of animality, another type of nature but above all very delicately playing the affects of the involved audience.

An image Ildikó Limpár leaning against a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

Ildikó Limpár is a Senior Lecturer at Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest (Hungary). She teaches and researches contemporary literature and film with a special focus on fantasy and monster narratives, actively publishing in this academic field both in English and in Hungarian. Her monograph The Truths of Monsters: Coming of Age with Fantastic Media (McFarland, 2021) discusses the use of monsters as literary tools addressing life challenges in contemporary coming-of-age fantasy and science fiction, including challenges that are posed by a rapidly and terrifyingly changing ecosystem. The monsters she has found most intriguing are the undead ones and those who specifically link to the idea of death (and/or possible rebirth), and as part of her research, she aims to explore the relevance of these monsters in fictions of the Anthropocene. She is editor of Displacing the Anxieties of Our World: Spaces of the Imagination (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017), a Hungarian anthology of pop science essays in Monster Studies, focusing on types of monsters in contemporary popular culture (Athenaeum, 2021) and is presently editing a Hungarian anthology on monstrous spaces in contemporary fantastic narratives (forthcoming in 2022 summer). She also writes and translates fiction with monsters; among others, she is the Hungarian translator of Neil Gaiman’s cultic Sandman graphic novel series.

An image of Neel Ahuja outside in a green park.

Neel Ahuja is Professor of Feminist Studies and a core faculty member of the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Program at the University of California – Santa Cruz. Neel’s research explores the relationship of the body to the geopolitical, environmental, and public health contexts of colonial governance, warfare, and security. Neel is the author of two books, Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species (2016) and Planetary Specters: Race, Migration, and Climate Change in the Twenty-First Century (2021). He has written a variety of essays on the connections of race and colonialism to the fields of disability studies and animal studies. He is currently working on two research areas, one exploring the race and species politics of COVID-19 and another analyzing United States counterterrorism incarceration, rendition, and interrogation practices.

Think/Feel/Repeat: Writing-with the Memory Space Traveler

what do machines dream of
if not electric sheep
a remembrance
in the shape of
a butterfly, a tree
neurons turning
into trees
trees into waves
so many
a mirage
medusas into mountain tops
into a Japanese painting
of waves
such waves
into neurons
neurons into
a mirage
bird, swan, cloud
a nebula
a universe
a verse
lightning strike
so bright
a network
I remember
the hurt
but this is not how it went
at all
waves into
neurons into
spider webs into
a haunted house into
a sunken ship
a treasure
a moth
of snow
mist forest fungi
lungs breathing broken
a fragment
a mirage
a flicker
a star
a bone
a forest
with roots
of smoke
a nebula
a stream
birds like sparkly
of the eternal
a swan
an angel
an alien
a universe, a verse
this is how I remember
a mirage
in mid-july
a ghost
a compost
pushing up from the ground
remembered, forgotten
ancient, anew
but this is not how
it is going to
a glitch in the machine
a ghost ship
a tipping point
in time
be remembered
a mirage
a shape-shifter
does it matter
what is real
we are all
through time
in mid-july





In November and December 2022, I spent some time as a visiting scholar at the University of Stavanger (UiS), Norway, where I worked in the project Caring Futures: Developing Care Ethics for Technology-Mediated Care Practices. As part of my work, I got to experience the Caring Futures art exhibition, that is connected to the research project, at Sølvberget galleri, Stavanger, Norway.

Image: The stairways leading to the exhibition space at Sølvberget galleri. There is a poster of the exhibition showcasing a red, artificial heart, and green wines hanging in the staircase. Photo taken by Aino-Kaisa Koistinen.

The Caring Futures exhibition asks questions such as ”what is at stake when technological innovations are presented as solutions to new demands in contemporary care and welfare. Are questions about ethics, trust, and compassion left behind in the rapid development and implementation of new technologies?” Read more here.

The exhibition is put together by Monster Network’s Ingvil Hellstrand, Associate Professor at the Department of Caring and Ethics, UiS, who currently works in the Caring Futures project, and artist/curator/PhD-candidate Hege Tapio, who runs i/o/lab: Centre for Future Art and works at OsloMet.

For me, exhibition raised questions of the limits of care, affects, movements and connections, memory, boundaries, and the connections of care and violence. The exhibition is open until 18 December 2022 – so there is still time to experience the exhibition for yourself! I fell in love especially with Kari Telstad Sundet’s audiovisual installation ”Memory Space Traveler”, a work that, according to the exhibition catalogue, ”tries to look at mechanomorphism and anthropomorphism from a different angle – literally through the dreams of a semi-sentient machine”.

The above text – a poem, a seance, a meditation? – is a slightly edited stream of consciousness written while thinking- and feeling-with the video installation. The typography of the text was created partly as a surprise; a glitch in WordPress that removed all the empty lines from the text. This glitch perhaps made the text more true to the process of its creation, a stream of consciousness moving with the video installation, ideas and associations constantly changing and evolving.

Aino-Kaisa Koistinen

New episode of Monster Talks: Halloween Special!

Image: The Monster Talks logo (Artwork by Joanne Teresa Taylor, NettOp, University of Stavanger).

In this Halloween-episode of Monster Talks, we talk about fiction writer Becky Chambers’ novel The Galaxy and the Ground Within (2021) This is a rich novel that brings out questions of colonialism, power and vulnerability through a chance meeting of three travelers from various species on a transport hub in the galaxy. Chambers weaves their different stories through how they listen (or not) to each other, and through how they pay attention to (or not) the small details of everyday life and survival for each one of them.

Dr. Donna McCormack (Strathclyde University, Scotland) and Dr. Ingvil Hellstrand (University of Stavanger, Norway) from the Monster Network excitedly share their thoughts about the novel and what we can learn from its negotiations of normativity, accessibility and power dynamics. 

There is a downloadable transcript for the podcast that can be accessed here.

Withdrawing our panel from the NORA Conference 2022

The Monster Network was accepted for a session at the NORA conference this year with an abstract called “Feminist Monster Studies”. However, as part of our ongoing work in the network on accessibility and inclusion, we have decided to withdraw our session. You can read our letter to the organisers below.

Dear organisers,

We regret to inform you that we are withdrawing our panel on Feminist Monster Studies for the NORA Conference 2022 “Tensions and Potentials in Nordic Feminist and Gender Research”.

Our decision to withdraw is grounded in the following points:

Our panel proposal revisits feminist, queer and decolonial critiques of othering and the making-monstrous of marginalised bodies, voices and knowledges (full abstract below). It is therefore a paradox for us that the framework for this conference, as an in-person conference, prohibits certain bodies from attending. Although the pandemic restrictions in Norway, and the Nordic countries more generally, are in the process of being revoked at this moment of writing, the conditions for living in a pandemic vary greatly according to which country you live in, your health and vaccination status, as well as the possibilities for and risks of travelling.

Although we understand the desire to meet in person and appreciate that the organisers need to make logistical choices, there seems to be little concern for or attention to the potential need for doing the conference otherwise. Part of our aim with the work on feminist monster studies is precisely to stress how the “otherwise” in the histories of feminist and queer lives is at odds with what is considered “established frameworks”. This is indeed what makes certain bodies and voices monstrous, but also what catalyses change and recognition. It is regrettable that the organisers – in the invitation to attend the conference – have not seen fit to acknowledge this need, which the fields of feminist, queer and disability studies have shown to be lifesaving.

We wanted to discuss borders and boundaries for what is considered acceptable and unstable or disregarded, unofficial/unrecognised and official/recognised. Given the conference invitation, we think and feel that such a discussion is not possible other than as a theoretical or abstract point. Pre-pandemic, the need for action and systemic change had been voiced in particular from the fields of crip theory, disability studies, queer theory and feminist studies. In our current global pandemic context, it is impossible not to listen to these calls for systemic change, accessible spaces and non-deadly ways of being collectively. Such crip, queer and decolonial perspectives must be actively taken into consideration, perhaps especially so from a feminist conference. 

Our goal was to critically and personally reflect on collaboration and collectivity across differences and divergencies. It is therefore with both sadness and frustration that we have come to the decision that we will not attend the conference with this collective monster panel. We did consider suggesting a possible hybrid solution, but part of the problem is that it should not be an afterthought for the organisers. That said, everybody can learn and rethink previous choices, and that might be an argument to change this decision. However, we want to make our work as accessible as possible, even if we sometimes fail to do so, and at least try to put into practice a politics of being and doing collectively that does not exclude or hinder the health and well-being of those who wish to participate. This is a work in progress for the Monster Network and one way in which we do this is by refusing to take part in exclusionary, inaccessible and potentially deadly events, particularly during a pandemic. We will continue to think about feminist monster studies otherwise.


The Monster Network

(Ingvil Hellstrand, Aino-Kaisa Koistinen, Donna McCormack & Sara E.S Orning)


Feminist monster studies

Marginalised bodies, voices and knowledges are often relegated to the realm of the monstrous, in the sense that they are deemed ‘abnormal’, untruthful, or unreliable. In this panel, we revisit the ways in which monsters and the monstrous long have been of interest to feminist, queer and decolonial thinkers. Importantly, this is not to “show” what is construed as monstrous, but to demonstrate how thinking-with the monster can serve as a feminist method to grapple with and challenge structures of differentiation, and boundary-making categories of belonging. What kinds of monstrous imaginaries are at stake in the debates in and about gender studies? To what extent does the threat of the monstrous reimagine debates about knowledge production, agency and belonging, both outside and inside the field of feminist and gender studies? And what is at risk when even articulating an inside and an outside of any field? 

In this panel, we introduce feminist monster studies as a thinking tool for exploring tensions between what is considered acceptable and unstable or disregarded, unofficial/unrecognised and official/recognised, knowledges and bodies. Although the monster can certainly be unsettling, our aim is to spawn a discussion about boundaries, belonging and marginalisation in Nordic feminist and gender research, and develop strategies for how to reimagine collaboration and collectivity across differences and divergencies. 

Unruly origins, strange futures: speakers

What does the futures of monster theory hold? And what stories can we tell about its origins? The Monsters of the Anthropocene Halloween symposium ‘Unruly Origins, Strange Futures’ explores the pasts and futures of thinking with monsters through art, politics, storytelling and scholarship.

The symposium is free. Find the programme and sign up here.


Image description: A close up of a snail with a brown and black shell, which is crawling over a finger. Image title and credit: ‘Work in process’. Katja Aglert, 2021. Photo: Oskar Aglert.
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