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.

Regards,

The Monster Network

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

Abstract:

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.

speakers

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.
Continue reading “Unruly origins, strange futures: speakers”

29 Oct: The Feeling of a Wild Slug Chewing. Arts-based methods workshop with Katja Aglert

In this workshop, which forms part of the Monsters of the Anthropocene Halloween Symposium, we invite you to bring your own work (whether artistic, academic or both) in order to explore the realm of monster-sensorial perceptions and what these can mean as active agents in experimental research. Before we engage in the interactive exercises of the workshop, Katja Aglert gives a short introduction to her artistic practice, focusing on her work with more-than-human-storytelling and methods of more-than-human-participatory research. She shares examples of processes where she explored multi-sensorial perceptions and how they can become means to materialise stories and knowledge beyond the human-centred narratives. This artistic practice and research draws from her principal question; how can we use language and simultaneously avoid the confirmation of the order we attempt to question?

As participant of the workshop, we invite you to bring – irl, imaginary, or in other ways – a figure that in some way is part of your own work (the figure can be a physical figure, a concept, a character from a book, or something completely different related to your work). You are also invited to explore together with any of the figures that Katja Aglert brings to the session, such as slugs, snails, fish, and a mosquito.

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. 

About Katja Aglert

Katja Aglert is an independent artist with a transdisciplinary artistic practice situated in feminist and more-than-human imaginaries. Her projects has been exhibited widely in venues such as Foundation Fiminco, Romanville, France (2021); Solyanka State Gallery, Moscow, Russia (2019); Fotogalleriet, Oslo, Norway (2016); Biologiska museet, Stockholm (2016); Museum och Contemporary Art, Santiago, Chile (2015); Marabouparken, Stockholm (2014). Her work has been featured in journals and publications such as Karib: Nordic Journal for Caribbean Studies, in the Special Collection: Poetics of Space – Archipelagos and Wanderings, edited by Tiina Peil and Michael Wiedorn (2021); Animal Places: Lively Cartographies of Human-Animal Relations, edited by Jacob Bull, Tora Holmberg and Cecilia Åsberg (Routledge, 2019) and OEI Naturbegreppet [EKOEI]  #75/76, edited by Johan redin  (2017).  She is a professor of art at Tema Genus, Gender Studies at Linköping University, Sweden, and the artistic leader and co-director of The Seed Box – an environmental humanities collaboratory. See website for more info.

This workshop forms part of the Monsters of the Anthropocene Halloween symposium ‘Unruly Origins, Strange Futures’, October 29, 12:00 – 17:00 CET. You can see the full programme and sign up for the symposium here. The symposium is free and online.

Monsters of the Anthropocene Halloween Symposium: Unruly origins, strange futures

29 October, 12:00 – 17:00 CET

Image description: Plastic toys in a glass container on wheels in the middle of a room with white walls and grey hardwood floors. Orange wires extend from the glass container. The text says: Monsters of the Anthropocene Halloween Symposium: Unruly Origins, Strange Futures. 29 October 12:00-17:00 CET. Free and online. The Monster Network and OSEH. Art by Tove Kjellmark (2011)

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

The symposium is free, and you sign up and get the Zoom link here. The symposium will be live captioned and the two panels, ‘Collective voices and manifestos in monstrous times’ and ‘Storytelling and the arts of monsters’ will be recorded for use on the Monster Network website.

Programme:

12:00 – 13:30

PANEL 1: Collective voices and manifestos in monstrous times

This panel discussion revolves around community building as well as structures of inclusion and exclusion. In times of crisis (ecological, political, medical, technological, etc.), for whom is something an emergency, whose concerns are recognized and whose are silenced? Who get to belong and who are marginalized and potentially monsterized? We invite a discussion on the politics, ethics and aesthetics of communities and collective voices – such as labs, collectives, and manifestos – in order to explore the promises and limitations of monstrous kinship, family and community in the now, the past and potential futures.​

Chair: Aino-Kaisa Koistinen (The Monsters of the Anthropocene Collaboratory)

Speakers:

14.00-15.00

PANEL 2: The Feeling of a Wild Slug Chewing – art-based methods workshop with artist Katja Aglert.

Bring your scholarly or/and artistic work in progress and learn some new monster methods! Katja Aglert guides you in an exploration of how we can speculate around multi-sensorial experiences with monsters through forms of writing.

15.30-17.00

PANEL 3: Storytelling and the arts of monsters

We invite a panel discussion on the role of the monster in arts and storytelling practices, with a particular focus on how stories of monsters – as well as the monstrous as an analytical perspective and methodological tool – may (and may not) both challenge our understandings of the past and open up to unexpected and potentially more promising futures. We also ask: what are the limits to the figure of the monster? And what are the challenges when working with the monstrous in arts and storytelling?  The panel can engage with a broad range of art and storytelling, from science fiction to performance, visual arts and tv series, novels and comics, etc.

Chair: Line Henriksen (Monsters of the Anthropocene Collaboratory)

Speakers:

Unruly Origins, Strange Futures is organised by the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities collaboratory Monsters of the Anthropocene. The event is free and will take place on Zoom. Follow this link to register and get the Zoom address.