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. 

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