Monster Talks 3: Collective voices and the materialisation of ideas – monster as methods

Where do ideas come from? And how are certain ideas and stories reproduced and maintained, whereas other stories end up marginalized, untold or unheard, even monsterised? In this collective keynote speech given at the Symposium Monstrous Ontologies: Politics, Ethics, Materiality at the University of Roehampton, U.K on 1 July 2019, we grapple with questions of how ideas materialise, and how they are (re-)presented in our own thinking and writing about the monster. For us, the monster is a thinking tool that allows us to explore the supposed divisions between acceptable and unstable or disregarded knowledges or ideas, drawing attention to the production of knowledge, including how knowledge comes to be embodied. Through a collective, multi-voice approach, this talk experiments with incoherence and monstrous origin stories in order to try out how working with the monster require not only themes or topics, but also methods and practices. In this talk, we practice monster methodologies. We aim to bring out how ideas, thoughts and knowledges intersect, overlap and diverge, but also show how certain stories and imaginaries haunt us or intrude in our thinking as unpredictable agents. Through sharing our supposedly separate threads of thought, we experiment with differences as a modus operandi, or a common ground for thinking together. This, we hope, will spawn ways of thinking otherwise about – and with – ideas and their materialisations.

You can find the accompanying power point here: Collective Voices at University of Roehampton.

Monster Talks is a podcast series that explores the figure of the monster and the concept of the monstrous as important thinking tools for addressing dynamics of power, inclusion and exclusion, discrimination and violence. The podcast is made possible by the support of Nordic Culture Point and produced by The Monster Network in collaboration with Network for Gender Studies at UiS. All episodes are available from the podcast’s website at UiS.


Sneak peak into our event “Weird ecologies and storytelling practices”: Video by Gustaffson&Haapoja!


The Monster Network is proud to present the video “Embrace your Empathy!” with the permission of Gustafsson&Haapoja.



“Embrace Your Empathy!” is a work by Gustafsson&Haapoja. It was created for Flow Festival 2016 (Helsinki, Finland) along with a manifesto and flags of Utopian nations, where humans would co-exist more peacefully and equally with other animals. The video is realized by Matti Vesanen and the music composed by Mikko Virmajoki. It was originally shown without the music on repeat on a big screen near the festival entrance.

In her keynote lecture in the Monster Network’s event “Weird Ecologies and Storytelling Practices”, Laura Gustafsson discussed art, advertisement and propaganda, and this video was one of the examples used in her talk. Gustafsson sought to answer, whether it is possible to advertise empathy beyond rhetorics. How to make a person willingly give up their privileges and tune into the same level with other beings without resulting in propaganda?



Monsters, myth and media: Nordic stories of belonging and otherness (Network Funding from Nordic Culture Point 2018-2019)

Dr. Ingvil Hellstrand from the Monster Network gives us her thoughts on our workshop series funded by the Nordic Culture Point.


With the generous support of the Nordic Culture point, the Monster Network has recently completed a workshop series dealing with what we might call a resurgence of the figure of the monster in the Nordic countries. The political climate is changing, and in all the Nordic countries there is a harsher political rhetoric linked to what is considered normal and what is considered deviant. Simultaneously, right-wing politics demanding a ban on immigration and better integration are on the rise, and the past few years we have seen neo-nazi marches in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. These very real and acute situations is a reminder of the histories of monster-making: how certain bodies, voices and identities are rendered monstrous, or as not-belonging, as a result of ideology, social agendas, cultural norms and popular culture and the media.


Haunted Humanity

Our first workshop took place in Stavanger, Norway on 29 and 30 November 2018. This workshop, entitled Haunted Humanity, invited artists, writers and researchers to discuss how the very idea of being human is haunted, not only by monstrous Others, but also by the traditional hegemony of the (white, able-bodied, male, middle-class) human.  The (in)stability of the human is defined by its relation to its others, and we wanted to grapple with the idea of various hauntings, be it bodily, technologically, historically, territorially, fictionally and ideologically, to mention a few.

Coming from a feminist tradition, the workshop was organized around the principle of diffraction. This means that we gathered people from different fields and perspectives in order to bring out various approaches and multiplicities in terms of hauntings. One example of how we managed to do just that was a session where we discussed the Tasmanian tiger and the story of its extinction alongside a videowork by Swedish artist Tove Kjellmark that focuses on the female body. After an engaging talk about the preservation and presentation of the now-extinct animal by

Professor of environmental history at the University of Stavanger, Dolly Jørgensen, an initial  discussion about cataloguing and classifying brought about a debate about the impossibility of representation without haunting, exemplified by the female body as a spectacle. In other words, invoking the very idea of a body, be it female or a Tasmanian tiger, demands a reflection on how it can be displayed, represented, historizised, told, portrayed and reproduced. And further, an attention to who is doing the storying, and when and how it is being told, and what is silenced or lost along the way.

One of the major haunting figures to this day is Frankenstein and his monster-creature, and so we felt a tribute to Mary Shelley’s work as well as to the legacies of Frankenstein was in order. How can we deal with acknowledging the legacies on the one hand, but also challenge and subvert them on the other? Central here is of course the question of knowledge production, and the production of a literary canon. This theme of knowledge regimes, canonization, tradition and legacy did actually become an overarching theme for the entire workshop: whose knowledges are deemed monstrous, unfitting, problematic, and what are the consequences of being rendered illegitimate or improper by the state apparatus, religion or majority culture. For example, many of our invited speakers talked about Sámi knowledges as an example of something that has been silenced or hidden, and how this making-invisible continues to haunt history and culture, as well as families, identities and everyday lives.


Weird ecologies and storytelling practices

Our second workshop took place in Tampere, Finland on 4 and 5 April 2019, with the theme of Weird Ecologies and Storytelling Practices. Here, we continued the thread about knowledge production, but situated in critical story-telling practices. Having invited writers of speculative fiction, such as Laura Gustafsson and Johanna Sinisalo as keynote speakers, this workshop engaged in questions of why stories are important, and for who. How can weird and speculative stories contribute to change how we perceive the world that we live in and surround ourselves by? By exploring themes of imagining, (re)telling and envisioning the world otherwise, the very question of human superiority and the necessity of alternative perspectives and positionalities set the tone and artistic-theoretical framework for this workshop.

The workshop also featured a writing workshop with Professor Emerita Nina Lykke, in which she invited us to “write the posthuman”. In order to do this, she argued, the exercise is to draw on a range of senses and attempt to de-centre and and posthumanise the “I” position. By shifting perspectives and agency for the storyteller, Lykke advocated writing and thinking practices where a traditional, representational mode of writing was challenged: the point is not to represent, but to acknowledge the posthuman as a “you”. In turn, this “you”, is something or someone that we, the humans, must relate to. Throughout the workshop, Lykke’s point seemed to reiterate in several of the talks: in artist Henna Laininen’s dialogue with a glacier; art-researcher Shreyasi’s intimate photo assemblages of cities and technologies, and in researcher Marietta Radomska’s deliberations about the materialities of life and death.

Storying the monster is a way of making visible the boundaries for established knowledge regimes, and potentially challenge them. The monster is a figure that haunts, and it is thus in a position to raise questions about presences and absences, as well as about its own ontology. Similarly, the monster allows unexpected and unrecognized perspectives and stories to show themselves, and – perhaps – shift the boundaries for what is considered reality for a moment. For the whole of our workshop series, the monster served us well as a thinking tool about hauntings, weirdness, humanity and ecology.

Remember to listen to our podcast from these workshops!




Keynote at ‘Monstrous Ontologies: Politics, Ethics, Materiality’

Monstrous ontologies

The Monster Network will be keynoting at the ‘Monstrous Ontologies: Politics, Ethics, Materiality’ conference at the University of Roehampton on July 1st. We’ll be presenting on the topic of ‘Collective Voices and the Materialization of Ideas: The Monster as Method’, while experimenting with how ideas might take shape through multiple voices, present absences and poetry.

The can find the programme and more information on the conference’s Facebook page. Register here.

Monster Talks 2: Weird ecologies and storytelling practices


Why are stories important? And how can weird and speculative stories contribute to change how we perceive the world that we live in and surround ourselves by? This monster talk addresses storytelling practices as creative processes, but also as political, ecological and ethical passions. Listen to Finnish writers of speculative fiction, Johanna Sinisalo and Laura Gustafsson in conversation with Ingvil Hellstrand from The Monster Network and the Network for Gender Studies at UiS. The talk is a recording from a public event in Telakka Bar, Tampere, Finland, as part of The Monster Network workshop series Monsters, Myth and Media: Nordic stories of belonging and Otherness (Funded by Nordic Culture Point).

Monster Talks is a podcast series that explores the figure of the monster and the concept of the monstrous as important thinking tools for addressing dynamics of power, inclusion and exclusion, discrimination and violence. The podcast is made possible by the support of Nordic Culture Point and produced by The Monster Network in collaboration with Network for Gender Studies at UiS. All episodes are available from the podcast’s website at UiS.

Creative writing workshop with Nina Lykke: ‘Writing the Posthuman …’


Friday 5 April you can join Nina Lykke’s creative writing workshop ‘Writing the Posthuman …’ at the Weird Ecologies and Storytelling Practices seminar in Tampere!

The workshop will introduce you to ways of writing the posthuman other – in terms

Sea Algae on Estuary Rogue River. Creative Commons Licence.

of writing from embodied subject positions which might seem unfamiliar, ”alien” to the traditional outlook of the human ”I”. What does it for example mean to write from the position of an algae? a bush of heather? a cat? a stone? Or???? Against the background of some of my own poetic texts, and reflections on posthuman phenomenology, I will pose questions around modes, meanings and eco-ethics of writing from posthuman subject positions and from an ontology of vibrant and spirited matter (Bennett 2010, Anzaldua 2015). Moreover, I will invite you to do some writing exercizes prompting you to experiment with poetic explorations of transcorporeal touching, and to share and discuss your texts with each other.

Nina Lykke, Dr. Phil., Professor Emerita, Gender Studies, Linköping University, Sweden. Has for over four decades contributed to the building of Feminist Studies in Europe, Denmark and Sweden, in particular. Co-founder of Queer Death Studies Network, and Network for Ecocritical-Decolonial Research. Current research: queering of cancer, death, and mourning in queerfeminist materialist, posthuman, decolonial and eco-critical perspectives; autophenomenographic and poetic writing. Some recent publications, related to creative and autophenomengraphic writing: Writing Academic Texts Differently (Routledge, New York 2014); Queer Widowhood, Lambda Nordica 2015: 4; When death cuts apart, in: Juvonen & Kohlemainen: Affective Inequalities in Intimate Relationships. Routledge, New York 2018

Register for the workshop and the rest of the Weird Ecologies and Storytelling Practices seminar here.

Find the complete Weird Ecologies and Storytelling Practices programme here