Event: Monstrous Ontologies: Politics Ethics Materiality

by | 14 Jun 2019

Fantastic animals, evil criminals, notorious neighbourhoods, mysterious objects, invisible ideologies, unspoken laws: monstrosity can take different shapes, crossing the boundaries between the visible and the thinkable, reality and imagination, human and nonhuman; as an uncanny atmosphere always on the verge of being materialised and individualised in the monsters that populate collective imagination, biological taxonomies, legal discourses, and moral panics. Contemporary critical thought has done much to frame monstrosity as reflecting the cultural anxieties of the contexts from which it is drawn. Accordingly, much of its wider significance has been located in the affective impact and emotional salience of monsters: the ability to become fearsome, to provoke feelings of disgust, but also to agglomerate desire around a not fully-explored alterity, and create curiosity towards their embodied transgression. Insofar as a purely cultural construction depending on the transgression of given (social, cultural, moral, biological) norms, monstrosity has been critically demystified, by challenging its insidious categorisations of the other (species, body, race, gender) as monstrous. While it is necessary to challenge these monstrous otherings and their perverse socio-political effects, we contest the consequent reduction of monstrosity to a mere cultural construction of the other.

There is a more that the monster embodies and communicates, a monstrous excess that materially resists being ingested within an order, and yet cannot be placed in a negative, dialectical opposition to that order either. Reason, Language, Law, Science and other conceptual mechanisms do not simply produce monsters (as their dialectical counter-part), they rather capture, domesticate and naturalise them within their own system, denying their monstrous excess. As such, understanding monstrosity means to radically challenge not only the (legal, social, political) categories we use, but also the very mechanisms of categorisation through which reality is framed and acted upon. Here lies the profound ethical and political dimension that monstrosity forces us to acknowledge, one that cannot be unfolded by merely deconstructing monstrosity, and requires facing its uncomfortable, appalling, and revealing materiality.

A one-day trans-disciplinary symposium exploring the the social, cultural, political and legal significance of monstrosity at Roehampton University, London.

The event includes 4 themed panels (HUMANS, OBJECTS, ECOLOGIES, ANIMALS) 12 speakers 4 commentators and 1 keynote by The Monster Network.


Alice Von Bieberstein: Ghoulish objects, charnel grounds: on death and monstrosity

Jack Boulton: Dead, or Dying? Uranium as Monster in Swakopmund, Namibia.

Emanuele Prezioso: Fleeing from Categories: Monstrous-Artefacts and Stylistic Variation in Archaeology.

Discussant: Lucile Desblache


Ramon Bloomberg: Dronological Monsters: The human subject, the drone and reason as a technical framework.

Ramón Córdova González & Signe Perkone: Monster Ecologies: Metabolic Territories and Abnormal Architectures

discussant: Patricia Lopez



Vivian Asimos: The Slender Man’s Ontology: playing with reality and belief online

Paul Reid-Bowen: Learning to Live and Die in the Cthulhucene 

discussant: Riccardo Baldissone

Carl Olsson: Revisiting Deleuze’s bestiary: Do monsters make a difference?

Natalie Lawrence: Monstrous consumption: global greed, gluttonous dodos and engorged bodies

Panos Kompatsiaris: Aliens in the Mediterranean Sea: Monstrous Fish and the (Im)Possibilities of Kinship with Non-Human Others

discussant: Sweta Rajan-Rankin


Registration fee is £10 and covers the whole event day, including lunch, refreshments and drinks reception. Places are limited, please do register your attendance following this link https://estore.roehampton.ac.uk/conferences-and-events/conferences/monstrous-ontologies-politics-ethics-materiality/monstrous-ontologies-politics-ethics-materiality-2019

The event is organised by: Caterina Nirta (University of Roehampton) & Andrea Pavoni (DINAMIA’CET, University Institute of Lisbon)


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