The Construction of the Monstrous
The Monsters and the Monstrous Project: 13th Global Meeting
Wednesday 15th July – Friday 17th July 2015
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom
Call for Presentations:
This conference project seeks to raise understanding of the construction and evolution of the monstrous, its dissemination and possible disappearance over time and space. Monsters and the monstrous can appear in many shapes and disguises. We do not only encounter the monstrous in serial killers, Ebola fears or the alien world of insects, each discipline or order has its own synonym for monstrosity, from the military, legal, political and medical to the geological, social or artistic. There are both “natural” monsters, predators or inhospitable landscapes, and artificial – “engineered” – monstrosities, bodies, minds, spaces, buildings or political agendas.
All existential stages of the body have been “othered” at some time or another, from fertilization over pregnancy to puberty, death and the afterlife. The monstrous does not only appear in the guise of an “obvious” enemy, othering can equally happen among families and friends as seen in China’s Cultural Revolution or East Germany’s Stasi regime. How do we recognize a monster in our midst and how do we react towards it? There are factors which make it chique to associate with monsters and the monstrous, and this popularity introduces marketing strategies. Both in metaphor and reality there are factions that seek to either extinguish or apotheosize the other, to turn “one man’s god into another man’s monster.” Often we create monsters not only to overcome them, but with a desire to become them. There is an inherent power struggle in our relationship with monsters, which we encounter as victims, lovers, judges or exterminators. But this relationship also challenges humans to face their demons by attempting to cure a disease, climb the highest mountain, become a vigilante or commit genocide. The “tales of the monstrous” that ensue from this speak not only of historic voyages and glorious victories, but also of incredible pain, defeat and death.
Although often pushed to the fringe, the monster is constructed at the core of society; one might even say society is a monster, fashioning the very beastliness it often desires to exorcise. The 21st century has introduced a whole new range of monsters to the existing contingent; most of them through technology or economy. The exploitation of Asian factory workers or the NSA scandal are only two examples. Cities are increasingly redefined as monstrous through pollution, architecture, crime and overpopulation, as are people who indulge in internet trolling, cyberbullying or rape culture.
For this event we invite presentations from labourers, tradespersons, professionals, practitioners, academics, vocational and volunteer workers with specific insights, experience, practices or skills concerning the understanding of monstrosity. The introduction to all kinds of real and artistic monsters from culturally diverse backgrounds are as welcome as explanations of the monstrous in historical circumstances and texts, dance, music, sculpture or painting included. We hope to go beyond the popular and generic, vampires, cyborgs or zombies, and into discussions that evolve from any conceivable direction.
Examples of the above can be seen in, but are not exclusive to, the following categories:
Physiological, Psychological, Cultural:
- Tattoos, piercings, artificial limbs, implants, cloning, stem-cell research
- Physical difference, disability, disease, mental health, amputations, injury
- Skin colour, hair colour, blemishes, fashion, costume, cosmetics
- Customs, alternative lifestyles, rites and religious practice
- Class, caste, age, language, dialect
- Dreams and nightmares
Nature, History, Space:
- Cities and superstructures, ghettos, refugee camps
- Colonialism, post-colonialism and borderlands
- Natural disasters and inhospitable environments
- Deforestation, pollution, oil-spills, climate change, extinction, animal cruelty, whaling, ivory trade
- Challenges, Himalaya mountain climbing accidents, deep sea diving
War and Crime:
- Piracy, cannibalism
- Massacre, torture, genocide, weapons of mass destruction
- Killer children, serial killers, death penalty
Gender and Sexuality:
- Heteronormativity, male hierarchy, patriarchy, matriarchy and feminism
- Asexual, non-sexual, hermaphrodite and non-reproduction
- Alternative sexual practices, paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia
- Criminalization of sexuality, homophobia, childhood sexuality
- Rape culture, pornography, pick-up artists
Media and Technology:
- Surveillance technology, drones, smartphones, data mining, viruses
- Media, internet, virtual spaces
- Trolling, bullying, cyber terrorism
- Industrialization, factories, machineries
Selling the Monstrous:
- The global economy
- Political campaigns and witch hunts
- Vampire fads, zombie walks, monster trucks, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
- Fictitious worlds and parallel universes
We hold it possible that at least one panel could be formed on a particular region, for instance East Asia:
- China’s Cultural Revolution, Fukushima, the 58th parallel, China-Taiwan conflict, Diaoyu Islands, Hiroshima, Khmer Rouge
– Rigorous educational systems, parental expectations, student suicides
– Work environments, (Western) exploitation of factory workers, sex industry
– One-child policy, abortions of female foetuses and girl abductions in China, domesticity
– Secret societies, triads and yakuza
– Historical gendering, imperial eunuchs, Chinese and Japanese femininity, Geisha, foot binding, arranged marriage, the cinema of Zhang Yimou
– Superstitions, hungry ghosts, “hopping zombies”, corpse-driving, Daoist exorcisms, Godzilla
– The heroic assassin, heroic bloodshed cinema, samurai
The Steering Group welcomes the submission of proposals for short workshops, practitioner-based activities, performances, and pre-formed panels. We particularly welcome short film screenings; photographic essays; installations; interactive talks and alternative presentation styles that encourage engagement.
What to Send:
Proposals will also be considered on any related theme. 300 word proposals should be submitted by Friday 13th March 2015. If a proposal is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper of no more than 3000 words should be submitted by Friday 22nd May 2015. Proposals should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; proposals may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:
a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: Monsters13 Proposal Submission
All abstracts will be at least double blind peer reviewed. Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.
The aim of the conference is to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.All proposals accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected proposals may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.
Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.
Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.