Ask the Editors! (about the special issue:’Monstrous Encounters: Nordic Perspectives on Monsters and the Monstrous’)

Are you considering submitting an abstract for the upcoming special issue of Women, Gender & Research on the subject of Monstrous Encounters: Nordic Perspectives on Monsters and the Monstrous? Would you like to know more about what the editors are looking for, and how they imagine the special issue to turn out? Are you concerned that they might secretly be lizard people?

The editors of the special issue have asked themselves some important, existential questions in order to dispel your worries and make you want to join the dark side. Read on as they grapple with the important philosophical questions of our time, such as: Why monsters? Why now? And which one is the coolest?

Have no idea what we’re talking about but would like to learn more? Read the call for articles here.

Ask the Editors

 Erika Kvistad:

Why monster studies?

I’ve always thought that the most interesting parts of any subject are its unsettling edges: the things we catch sight of out of the corner of our eye; the things we prefer not to think about; the things that, if we could really see them clearly, might change everything. Monster studies is a way of exploring those edges. But it can also be a way of working differently — a way to actually acknowledge and use the sticky weirdness (obsession? delight? uncertainty? terror?) that’s always present in academic work, rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet. Which makes it both fun and scary.

Why now and why here (in the North)?

The North has a strange relationship to its monstrosities. On the one hand, we’re almost all forest and mountain, alternately steeped in endless light and endless darkness, and we seem to have developed quite a prosaic sense of our homegrown monster mythology. (As children, I and a lot of the Norwegians I know were absolutely sure that the hole in the outdoor toilet housed dodraugen, the toilet draug.) At the same time, the Nordic countries have a lot of investment in being (or at least seeming) calm, undramatic, rational, and rule-bound. It often feels as though we have no idea what to do with our particular cultural monsters, and that tension will be interesting to play with.

Why does the issue invite artistic contributions? And what do you look for in a submission?

Because, like a Psyduck bursting free of a Pokeball, monstrous thought never stays within the purely academic sphere. I’m particularly excited about submissions that don’t quite fit into a clear category, whether in terms of genre or discipline or anything else, and/or that play with formal constraints. If it’s too weird for other journals, it could be just right for us.

What’s your favourite monster?

I like uncanny domesticity in general, so maybe the house on Ash Tree Lane in House of Leaves. It’s been fifteen years since I first read that book and I still just want to redecorate it.

Morten Hillgaard Bülow:

Why monster studies?

Because the world is weird and full of both dangers and wonders. Monsters should be studied because of their inherent pointing to norms, expectations, wishes and conventions, while also showing the fears and uncertainties that unsettle these things – and they allow us to come to terms with, or maybe rather stay with, the fears and uncertainties, to create a space for them and learn to live (or die) with them rather than running away from them. I guess there is that: if the world is unsettling and fundamentally unmanagable (in the neoliberal sense), then let us look at that, let that be the point of departure. If you are curious about the world and want to study it, monsters are a good place to begin.

Why now and why here (in the North)?

There are good reasons for looking at monsters in relation to the North, now, in this special issue, one of the most serious ones being that there is so much anxiety and fear, and such a great wish for order and control, in our current historical context. Investigating monsters and monstrosity can do at least two things: it can show us these hopes and fears and allow us to contemplate and dwell on them a bit; and it can provide alternative stories and perspectives, both to the taken-for-granted or mainstream, and to ’the monstrous’ and what this might mean, which might again offer ways of dealing with the different hopes and fears that create more space for unconventional ways of being in the world. I think this is important and serious, and monsters and the monstrous are incredibly important to look at from this perspective.

Why does the issue invite artistic contributions? And what do you look for in a submission?

Form and contents need to supplement each other – and when the content is about things that challenges conventions or conventional thinking, often by being uncontainable within the boundaries of conventional genres (or genders, or whatever); then it makes good sense to me that we should invite artistic contributions where the format may investigate and communicate ambiguity, multiplicity and complexity in a different way than academic texts usually do. Both academic genres and artwork have their own particular possibilities and limitations and I hope that by bringing them together we might create interesting new monstrous thoughts. Good submissions to me, are ones that give pause, that invite contemplation, that twists and turns our expectations, or just leaves us with a sense of wonder or productive confusion.

What’s your favourite monster?

I think I would have to say my grandmother. And I mean that very affectionately. She will soon be 94 years old and is increasingly seen as a ’monstrous other’ by other people and by the health care system she is in. There is something about the way she deals with her own changing corporeality and mental capacities that makes my own fears lessen; it is not that there is no fear or pain in these changes, but rather that she doesn’t shy away from the changes, that she makes them her own. As we all can, and maybe should, when facing our own unruly and monstrous corporealities. She deals with it much better than most people around her, I might add.

Line Henriksen:

Why monster studies, why now and why here (in the North)?
Currently, Nordic countries, such as my native Denmark, are in a great hurry to paint some people as monstrous – whether these people are refugees, unemployed, poor, disabled or similar – in order to reject them as well as make them scapegoats for any and all of the country’s problems. The figure of the monster helps us understand and think such mechanisms of exclusion and de-humanization. But it does more than that: the monster questions the very structures that create it by reflecting them back to its makers. What makes a monster? it asks. And why? The monster does this kind of critical questioning within the area of Monster Studies, not least in the U.S., but in the current racist and xenophobic climate, we need it to do the same kind of work for us here in the North as well.

Why does the issue invite artistic contributions?

We want to invite all kinds of thinkers to engage with the figure of the monster and the concept of the monstrous. As such, we’re not just interested in how the monster may do important critical work within academia, but also how artists engage with the monster to reimagine and rethink the world and what it may become.

What do you look for in a submission?
A critical and creative engagement with the monster and the monstrous. The monster disrupts, it tears things apart, it does work but – to quote monster theorist Asa Mittman – it does not do so nicely. I’m looking for submissions that engage the monster in ethical but disturbing ways. Submissions that do not set out to domesticate, explain or fetishize the monster, but instead – like Amelia in The Babadook – think up ways to live in the company of monsters, knowing full well that they are as dangerous as they are necessary. Also, they should be fed worms. Maybe fingers, if you live in the city and don’t have a garden to dig in. Or liquorice? Mine quite like liquorice, actually. But mostly they just like fingers. And worms.

What’s your favourite monster?, of course. Please click the link, I swear it’s not cursed. I mean, why would it be cursed? Of course it’s not cursed! Who even mentioned a curse?!

Just click the link.

About the editors:

Erika Kvistad teaches at the University of Oslo, Norway, is a resident academic at the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, and has a Ph.D in English literature from the University of York. Her research is entirely on things that are awkward to talk about at parties.

Morten Hillgaard Bülow has a background in History and Philosophy/Science Studies and a Ph.D. in Health Sciences from University of Copenhagen, Denmark – and has worked with/in these fields with an interdisciplinary mix of feminist studies, ageing studies, disability studies, science communication studies, medical ethics, and monster studies. He does not like boxes.

Line Henriksen has a Ph.D. in Gender Studies from Linköping University, Sweden, and has written both articles and fiction on the subject of monsters and the monstrous. She is a founding member of the Monster Network and an avid dog fan.




One thought on “Ask the Editors! (about the special issue:’Monstrous Encounters: Nordic Perspectives on Monsters and the Monstrous’)

  1. Pingback: Ask the Editors! (about the conference publication Promises of Monsters) | Uhyrligt!

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