Ask the Editors! (About the conference publication ‘Promises of Monsters’)

The abstract deadline for the conference publication ‘Promises of Monsters’ is closing in, and some of the editors have rallied together to shamelessly steal a bunch of questions (and sometimes even answers) that they can ask themselves in order to shed some light on the upcoming issue. If you have questions that are not answered here, you’re always welcome to contact us at promisesofmonsters at gmail dot com, and if you’d like to read the full call for abstracts, you can find it here.

Before moving on to the actual questions, we’d like to stress that even though this is an issue based on the conference Promises of Monsters, which took place in Stavanger in April, this issue is open to all submissions, also from scholars and artists who didn’t participate in the conference.

The abstract deadline is the 17th of October.

And now to the stolen Q&A!

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Ask the Editors!


Why monster studies?

Donna McCormack: Monster studies opens up the possibility of exploring a whole array of themes, topic, theories, representations, art, histories and more. It crosses disciplines; it’s serious, funny and scary; and it is deeply theoretical, ethical and political. It is the monster’s capacity to address what is often ignored or just in the sidelines, or at the centre of our thoughts as the most hated, despicable or enticing of beings that I find appealing. It seeks to grapple with how formations of exclusion, violence and surveillance work, and therefore pays attention to embodiment as central to our being in the world with others.

Why does the issue invite both art and academic contributions?

Sara Orning: Monsters and the monstrous have fascinated across genres and social groups for centuries, just think of the art of Hieronimus Bosch (1450-1516) and the preoccupation with monsters by doctors, writers, lawyers, laypeople, royals, and artists in the early modern period. Often artistic portrayals and theoretical investigations have gone hand in hand. In the case of something like the monstrous, we move in places that can be hard to describe or fully account for with academic words only. That is why we believe that art and academia together can provide a fuller picture of monsters and the monstrous.

Line Henriksen: 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?

Line Henriksen: 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. We’re 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 explore ways to live in the company of monsters, knowing full well that they are as dangerous as they are necessary.

What’s your favourite monster?

Aino-Kaisa Koistinen: I’m always fascinated with science fiction’s monsters that are made in the image of humans only to contort this image, thus positing questions about what humanity is really all about. There are so many monsters to choose from, so it is hard to choose a favourite. However, I have always liked Doctor Who’s Daleks as they present us such a chilling image of technology gone too far and, while doing so, evoke pressing ethical questions. For example, how could we think about compassion with the Daleks, a species trapped in technology that has lost its capability for compassion and has sworn to exterminate all that is “other” and “inferior”? For me, the Daleks (starting from the original Doctor Who in the 1960s) resonate with so many contemporary cultural discussions concerning xenophobia and the boundaries of humans and monsters, making them intriguing monsters.

Donna McCormack: I don’t know that I have a favourite monster, but rather I’m interested in how the monster haunts contemporary fiction, especially in relation to evolutionary narratives. So, if we think of the series Orphan Black, I think about how the human is constituted through this idea of a monstrously different other, and yet this other is human, already a part of that category and haunting its DNA, cell lines and its histories. This to me poses profound questions about why the monster is important and why we must think it in relation to the contemporary political situation of exclusion, violence and increased border surveillance.


The editors are all founding members of the Monster Network.

About the editors:

Ingvil Hellstrand is a lecturer and researcher at the Network for Gender Research at the University of Stavanger, Norway. Her research interests are science fiction, posthuman bodies, bioethics, biopolitics and feminist theory. Recent publications include articles in the journals NORA – Nordic Journal for feminist and gender research and Feminist Theory, and chapters in the edited volumes Being Together: New cultural conditions for intimacy and Ill-disciplined Gender (forthcoming)

Line Henriksen has a PhD from The Unit of Gender Studies at Linköping University, Sweden. Her research interests include hauntology, monster theory, ethics, creative writing, feminist theory and creepypasta/internet urban legends. Her work has previously been published in Somatechnics, Women & Performance and The Ashgate Research Companion to Paranormal Cultures. Her fiction has appeared in the EEEL, freeze frame fiction and The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix, among others.

Aino-Kaisa Koistinen is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her research interests include media culture and popular culture (especially television), science fiction, gender studies and feminist posthumanism. She defended her doctoral dissertation The Human Question in Science Fiction Television: (Re)Imagining Humanity in Battlestar Galactica, Bionic Woman and V at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, in 2015. She is a board member of FINFAR –The Finnish Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research and one of the editors-in-chief of Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. She has been published, for example, in NORA—Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research and Science Fiction Film and Television.

Donna McCormack is a Lecturer at the University of Surrey, UK, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK) at the University of Bergen, Norway. She is working on a monograph entitled Recycling Global Life: Human Organ Transplantation in Contemporary Visual and Literary Texts, and recently published her first monograph entitled Queer Postcolonial Narratives and the Ethics of Witnessing (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2015). She has published and forthcoming articles in journals such as the European Journal of Cultural Studies and The Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, as well as in the edited collections Giving, Selling, Sharing and Critical Perspectives on Indo-Caribbean Women’s Literature. She is also the coordinator of the Nordic Network for Gender, Body, Health.

Sara Orning is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Gender Research at the University of Oslo. She works on extraordinary bodies, monsters, humanimals and feminist theory, and has published and forthcoming articles in Excursions: An Interdisciplinary Journal and in the anthology Animalities: Literary and Cultural Studies Beyond the Human (Edinburgh University Press).


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