Monsters & Kitchen Tables – a ‘Why Monsters’ recap

Thank you to all, who attended the Halloween symposium ‘Why Monster Studies Now?’! For those who missed it (for shame!), this is what happened:


First we had a round -table discussion with the founding members of The Monster Network – Ingvil Hellstrand, Aino-Kaisa Koistinen, Sara Orning, Donna McCormack, Line Henriksen – on the subject of ‘what is monster studies and why do (we) It’. The night before the presentation, we’d gathered around Sara’s kitchen table and discussed how we’d like to do this round-table. We ended up deciding on a fairly informal approach, in which we’d structure the one hour around a series of keywords rather than presentations on individual research projects. The keywords were:

  • Monster
  • Politics
  • Methodology
  • Ethics
  • Hauntings/imaginaries

In the spirit of the kitchen table, we wanted the discussion to be nourishing, collective and untraditional within an academic context (“we are academics, dammit!” is a quote from our meeting minutes from the previous evening. We might have opened the wine at this point, but we’re honestly not sure). The aim was to try to rethink the frames for how one can think and imagine for example ethics, politics and methodologies through the haunting imaginaries of the monster.

The opening discussion touched upon everything from current political climates – such as the so-called refugee crisis, Brexit and racist attacks – to organ transplantation, historical monster figures, Killer Clowns, science fiction and horror, to Halloween and responsibility towards the dead. One of the recurrent themes was how such issues can be approached through Monster Studies as well as whether Monster Studies can even be said to exist. What does it mean to gather studies on monsters within such an overall category? Does it make sense to do so? Can it be done? Or is Monster Theory the better way to go about it?


After the discussion – and coffee and cake – Norwegian artist and scholar Liv Bugge presented her art-projects. One of them was called The Dead Layer. This was a video-performance that explored an inversed exorcistic séance, in which anger and hatred were asked not to leave the body, but to stay in it. For what happens when concepts such as anger, hate and evil are exorcised, for example in the wake of traumatic events, such as terror-attacks? Bugge asked. And what might happen, if they were asked to stay?


Bugge also showed video-clips from another art-performance, in which she collected inscriptions from prison walls. This formed part of her new research on what she calls ‘structural magic’: words and gestures that perform and make something happen.

The final roundtable was made up of Liv Bugge, researcher Erika Kvistad and some representatives from The Monster Network. Here the audience joined in, and we discussed the limits and possibilities of the monster figure, the monstrous and hauntings.

Thanks again to all who participated in the event! And a special thank you to Liv Bugge and Erika Kvistad for joining us! We had a great time and hope you all did too.


During our time in Oslo – and our time around the kitchen table – we managed to brew up some fairly sinister plans, which we hope to be able to inform you all about shortly (meaning: when we have the money). Stay tuned for exciting updates! Or just listen for the explosions. Either will work.


The photos of Liv Bugge and the final round-table discussion are taken by Marietta Radomska.

The images of wood and smoke are from Liv Bugge’s video The Dead Layer. Photos by Line Henriksen.