Introduction to Monstrous Ontologies - Politics, Ethics, Materiality

Caterina Nirta, Andrea Pavoni

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Whether explicitly or implicitly, monsters have always inhabited collective imagination. A rich cosmology of godly and demonical entities populated ancient mythologies, animistic cults, and religions. A monstrous bestiary of narrations and representations has proliferated in literary, political and popular culture, surreptitiously orienting efforts to define man, culture, law, society, and community. Biological taxonomies, legal discourses and moral panics have framed the presence of the monster in popular culture. Especially in the last decades, a vast imaginary of zombies, vampires, aliens, superheroes, ghosts, cyborgs and other creatures have appeared in a host of films, tv shows, sci-fi novels, crowding an imaginary wherein the self is against the other, the normal against the abnormal, the inside against the outside. Global warming and the beginning of a new geological era have brought about an uncanny sense of fragility. With this, a novel awareness that the end of our existence, the end of our world, is no longer an unlikely scenario but a realistic possibility. It is not surprising, then, that in the bleak landscape of the Anthropocene, monsters proliferate (Tsing et al. 2017; Giuliani 2020). They are the "harbinger of category crisis," writes Jeffrey Cohen (1996:6): they embody the crisis of categorisation, while also offering a disturbingly convenient social and political tool to stigmatise and demonise the presence of the other-to monsterise, that is. At the same time, the advance and at times dystopian premises of contemporary science and technology provide fertile ground for more or less fantastic speculations around all kind of monstrous futures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMonstrous Ontologies - Politics, Ethics, Materiality
EditorsAndrea Pavoni, Caterina Nirta
PublisherVernon Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)978-1-62273-890-8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

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