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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: The Anthropology of Monsters: Demons, witches, cyborgs and other fabulous creatures (PGSP11460)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is about monsters. It is about the way in which monstrous bodies mix and match realms that should be kept separate - nature/culture, human/animal, male/female, familiar/unfamiliar, material/immaterial and, above all, self/other. From African witches and the ghost of Burnt
Woman in Australia to Freddy Krueger or 'pharma' animals and cyborgs, it brings together Western and non-Western monsters in order to explore some of the ways in which they have been portrayed and experienced in different ethnographic contexts as well as through time.
Course description Do monsters exist and how can we define them? What role do monsters and monster narratives play in culture? Does the logic of monstrosity remain constant across time or does each era embrace the monsters it needs? Do African witches or the ghost of Burnt Woman in Eastern Australia
share anything with Freddy Krueger, cyborgs or the chimeric 'pharm' animals of the new biotechnologies? How useful is it to bring together cinematic monsters like Freddy Krueger with African witches or, indeed, African witches with cyborgs? Focusing on a number of monstrous beings
(demons, witches, vampires, spirits, cyborgs, chimeras, tc.), this course attempts to answer these questions by exploring some of the ways in which monsters have been portrayed and experienced in different ethnographic contexts as well as different times.

This exploration is organized around two main themes. We will start with the idea that monsters are arbiters of order and disorder - they allow us, that is, to express ideas about what is normal and channel fears about what is not. As 'the abnormal' that monsters represent appears to be conditioned by the mixture of different realms that need to be kept separate, the first part of the course will concentrate on different kinds of Monstrous Bodies in relation to particular examples of such a mixture (e.g., human/animal, self/other, male/female, familiar/unfamiliar, material/immaterial).

In the second part of the course, Monstrous Technologies, we shall concentrate on the idea that monstrosity does not simply represent fear of abnormal selves or abnormal bodies but also challenges, permeates and constructs normal selves and normal bodies. In this
sense, rather than a simple representational category, it may be seen as a way of being or becoming.

Indicative topics:

Monstrous Bodies:
From the uncanny to the abject: un/familiar monsters
From Gods to heroes and angels: im/mortal monsters
From the impossible to the forbidden: im/moral monsters

Monstrous Technologies:
Excess and lack
Defilement and disgust
Ruination and transgression
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate critical knowledge and advanced understanding of the key theories, concepts and issues central to the anthropological study of monsters and the monstrous.
  2. Critically analyze, synthesize, and evaluate research and contemporary debates about alterity as well as navigate complex issues to form informed opinions and analyses.
  3. Exhibit a critical awareness of the articulation and significance of cultural and political forces that contribute to the 'monsterization' of the Other.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to question, examine, and understand key anthropological issues through independent research.
  5. Communicate through empirically grounded and theoretically informed written work and oral presentations, their knowledge of issues relevant to the study of monsters and their comparative significance.
Reading List
Forth, G. 2008. Images of the Wildman in Southeast Asia: An Anthropological Perspective. Milton Park: Routlledge.

Foucault, M. 2003. Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France, 1974-1975, eds V. Marchetti, A. Salomoni, and A. Davidson. New York: Picador.

Kearney, R. 2003. Strangers, Gods and Monsters. London & New York: Routledge.

Levina, M. and Diem-My T. Bui, eds. 2013. Monster Culture in the 21st Century: A Reader. London & New York: Bloomsbury.

Musharbash, Y and G. H. Presterudstuen, eds. 2014. Monster Anthropology in Australasia
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Be able to use collaboration and debate effectively in order to test, modify and strengthen their own views.

Make effective use of oral, written and visual means to negotiate, create and communicate critical understanding.

Seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness.

Transfer their knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another.

Use an anthropological approach to understand and act on social, cultural, and political issues surrounding questions of alterity and the significance of 'othering'.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Dimitri Tsintjilonis
Course secretaryMiss Becky Guthrie
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