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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: The Anthropology of Monsters: Demons, witches, cyborgs and other fabulous creatures (SCAN10072)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) 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, etc.), 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.

Weekly topics may include:

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
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Anthropology courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Approach the notion of the 'monstrous' from a critical perspective.
  2. Exhibit a well-informed and critical understanding of cultural and political forces that contribute to the 'monsterization' of the Other.
  3. Review and assess the anthropological significance of various monsters.
  4. Gain a substantive knowledge of the role monsters play within culture.
  5. Develop independent research and oral presentation skills as well as demonstrate the ability to discuss anthropological theory in relation to contemporary social issues.
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:

Musharbash, Y and G. H. Presterudstuen, eds. 2014. Monster
Anthropology in Australasia and Beyond. New York:
Palgrave Macmillan.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - be able to use collaboration and debate effectively to test, modify and strengthen their own views
- make effective use of oral, written and visual means to critique, negotiate, create and communicate understanding
- use communication as a tool for collaborating and relating to others
- seek and value "open" feedback to inform genuine self-awareness
- be both adaptive and proactively responsive to changing social contexts
- have the confidence to make decisions based on their understandings and their personal and intellectual autonomy
- transfer their knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another
- understand and act on their social, cultural, and global responsibilities, and help others to do the same
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Dimitri Tsintjilonis
Course secretaryMiss Lauren Ayre
Tel: (0131 6)50 2010
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