Society for Cultural Anthropology
Society for Humanistic Anthropology
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
What is a monster these days? In both ordinary and fantastic registers in the contemporary U.S., what “monster” signifies is too variable to comprise a coherent category, and its metaphorical meanings are ambiguous and often contradictory. This paper is composed like a medieval taxonomy of contemporary monsters, exploring various iterations of what people mean when they throw the term “monster” around. My compendium describes various beings that recently have been called “monsters,” from obese bodies on reality TV, to children’s anger in books that teach regulation of emotion, to cop-shooting kids and kid-shooting cops, to occult lizard people in conspiracy theories. Taking off from classic anthropological theories of monsters as deconstructed and reassembled natural objects, I dip into the lived spectrum of monsters to suggest their resonance within a larger affective atmosphere of anxiety and precarity. I explore why the “the monster,” which has no stable referent, occupies the irreducible terrain of enchantment and disenchantment.