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(P18) Hunter-gatherers and the monstrous

Convenor: Yasmine Musharbash, The University of Sydney

Discussants: TBA

Abstract: Hunter-gatherers share their worlds with flora, fauna, and preternatural beings—those who haunt our fieldsites. Collating the latter under the umbrella term "monster", the panel seeks diverse and novel ways of exploring of how hunter-gatherers see themselves, their world, and their position within it through a focus on the monstrous.

Keywords: uncanny, monsters and the monstrous, cosmologies, colonialism and postcolonialism, exploitation

Format: standard panel

Precirculated papers: none required


The aim of this panel is to develop novel ways of understanding how hunter-gatherers see themselves, their world, and their position within it through a focus on the monstrous. Hunter-gatherers share their lives with flora, fauna, and preternatural beings—ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and a cornucopia of other otherworldly creatures that haunt individuals and society. Contributors are invited to employ “monsters” as an umbrella term grouping together these beings that haunt our fieldsites and the people we work with. This terminology (albeit for fictional monsters) has first been suggested by Cohen (1996) in his path-breaking Monster Culture (Seven Theses) and by Musharbash (2014) for anthropology more specifically.

Using one term—monster—allows the panel to bring together not only foci on a number of creatures not usually discussed together but also a number of analytical angles. In tandem, this should allow for rich comparative explorations of the different ways in which the monstrous constitutes part of hunter-gatherer ways of being-in-the-world. Contributors are invited to investigate how the monstrous is manifested in hunter-gather lifeworlds, through

  1. Focussing on hunter-gatherer meaning-making of and through the monstrous;
  2. Ethnographic portraits of specific monsters haunting hunter-gatherers; or
  3. Analyses of hunter-gather & monster engagements.

The panel envisages that this will lead to innovative investigations into the particular problems that plague hunter-gatherers from parallels between monsters and colonisers; via monstrous destruction and logging, mining, climate change; to the monstrosity of sinking life expectancies, new diseases, and warped demographics.


Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome (1996) Monster culture (seven theses). In Monster theory. J.J. Cohen, ed. Pp. 3–25. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Musharbash, Yasmine (2014) Introduction: monsters, anthropology, and monster Studies. In Monster anthropology in Australasia and beyond. Y. Musharbash and G. Presterudstuen, eds. Pp. 1–24. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.





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