Tuesday, September 13, 2011

monstrosity, normalizing, authenticity

So, there is a cool looking conference (I don't have any real travel funds, so I will not submitting an abstract) on monstrosity. Anyway, seems like a good place as any to say something I have been thinking of.

Monstrosity is basically a really good way of thinking all sorts of things that seem opposed to what Foucault called "the normalizing society". Sometimes this is specific to the entire terrain of monsters as opposed to the creation of the category of the abnormals. Sometimes this refers in generic to something monstrous that rebels or resists the normalizing order. Sometimes this refers to all sorts of specific introductions of the monster that we use as metaphors (or whatever) in order to think all sorts of theory: werewolves, vampires (vegetarian and otherwise), ghosts, the weird, the blob, zombies, Frankenstein's Monster, etc. And really, I don't have anything against any of this. I know it is always fashionable to oppose whatever is fashionable in contemporary philosophy/theory, but this is a fashion that I both do work in and lots of people I respect do work in. But I briefly want to talk about something else.

So, I come out of the traditions of goth, glam, and punk when I was in HS. All of them are pretty big fans of monstrosity, excess, the profane, that sort of thing. And while monstrosity, in those circles, might be opposed to normality, but is often used as an indicator of authenticity. Authenticity is another way of thinking specific forms of domination, of thinking specific models of normalizing. Anyway, Adorno wrote an excellent little book, The Jargon of Authenticity, that should be read on this point. I don't have much to say on this point, really (yay, blogging. Throw something out there without fully forming the idea). I certainly don't think that all forms of valorization of monstrosity suffers from the problems of authenticity. But I do think there is a possibility to turn the issues of monstrosity into an existential politics, into something specifically avoids the anonymous, the production of alterity, existing outside economies of the sacred and the profane, bizarre co-mingling, etc. It is not that we need to be opposed to recent academic interest in monsters, but that any new trend requires proper caution in places it can end up.