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Themesicon: navigation pathCyborg Bodiesicon: navigation pathMonstrous Bodies
Monstrous Bodies: The Disarranged Gender Body as an Arena for Monstrous Subject Relationns [1]
Yvonne Volkart


As Donna Haraway said, it is no coincidence that monsters are related to the word ‹demonstrate›: that is what they do. This essay proposes that— like the cyborgs—they ‹demonstrate› on and with their monstrous bodies the monstrous relations confronting subjects in the age of information and biotechnology. In a first step I will discuss the tendency of the monstrous body to be staged as a gender body that has become deviant. Time and again it is the gender that is no longer quite right and that indicates that something very fundamental has gone haywire. In a second step I will show that apparent gender confusion frequently converges with notions of femaleness. What underlies both steps is whether the staging of monstrous bodies on the one hand leads to an averting and naturalization of socio-political references in which the general contexts are shifted to a ‹simple› body and gender problem, or whether on the other hand the body is designated and repoliticized as an arena for monstrous social and subject relations.

In minority theories, the monstrous and mutation tables have repeatedly been stylized as figurations of liberation. The women's studies theorist Rosi Braidotti,


for instance, views the current abundance of representations of monsters both as a symptom of postmodern «postnuclear sensibility» as well as an opportunity for an alternative subject constitution: «[A] shift of paradigm is in course, towards the teratological or the abnormal/cultural decadence. […] We need to learn to think of the anomalous, the monstrously different not as a sign of pejoration but as the unfolding of virtual possibilities that point to positive alternativities for us all.» [2]

Donna Haraway conceives of her cyborgs as artifactual marginal figures and equates them with Chimeras, hybrids and monsters. A disarranging, shifting identity policy of the non-authentic and the «inappropriate/d others» is to be conducted by means of the offensive identification with hybrid cyborg subject positions. [3] While the representatives mentioned above think of the monsters as opportunities for a reconceived humane future beyond androcentric notions of the subject, many portrayals of monsters and mutants have gotten stuck in an ambivalent spectacle of fascination and horror, norm and deviance, especially in art.

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