Bordering the Monster?

Creative Destruction and De- and Re-Bordering of Established Structures

Annual IRTG Baltic Borderlands Conference (19-21/10/2014, Umeå)

19-22 October 2014 Umeå, Sweden

We live in an ordered world where categories, hierarchies and boundaries were constructed to help us to comprehend the complexity of live. Conflicts, creativity and contacts, among others, stimulate historical processes which result in continuous change of established structures, institutions and systems of meaning. Thus, elements of change and reconstruction are crucial for progress. This workshop will address these topics by inviting participants to contribute with innovative thinking about how various actors and various levels and times engaged and shaped these processes. There has been already intellectual engagement with these kind of processes by theorizing the emergence of “monster culture” and the very famous approach of “creative destruction”. This will be our starting point to think about concepts, ideas and processes of bordering and the emergence of borderlands.
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (English philology) has argued that monsters are hybrid creatures marking the edges of conceptual and physical frontiers. He also mentions that the monsters body is a cultural body which incorporates fear, desire, anxiety and fantasy. Furthermore the monster is a first sign (harbinger) of category crisis. Elizabeth De Palma Digeser (History) writes, the monster is visible “difference” and can be understood as an exaggeration of a cultural difference made monstrous. It represents any kind of alterity. The identification of monsters, then, signals that persons in the interior or center perceive at some distance from themselves either a frontier or a borderland region. Digeser continues, “in other words, monsters occupy regions where attributes of ostensibly settled region overlap with attributes of something óther´.” In this context we would like to have a discussion on the border and borderlands of categories, the shifting of categories and their borders as well as on the “objects” which have to fit within the borders or may be located in the borderlands.
We would like to combine this research on monster culture with an approach that derives from economics and the concept of creative destruction but, we hope, it can also be applied innovatively by other disciplines in the project. Creative destruction drwas on Joseph Schumpeter´s (1883-1950) thinking of economic innovation and business cycles which relies very much on entrepreneurs/entrepreneurship and the re-evaluating of established economic structures and models.
Both ideas concern very much the issue of de- and rebordering in the sense that established categories do not fit new developments and behavior. Thus established structures, borders, boundaries and concepts have to be reevaluated and redefined. In this context many borders and boundaries have to be redrawn.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome: Monster Culture (Seven Thesis), in: idem [ed.]: Monster Theory. Reading culture, Minneapolis, Minn. [u.a.] 1996, p- 3-25.
Digeser, Beth Da Palma: The Usefulness of Borderlands Concepts in Ancient History. The Case of Origen as Monster, in: North, Michael; Lee, John W.I. [eds.]: borderland Studies in Europe and North America (forthcoming with University of Nebraska Press).
Mc Craw, Thomas K.: Prophet of innovation. Joseph Schumpeter and creative destruction, Cambridge Mass. [u.a.] 2007.

Workshop programme "Bordering the Monster?"

Meeting Report, H-Soz-Kult, 11.02.2015. more