Ep #74 Colonialism & Monsters: Yasmine Musharbash on Monster Anthropology & Social Transformation


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This week Clair brings you an interview with Dr Yasmine Musharbash! Dr. Yasmine Musharbash is a senior lecturer at the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University. Her fieldwork is based in central Australia, and primarily centred on the Yuendumu, an Aboriginal community about three hours northwest of Alice Springs. Over the years, her research has branched out in an impressive variety of directions, including social relations and personhood of the Warlpiri people, the anthropology of sleep and night, the Anthropology of Emotions, Embodiment, Boredom Studies, death and grieving, and so on. Today, we are talking about Yasmine’s research on monster anthropology, which has blossomed into an on-going inter-disciplinary and comparative project that brings together anthropology and monster studies. Her key publications on the subject include two edited volumes Monster Anthropology: Ethnographic Explorations of Transforming Social Worlds Through Monsters (2020 Bloomsbury w/ Dr. Geir Henning Presterudstuen) and Monster Anthropology in Australasia and Beyond (2014 Palgrave Macmillan, w/ Dr. Geir Henning Presterudstuen) In this episode, we explore the different ways in which the Aboriginal people live with the monsters that haunt them, in particular in instances of social change and transformation. We first delve into the elementary instability of the term monster, such as how the monstrous bodies rupture classification, transgressing the otherwise clear-cut boundary between taxonomies and how monsters are contingent on the humans they haunt, combining the temporal and spatial perspectives. Yasmine then compares and contrasts monster studies versus monster anthropology, before drawing on her fieldwork to investigate how one monster, that cannot be named, morphs and changes alongside the settler colonial state that has been inflicting trauma onto the Aboriginal peoples. We then explore how a more well-known monster, “Pankarlangu”, has adapted to the broader processes of climate change and colonialism, and how the Aboriginal people haunted by it perceive such a transformation. We finally discuss the appropriation of Aboriginal monsters, the clash between different ontologies in fieldwork, and how pandemics and apocalypses may impact on monsters in the Aboriginal country. Head to our website for a full list of links and Citations! This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association. Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com Shownotes by Matthew Phung Podcast edited by Clair Zhang and Matthew Phung

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