Yasmine Musharbash: Monsters & Crises

On November third, 2023, Yasmine Musharbash joined us at the Anthropology Friday seminar to discuss her research on monsters and crises.

Abstract: This paper has two aims: (1) to introduce the broader project of Monster Anthropology that my colleague Geir Presterudstuen and I have been working on for over a decade now; and (2) to illustrate how an anthropological focus on monsters can add new perspectives on the ways in which we live with, in, and through, crises. Specifically, I focus on three monsters haunting Warlpiri people in central Australia and three types of crisis they respectively are associated with. I begin with Jarnpa, a murderous indigenous kind of monster who has traditionally been held responsible for ‘un-natural’ deaths and who has adapted with the settler colony to expand its killing among sedentised Warlpiri people, increasing contemporary high mortality rates.  I then explore what the Pangkarlangu (a child-eating hairy giant) can tell us about Warlpiri experiences of the Sixth Extinction. Finally, I examine the issue of space pollution through Warlpiri monster knowledge, and conclude by considering some of the implications of what it means to live in a haunted present.

Yasmine Musharbash is an Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Australian National University. She has spent many years working with Warlpiri peoples in Yuenmendu, near Alice Springs. Amongst many other things, she has been central in developing what could be called Monster Anthropology, and has recently edited a book with Ilana Gershon, entitled Living with monsters: ethnographic fiction about real monsters” (2023, Punctum Books).