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Monstrosity, Performance, and Race in Contemporary Culture

Bernadette Marie Calafell

In a society that increasingly touts post-racial and post-feminist discourses, the trope of monstrosity becomes a way to critically examine contemporary meanings around race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Focusing on ways in which historically marginalized groups appropriate monstrosity as a means of resistance, as well as on how we can understand oppression and privilege through monstrosity, this book offers another way to conceptualize the politics of representation. Through critical analyses of experiences of women of color in the academy, the media framing of alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes, the use of monstrosity in unpublished work from the Gloria Anzaldúa archives, post-feminist discourses in American Mary and The Lords of Salem, and Kanye West’s strategic employment of ideologies of monstrosity, this book offers new ways to think about Otherness in this contemporary moment.
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Chapter 2. James Holmes and the Monstrosity of Whiteness


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Serial killers in popular culture appear as both evil monsters and insane maniacs who have suffered childhood traumas. This obviously represents two warring discourses united in the same terrifying figure. Insanity suggests a severe mental disability, one that could perhaps receive and respond to various therapies. A monster is, however, beyond the ken of human experience. Monsters cannot be treated and rehabilitated, only destroyed. (Poole 151)

The term monster is often applied to human beings who have, by their own horrific actions, abdicated their humanity. (Asma 8)

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