Scary monsters: the hopeful undecidability of David Bowie

Date & time

4–5.30pm Friday 12 August 2016


Fellows Road Theatre 2

ANU College of Law, 5 Fellows Road, The Australian National University


Professor Alex Sharpe


For interstate visitors, we offer suggestions for accommodation near ANU.


Professor Desmond Manderson

Presented by ANU Gender Institute and the Centre for Law, Arts and the Humanities

David Bowie

Monsters, because the monster is the outsider template par excellence within social theory. Hopeful, because monsters are quintessentially hopeful, they promise a new dawn, and point to the place of the sacred. Bowie, because of all the figures within popular culture, few embody the monster quite like David Bowie. In the face of the law of genre, the royal ‘No,’ Bowie, like the monster he so eloquently symbolised and embodied, always seemed to say ‘Yes.’

The lecture will first set some parameters for thinking about monsters, for not all scary creatures are monsters. In doing so, the lecture will draw, in particular, on the work of Michel Foucault and George Canguilhem. Once the theoretical ground has been laid for an analytically precise understanding of the monster, the lecture will turn to counter-cultural icon and sublime anti-hero, David Bowie, as a contemporary vehicle for thinking through, and rendering accessible, some key categorical distinctions which the monster brings to crisis. In particular, and through Bowie, we will journey through the territory of sex, gender and sexuality; human/animal hybridity, and the sacred and the profane.

So roll up for the mother of monsters. The lecture will be theoretically rich and an audio-visual feast. What it will not be is dull.


  • Professor Alex Sharpe »

    Professor Alex Sharpe

    Alex Sharpe is a Law Professor and trans woman working at Keele University in the UK. She is a socio-legal theorist, legal historian and gender, sexuality and law scholar and activist. She has been writing about transgender/law issues for over twenty years and is the author of over 50 publications on the subject including her monograph, Transgender Jurisprudence: Dysphoric Bodies of Law (Cavendish, 2002). In terms of trans activism and law reform, she regularly provides advice to government departments, members of parliament, law firms, public interest advocacy organisations, and has been cited judicially in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, the United States, and by the European Court of Human Rights.

    In 2010 she published her second monograph, Foucault’s Monsters and the Challenge of Law (Routledge) which followed a series of earlier publications on the subject of Monsters. In theoretical terms, this book represents a shift from the particular (Trans) to the general (Monster) in trying to understand how outsiders are legally and culturally produced and regulated through time. The monster might be viewed as the outsider par excellence. It is this theme of the outsider that connects Alex’s various academic projects and political interventions. Her body of work can be thought of as a kind of outsider jurisprudence.


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