Being Human Festival 2021

Being Human on the Highway to Hell. How People Use Monsters to Make Sense of Their Lives.

Dates: 18-20 November 2021

This imaginative mini-series is inspired by the widespread renewal of social interest in the supernatural, mystical, magical and ‘irrational’. Historians and storytelling experts re-think why society gravitates toward the supernatural during times of unprecedented challenge, strain and change.

From Gothic literature to Instagram witches, people use the supernatural and monstrous as ways of making cognitive landmarks helping them, organising their thoughts in an increasingly complex and difficult to navigate world, and perhaps connecting with others and gaining a sense of control in a world that seems to be spiralling beyond our grasp.

Join the School of Arts and Humanities at Ulster University, Northern Ireland, to rethink the implications of inviting fearsome creatures into our lives.


The Monstrosity of Women and Half-breeds: Witches in Comics

Thursday 18th November 12.30pm

This discussion and Q&A, by contemporary genre fiction scholar Dr Stephen Butler, explores the representation of witches in comics with particular reference to James Robinson and multiple artists’ Scarlet Witch (Marvel) and Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress (Image).

Robinson was the first to explore the magical side of Wanda Maximoff and does so by referencing the witch trials of both Salem and Logroño to make the point that these trials were mostly used to punish women for their femininity, often with a religious element to it.

He also draws attention to the monstrous othering of the Romani people and this combination of gender and ethnicity is one more thoroughly explored in Monstress. Chinese-American author Liu uses both the monstress and witch tropes to explore her own mixed heritage whilst Takeda’s Japanese art-work subtly comments on the monstering of the Japanese after the Second World War.

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New Worlds, New Voices: A Books Beyond Boundaries NI Showcase

Thursday 18th November 7pm

A night of Otherworldly storytelling from Books Beyond Boundaries NI! Join us for a glimpse into the unknown, as we showcase new authors of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi writing on the island of Ireland!

From C.S. Lewis to Bram Stoker, our island is famous for new worlds and liminal spaces. However, the voice of ethnic minority writers remains notably absent. The Books Beyond Boundaries NI project seeks to change that.

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The Importance of Studying and Teaching What Scares Us

Friday 19th November 12.30pm

A facilitated round table discussion and live Q&A between an academic film supervisor (Dr Victoria McCollum) and her Monster Scholar Doctoral Candidates (John Kavanagh, Nicole Hamilton, Gerard Gibson and Tasha Curry) about how the monster functions, their historical uses and the social and cultural purposes of the monster.

This event invites the audience to reconsider how horror and the occult are viewed, inviting recognition of the important historic social and cultural role these forces have exerted on human history and recognising their influence for good and ill, to better navigate the paths before us.

We also explore the pedagogical power of the monstrous and how innovative teaching strategies that use our cultural fascination with monsters can enhance learning.

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Spellbound on the Sofa: Witchcraft and Popular Television

Friday 19th November 7.30pm

This discussion, led by Victorian fiction and period drama scholar Dr Kate Byrne, will explore one of the most popular gothic themes on television today: witchcraft.

Any search of Netflix will reveal a wide number of shows, retro and current, about witches, which range from comic and light-hearted family dramas (Bewitched; Good Witch), to the dark and subversive (American Horror Story) to the romantic (A Discovery of Witches).

We will explore the appeal and versatility of these shows and what they reveal about gender and class past and present, as well as our continuing craving for viewing magic in everyday life.

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Ding-dong! The Witch is Alive: Witches in Young People’s Culture

Saturday 20th November 2pm

From Sabrina the Teenage Witch to Harry Potter, from The Wizard of Oz to The Chronicles of Narnia, young people’s culture is full of witches.

This talk, by theatre studies scholar and Head of the School of Arts and Humanities Dr Tom Maguire, invites the audience to explore why these transgressive and often marginalized figures remain so potent in the popular culture of contemporary young people.

Referring to a wide range of examples from popular books, films and television programmes, this session explores the often contradictory ways in which witches are represented and what that tells us about their place in the cultures of young people today.

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Irish Witchcraft and the Making of 'An Diabhal Inti' (The Devil's in Her)

Saturday 20th November 7.30pm

This discussion led by film director Paula Kehoe and social and cultural historian Dr Andrew Sneddon will discuss the making of a new six-part, Irish language, creative documentary series, An Diabhal Inti (The Devil's in Her), produced by Lagan Media for BBC NI and TG4.

The series explores six cases of women accused of witchcraft in Ireland, against the backdrop of traditional beliefs in the otherworld and the supernatural. Sneddon will discuss his research on Irish witchcraft and magic and working as historical consultant and contributor on the series.

Its director, Paula Kehoe will then discuss the making of 'An Diabhal Inti', and give an advance screening of a trailer, ahead of the series’ broadcast in Spring 2022.

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