Out of the Ordinary

Monsters as Extreme Cases among the Bugkalot and Beyond


  • Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen University of Copenhagen




This article challenges the tendency, both academic and popular, to assign ‘monsters’ the status of the radical Other: of that which we are not. This widespread inclination to understand monsters as agencies breaking into the ordinary ignores what I propose to call the ‘radical sameness’ of monsters: that is, the multiple ways in which monsters appear to embody the features of what people or society could, potentially, become. To develop this argument the article takes its point of departure in ethnographic research carried out among the Bugkalot of Northern Luzon. Exploring the quasi-mythical character known as the mansasadile, I argue that this figure exposes the potential dangers of individuality and current social change; with the growth of paid labour in the farming industry, the possibility is emerging that the young men will detach themselves from their families. The mansasadile shows the situation whereby the monstrous, rather than being the ‘radical other’ that intrudes into the everyday, is the monstrous that erupts out ‘out of the ordinary’.