Where Skin Meets Fin: The Mermaid as Myth, Monster and Other-Than-Human Identity


  • Venetia Laura Delano Robertson University of Sydney




Mermaid, Monster, Identity, Other-than-human, Fandom, Mythology


Mermaids have persisted as a feature of popular culture for centuries as one of the most multivalent of all mythical creatures. The mermaid blurs the boundary between woman and fish, femininity and carnality, land and sea, human and other. She is also held to be an astral entity in various metaphysical circles, in the mermaiding industry she is often marketed as an ambassador for marine preservation, and in the general pervasiveness of this character, competing with inhuman beings such as vampires, werewolves, and angels in the heavily mediated realm of contemporary culture, the mermaid represents an additional opportunity to invest in an other-than-human identity. This paper explores the development of the mermaid and how she has been conceived of as ‘other’. It then questions how ‘otherness’, traditionally understood to be something different or deviant with regard to gender, sexuality, race, species, or divinity, may be of value in the explicitly human project of personal meaning-making. By looking to the ‘mermaider’ community, a fandom for mermaid mythology, it can be seen that mermaid identity offers a sense of re-enchantment, a path to reifying an authentic subjectivity, and a mode by which the other-than-human self is seen as a sacred self.

Author Biography

  • Venetia Laura Delano Robertson, University of Sydney
    Venetia Laura Delano Robertson is a doctoral candidate, tutor, and lecturer in the department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her thesis follows her interest in the junctures between digital culture, fandoms, identity politics, and contemporary spirituality by looking at ways in which individuals look to the other-than human to construct a spiritual ontology. She has published on this area for the International Journal of Cultural Studies, Nova Religio, and Pomegranate. In this special issue of the Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, which she has co-edited, her paper discusses mermaids and the mermaiding subculture as an example of this phenomenon.



How to Cite

Robertson, V. L. D. (2014). Where Skin Meets Fin: The Mermaid as Myth, Monster and Other-Than-Human Identity. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 26(3), 303-323. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.v26i3.303