A Scholarly Engagement With Ghosts Essays

A Scholarly Engagement With Ghosts Essays

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Although ghosts tend to be place-bound and tied up with houses and the “homely,” they are not to be domesticated. They are uncanny because they represent the opposite of the neat and bounded safety of home. They transgress the borders of space and time, as they are not so much anachronistic, but rather, chronologically displaced, calling into question attempts at chronology and border”-enforcement in general. Derrida’s Spectres of Marx (1994) that focused on the question of time, called for a scholarly engagement with ghosts; his conception of hauntology as part and parcel of deconstruction, underlined the capacity of ghosts to disrupt linear chronology, hence, disrupting the notion of ethnographically representing history or any cultural moment. As Frederick Jameson argues in his discussion of Derrida’s conception of ghosts: “[…] spectrality does not involve the conviction that ghosts exist or that the past (and maybe even the future they offer to prophesy) is still very much alive and at work, within the living present”; rather, ghosts “make the present waver”, for their appearance shows that the here and now are not as solid as they claim to be (1999, 39). Ghosts do not just imply the present’s determination by the past but call into question the very existence of such categories.
Discussing Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Derrida (1994) suggested that the ghost of Hamlet’s Father, with his proclamation “the time is out of joint”, is representative of time in general, and that it is doubtful that any time is not out of joint. For Derrida, this apparition is emblematic of the deconstructive view of time that questions “a general temporality made up of the successive linking of presents identical to themselves and contemporary with themsel...


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...litical and ethical purposes: “For Derrida, the ghost’s secret is not a puzzle to be solved; it is the structural opening or address directed towards the living by the voices of the past or the not yet formulated possibilities of the future” (2005, 379). According to Davis, Derrida encourages scholars to engage with ghosts not because they may reveal a secret, but because such an engagement leads to the experience of secrecy: “[…] an essential unknowing that which underlies and may undermine what we think we know” (2007, 11). The implication of an ethnographic engagement with hauntology is that, beyond the categories of fiction and non-fiction, there is the possibility of a representation that maintains the integral secret of the other; that ethnographic texts, like the “others” they claim to represent, may float freely of prescribed temporalities and other borders.

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