Ghostly Matters : Hauntings And The Sociological Imagination Essay examples

Ghostly Matters : Hauntings And The Sociological Imagination Essay examples

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Given the title of this work, you may mistakenly believe (as did at least one prior owner of the book copy I had read from, if their annotations are any indication) that this is a literal investigation into all things paranormal and society’s investment of that which goes bump in the night. In “Ghostly Matters: Hauntings and the Sociological Imagination”, Avery F. Gordon offers academics and ethnographers – those whose profession it is to unearth the secreted relationships between the signifier and the signified, the subject and object, the real and unreal - a disturbing ghost story that should leave those of us in the field who came claim these titles with both the deepest of darkest chills and, through a new method of revealing and acknowledging the ghosts we feel, the hope for something akin to redemption. (In this way, perhaps, Gordon accomplishes many of the same feats as Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe).
Like all the best ghost stories, this begins with the most innocuous of introductions: “…life is complicated”, a quote by Patricia Williams that Gordon will remind us repeatedly is “the most important theoretical statement of our time” (3). What obscures, obfuscates, thwarts and yes, haunts us and our work, she argues, is not what is seen but what isn’t, the notable absences out of the corner of our trained eye, those ghosts who may be invisible (especially to the discourse) yet still exact attention from their hidden presence. Perhaps anticipating the confusion of my book’s previous reader, Gordon patiently (and poetically) expands on her conceptualization – ghosts are those whom, through the “complicated relationship between reality and its mode of production” (11) have been relegated to that void between the s...


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... platform for silenced, and therefore considered dead, voices - is as provocative a tool for sociological/ethnographic discernment as one might imagine and, as Gordon’s work amply evinces through its case subjects remains desperately needed . It is no coincidence then that Life is complicated bookends this work – and in the words of Luce Irigiary which Gordon summons (39-40), its complications often give us reason to let the unexamined and unchallenged method lead us astray. But also, because as all the best authors of ghost stories know, working in the proximity - on behalf of - ghosts must leave the exorcist and the ethnographer changed; not only is the spirit of the unseen transformed but so is the exorcist/ethnographer. Such reflexivity and acknowledgment deserves a language in which to articulate shifts in positionality. Ghostly Matters provides that vocabulary.

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