Richard J. Lockley-Hobson of the Hauntological Society asked me to write something for them. I had to point out that I am not very clever, and in fact it would be a much better thing if he wrote something for you. So he did:
“I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness-in a landscape selected at random-is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern-to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal”.
You have just read a section from Vladimir Nabokov’s 1966 (revised) autobiography ‘Speak, Memory’. It touches on many of the themes that can be considered Hauntological. Hauntology, a word you’ve no doubt heard before, but as an ‘ology’ you feel it has yet to coalesce into something you can fully understand.
Lets start at a literal beginning…”To haunt does not mean to be present, and it is necessary to introduce haunting into the very construction of a concept. Of every concept, beginning with the concepts of being and time. That is what we would be calling here a Hauntology. Ontology opposes it only in a movement of exorcism. Ontology is a conjuration”. This is a section from Jacques Derrida’s 1993 work, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning & the New International, pg 202. This is the origin of the word, and the idea(s) behind the word.
Suffice to say, since its conception, the word, or term (and the ideas behind it), have taken on a life of their own. Although much maligned by almost every other deconstructionist philosopher, Derrida’s Hauntology, now filtered through a hundred other ideas, interlinked and contradictory, has taken root in many different fields.
Considered by some to be a kind of Backward Looking-Forward Thinking/Backward Thinking-Forward Looking philosophy, the term, is more often than not, applied to what could be referred to as unpopular culture; a mix ‘n’ match of analog electronics, suburban witchcraft, unsettling children’s TV, faded visions of the future and the great outdoors – amongst other things. This New Hauntology seems to have little or nothing to do with its namesake, and there appears to be much that can be considered Hauntological.
There will always be a question of interpretation, of application. This so-called zeitgeist is the spirit of all times, the past, and the future, converging in the present. Although it can sometimes seem that this New Hauntology is constantly being trivialised, there will always be a line that leads you back to Derrida, and back further still.
In it’s purest form, that which can be considered Hauntological has been with us for a long, long time. Long before Derrida. He has just given us a word. In a 2010 interview, author Alan Garner talks of “a sense of otherness, that goes right back”. Garner is of course the author of the 1973 children’s book ‘The Owl Service’. Itself a much referenced and key work, in Hauntology’s post-Derrida world. “Yesterday, today, tomorrow – they don’t mean anything. I feel they’re here at the same time: waiting. How long have you felt this? I don’t know. Since yesterday? I don’t know. I don’t know what ‘yesterday’ was. And that’s what’s frightening you? Not just that, said Alison. All of me’s confused the same way. I keep wanting to laugh and cry. Sounds dead metaphysical to me, said Gwyn”.
I will refrain from discussing or listing further themes, key words, or phrases, prevalent in Hauntology, new and old, as I’m aware that you are probably still none-the-wiser. Instead I shall hand you over to our friends at The Hauntological Society. Their aim is to curate the sum of Hauntology’s parts, from the available information, so as to give you a better understanding, over time.
However, before I go – It is my considered opinion that Hauntology will eventually come together as a Social Science, that will explore this ‘otherness’ that makes us who we are. Individually and as a group. As an ‘ology’ it will find its place.
- GUEST INFORMANT: Matthew Sheret (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Jan Chipchase (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Colleen Nika (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Jess Nevins (warrenellis.com)
- GUEST INFORMANT: Colleen Nika & EHF (warrenellis.com)