Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
As a portmanteau of haunting and ontology, “hauntologies” have recently begun to circulate in anthropological discourse as a way to frame the state of the discipline, substituting for the sureties of a kind of systematic intervention that was until recently more muscularly discussed as “theory.” I take the specter of the hauntological as a sign of equivocation about whether anthropology, in all its variegated guises and expressions, aspires to anything so well-defined or formalist as theory at present. Exploring the post-structuralist legacies of the term – hauntology – from Derrida to Mark Fisher, I consider what to make of a disciplinary landscape increasingly populated by theory-like ghosts. In so doing I reflect on the predicaments this term introduces for disciplinary projects of foundational thinking, in particular, for the ways we understand ancestral influences in our work. I go on to consider such hauntological problems as the simultaneity of presence, absence, and the ongoing crisis of representation, the Anthropocene and anxieties about current precarities and occluded futures, and uses of ethnography as part of a new deconstructive turn. Finally, by way of this detour through our increasingly spectral disciplinary milieu, I consider what this hauntological turn might suggest about the sources and states of interpretation in anthropology, as a disciplinary practice of meaning-making, at once referencing, but also no longer referencing, specifically cultural matters.