Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: American Ethnological Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Inequality
Secondary Theme: Materiality
When do ghosts become global? Or, could they? What happens when different “ghosts” meet one another? This panel will examine how particular socio-economic and political configurations may engender their own forms of the uncanny. The very etymology of the uncanny (Freud 1919) points to profound connections across time and space that shadow, support, or subvert how people think about unbearable change, and how they work it through. Alongside other entities that radically question the line between the past and the present, the intimate and the strange, and the local and the global, ghosts have for a long time been fashionable characters in the anthropological literature. Because they can appear as spirits haunting abandoned modernist infrastructures (Schwenkel 2016), oneiric creatures who warn indigenous people in their dreams about the perils of governmental conservation plans (Theriault 2017), or disordering forces breaking apart the flows of industrial production and instilling resistance into laboring bodies (Nash 1993), these presences are often imbued with heavy affective and cultural meaning. Consequently, anthropologists have approached them as key conceptual nodes on cultural maps of meaning.
This panel aims to explore such connections. It attends to "global ghosts" as a way to think about the multiplicity of encounters in the invisible realms that accompany global movements of capital. It seeks to understand how such encounters offer unique windows onto how global hierarchies of people, their value and their labor, are being produced, challenged or reinforced. Emanuela Grama focuses on a ghost competition in a multi-ethnic village in Transylvania, between local narratives about werewolves coming into the village at moments of crisis (the war, the transition to the communist regime), and stories about "proper" ghosts that haunt a castle in the same village, told by the British architects and preservationists who restored the castle. Britt Halvorson considers how, in their aid accountability work, Malagasy and American participants in a Christian medical aid program appeal to invisible forces to subvert the transparency claims that accompany global movements of medical aid. Shannon Dawdy discusses current ethnographic fieldwork on contemporary funerary practices in the U.S., particularly around the handling of cremated remains and their transformation into being-objects taking the form of paperweights, jewelry, and artwork. Christina Carter examines some “ghost stories” that people tell in the island of Panay in the Central Philippines to explore how these stories enable the boundaries of past, present and future to become porous, emerging as a non-linear space-time cartography, where the invisible world and humans sometimes meet. Erica James seeks to ground (and critique) the field of hauntology empirically by analyzing how public infrastructure projects in Charlottesville, the US, re/make race and history through both spectral and material practices. John Collins notes that "phantasms" is a term used to describe those who gain illicitly or facilitate that action in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, and asks why standard models of hauntings are resolutely absent in the Pelourinho and its great houses.