Institute of Para-Enactment Research
Softcore Historicism and Embodied Heritage



The term “Zombies” is belived to have West African origins , beiing brought to centro-america and Haiti t by enslaved people during the colonization process. In voodoo religion, it referred to the dead who are supernaturally reanimated and brought back to life in bodily form but without a soul.  Zombies, like ghosts, haunt the present by making reference of what is not anymore present, as it has been killed, forgotten or lost.

In 1993  Jacques Derrida coined the term “hautology” in Spectres de Marx (1993) . With that term, he referred to the way in which the absence of Marxism would haunt Western society from beyond the grave many said it was confined to after the fall of the wall. Hauntology and spectrality bring attention to what is not present, as opposed to the field of ontology, as the study of existence, being, becoming, and reality, with the study of the absence, spectrality, and disappearance. For Avery Gordon, hauntology alters the experience of being in time, and the way we separate past, present and future, as they “demand our attention,’giving rise to an ‘animated state’ in which a repressed or unresolved social violence makes itself known.”1 For Peter Buse and Andrew Stott “Ghosts arrive from the past and appear in the present. However, the ghost cannot be properly said to belong to the past (...) as the idea of a return from death fractures all traditional conceptions of temporality.” 2 For Colin Sterling, ghosts resist direct apprehension as they “operate in the faultlines of received knowledge and authorised histories. Both the no longer and the not yet are to be understood in this way, as spectres that haunt the present in their very non-being”3 For him, “Becoming hauntologists” from this perspective labels a certain critical comportment towards the work of heritage across various scales and contexts, from local museum displays to large-scale listing processes.”

The following excerpt was written by Mark Fisher in “The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology" .

“ What is important about the figure of the specter, then, is that it cannot be fully present: it has no being in itself but marks a relation to what is no longer or not yet (..). The first refers to that which is (in actuality is) no longer, but which is still effective as a virtuality (the traumatic ‘‘compulsion to repeat,’’ a structure that repeats, a fatal pattern). The second refers to that which (in actuality) has not yet happened, but which is already effective in the virtual (an attractor, an anticipation shaping current behavior).4 The following text was written by Colin Sterling in the Reflections section of CARMAH website. Ghosts are an unavoidable component of modern social life (Gordon 2008: 7). They interrupt the present and indicate that, ‘beneath the surface of received history, there lurks another narrative, an untold story that calls into question the veracity of the authorised version of events’ (Weinstock 2013: 63). Hauntology recognises that in these ghosts lies the possibility of a renewed politics, a politics of ‘memory, of inheritance, and of generations’ (Derrida in Demos 2013: 43). Heritage is thus bound to the work of hauntology not just because the ghosts of place shape so many of our engagements with the past in the present, but because the constant urge to return and repeat that permeates the field leaves open the possibility of learning to live with ghosts, ‘justly’ (ibid). As Davis suggests, for Derrida, ‘the ghost’s secret is not a puzzle to be solved; it is the structural openness or address directed towards the living by the voices of the past or the not yet formulated possibilities of the future’ (2005: 379). A question nevertheless remains around how best to animate these spectral potentialities. The concept of hauntology is only useful if it helps us to do more than simply name a situation: it must direct us towards alternative modes of production, and help us to find a route out of our current social predicament. Against the postmodern ‘extirpation of the uncanny’ (Fisher 2014: 134), hauntology allows us to work with what Timothy Morton calls ‘the weirdness of things’ (2013: 159). The task for heritage then must be to invent wholly new strategies and forms of practice to enact rather than exorcise the spectres that haunt our present moment. Bringing affect and imagination to bear on traces of the past represents an important mode of apprehension here, but this must not be at the expense of a politicised commitment to radical social change.”

︎︎︎Fisher, Mark. "The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology". Dance Cult. https://www.carmah.berlin/reflections/on-heritage-and-hauntology/


︎︎︎Gordon, A. 2008. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. (Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press)

︎︎︎Buse, Peter and Stott, Andrew. 1999. “Introduction: a Future for Haunting”. In Ghosts: Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, History, ed. Peter Buse and Andrew Stott, 1–20 . London: Palgrave. Cited by: Fisher, Mark. “What Is Hauntology?” Film Quarterly 66, no. 1 (2012): 16–24. https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2012.66.1.16.

︎︎︎Colin Sterling (2022) Becoming Hauntologists: A New Model for Critical-Creative Heritage Practice, Heritage & Society, DOI: 10.1080/2159032X.2021.2016049

︎︎︎ Berlin, 2022

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