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Hauntology: A not-so-new critical manifestation

Jacques Derrida 

Haunting presence … Jacques Derrida, who coined the term hauntology, in a still from the documentary Derrida


Hauntology is probably the first major trend in critical theory to have flourished online. In October 2006, Mark Fisher – aka k-punk – described it as “the closest thing we have to a movement, a zeitgeist”. A mere three years later, Adam Harper prefaced a piece on the subject with the following caveat: “I’m all too aware that it’s no longer 2006, the year to blog about hauntology”. Two months ago, James Bridle predicted that the concept was “about six months away from becoming the title of a column in a Sunday supplement magazine”. Only four months to go, then. My hunch is that hauntology is already haunting itself. The revival starts here.

Like its close relative psychogeography, hauntology originated in France but struck a chord on this side of the Channel. In Spectres of Marx (1993), where it first appeared, Jacques Derrida argued that Marxism would haunt Western society from beyond the grave. In the original French, “hauntology” sounds almost identical to “ontology”, a concept it haunts by replacing – in the words of Colin Davis – “the priority of being and presence with the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive”.

The Guardian

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