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STS Speaker. The Matter of Black Lives: Hauntology, Infrastructure, and the Necropolitics of History in the American South

Erica James, MIT
Monday, January 29, 2018
4:00-5:30 PM
1014 Tisch Hall Map
In this talk I ask how scholars can deepen and expand, but also trouble, the field of hauntology. Originating in Derrida’s Spectres of Marx, the field of hauntology analyzes how hauntings, ghosts, and specters are distinct conceptual categories characterizing liminal social states, persons, and subjectivities, but also economic and political realities. I seek to ground (and critique) the field of hauntology empirically by analyzing how public infrastructure projects re/make race and history through both spectral and material practices. I draw on advocacy work in Charlottesville, Virginia, around preserving an ancestral cemetery threatened by a proposed federal transportation project to press a new argument on how the matter of Black lives plays out in contemporary American struggles for racial and environmental justice. The paper asks the following: Who or what specter has the capacity to “haunt,” and at what moments? What are the relationships between hauntings and the suppression of historical memory in the aftermath of collective traumatic events? What roles do the presence or absence of material evidence of the subaltern past—the remains of the dead, archival remnants, archaeological, and architectural artifacts, and documentary evidence of their value—play in these processes of political recognition, memory, and forgetting? In other words, what kinds of “necropolitics” (Mbembe 2003) govern the living and the dead, and their denial or commemoration?
Building: Tisch Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: African American, History
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Science, Technology & Society, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Department of American Culture, Department of Anthropology