7th March 2022, 6-7.30pm GMT, via Zoom
Professor Ethan Kleinbern, Wesleyan University
This talk, is meant to challenge some assumptions about the ways we think about the past and “do” history. In particular, I challenge the idea of a stable past or meaning that can be called back or retrieved. What I call “ontological realism.” The past by definition is gone and thus has no definite properties or perhaps we can say that it has latent properties that are activated when we do history. But this activation of the past is always partial leaving remains that are hidden or dormant. This is a past that is absent but haunts us and can return in ways that disturb our conventional historical narratives and understanding of what the past and history is. To account for this play of absence and presence I advocate for a “hauntological” approach to the past. The term “hauntology” is meant to expose the ways that scholars and teachers take the spectral haunting absent past and silently replace it with a representation that appears to have the properties and essence of a present object (in French “ontologie” and “hantologie” carry the same pronunciation). The hauntological approach is one that is attuned to the way the past, like a ghost, is both present and absent and as such it forces us to rethink interpretative hermeneutics for research and teaching to allow for multiple or seemingly conflicting pasts.