a group of us interested in urban planning, architecture, and–got to lay it out plain–ghosts met last year during the meetings of the american anthropological association and the association for asian studies for a panel called “contemporary haunting.” apart from the fun of giving the panel then repairing to a cemetery tour of new orleans, we thought that the papers were worth pursuing together. So i find myself on an editing gig, set for the spring, when i’ll be visiting at national taiwan university
overall, the papers get at the way that ghosts rework social space: not just through legend or insubstantial shivers, but through their materiality, either the traces that they leave in space, or the remains of the dead that offer sticky problems to urban planners. in fact, rather than translucent holographs of a disney haunted mansion, what we find when we consider haunting are bones, houses, documents, land parcels, bank accounts, hanging ropes, earthen mounds, and concrete lotuses. the ghost is a figure that coordinates all of these, often upsetting the normal movement of “progress” or “development.” which is not to say that ghosts are atavistic. they show up in the most modern of spaces. i’ll keep you posted on developments in this work as we move forward
update on the ghost papers. we are moving forward with the special volume. hopefully, it will appear in may 2012. happy haunting!
would like to get a copy when it comes out! i wrote a paper on ghosts in li ang, all of the many many deer town ghost stories. if i achieved anything it was to demonstrate that li ang’s own attitudes towards ghosts have changed in the past 40 years, from a tendency to freudianize or sociologize belief in ghosts, to the butcher’s wife, where ghosts exist in the world of the novel (where there’s no longer an atheistic narratorial perspective in the story), but where ghostly belief is mostly harmful to the butcher’s wife’s sanity; while in everything since then ghosts have been part of li ang’s attempts to deal with the disorienting effects of modernization. i end up arguing that she’s trying to effect a reenchantment of the world by writing about uncanny and sometimes homely places in deer town, even if she chooses to live in a 豪華公寓 in taipei.
if i rework the paper in chinese, though, i am going to need to know a lot more about the sociology and anthropology of contemporary taiwanese religion.
yeah–actually, it would be good, too, to get a perspective of ghosts as represented in the literary imagination of lukang’s most famous daughter. my paper has mostly looked at the way that ghosts are entangled with planning and represent a challenge to the kind of interpretation of ghosts you notice in li ang’s early work. from viewing ghosts as a projection of social categories, it is time to see ghosts as a kind of medium. i guess that means that ghost stories are already “metasociological” or “metalinguistic”