The Other Ghost Story

Yiu Fai Chow, Bastiaan Jeroen de Kloet

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review

Abstract

We were jumpstarted by the post-millennial neologism “ghosting.” According to Wikipedia, “ghosting is breaking off a relationship (often an intimate relationship) by stopping all communication and contact with the partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as ignoring the partner’s attempts to reach out or communicate.” You refuse a relationship, you refuse encounter, you refuse to acknowledge a shared history and to imagine a possible future; you turn the other into a ghost. If this sounds like “othering” — we are cued to the uncanny correspondence between the Western well-nigh cartoonish image of a ghost and the much polemized representation of a Muslim woman wearing burqa; we are also reminded of the archaic Chinese term hongmaogui, literally ghosts with red hair or feather, referring to Dutch soldiers first entering the Middle Kingdom in 17th century. In Esther Peeren’s words, “ghosts are unwelcome reminders of past transgressions, causing personal traumas to rise to the surface and pursuing those they hold responsible” (2014). If ghosting sounds like othering — traumatic, personal, responsible? — what can we learn from our ghosts when we try to deal with our others? In this presentation, Jeroen and Yiu Fai will conjure up the ghosts in the stories we know, from our cultures, our histories, our biographies, in order to reflect on the spectral, the politics of invisibility, the ramification of haunting, and alternatives to exorcism. How can we not turn our others into ghosts, and how can we not turn our ghosts into others?

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