Hauntology

Hauntology, also called spectrology, also translated as hauntology, originates from the word hauntology (haunting + ontology). The term originated with the philosopher Derrida within his reflections on Marxism in “Specters of Marx,” where he gave a new connotation to the idea of the specter. Spectrology refers to haunted ontology: the being of specters, assumed not as paranormal phenomena but as entities that, despite having ceased to exist or never having existed, continue to appear in history and culture in other forms, called spectral. The spectral or hauntological speaks to us of the agency of the absent, the presence of memory, and the nostalgia for things that have gone or never arrived but continue to assemble in the present: the feelings and actions of lost futures, missing persons, unfinished ideas, or sounds and images that travel detached from their original time.

Hauntology is subsequently taken up in cultural and media studies, primarily by Mark Fisher, among other authors such as Grafton Tanner and Simon Reynolds, in whom the hauntological acquires a sensitive connotation, mainly in audiovisual language, where technologies used in fields such as cinema and music are considered agents of enchantment. This gives a theoretical and reflective twist to methods like recording and sampling, the latter being of vital importance in hauntological reflection since it is a technique that explicitly seeks to play with time by reusing existing recordings, either to reproduce them, leave them on loop, or transform them. As Grafton Tanner puts it, “this ability to create endless loops accentuates the relationship of sampling with the phantasmagoric, and more specifically, with the idea of haunted media.” Phonography, alongside photography and video recording, will then be quintessential spectrol media, capable of carrying with them things already dead, extinct, or ideal, becoming bearers of specters, “ghost boxes,” as these authors would say.

In recent years, spectrology has gone beyond audiovisual media to become established within cultural and political studies as a device that places the specter in the everyday, social, and collective, suggesting a kind of spectral constant in the formation of the world, characterized by the appearance of the dead, the return of the past, and the insistence of failed futures, the presence of the absent in the manner of a ghostly recurrence in multiple spheres of the real. This makes spectrology a discipline open to multiple fields of research, such as literary studies, geography, history, socio-political realities, ecological experience, among others, as it appears in the work of thinkers such as Fabian Ludueña Romandini and his work “The Community of Specters,” David Lapoujade and his work on minor or spectral existences, or in the work of researcher Santiago Arcila and his work on spectral forces and violence in Colombia.

In these cases, spectrology refers to a phantasmagoria that traverses our daily actions, a coexistence with the absent and sinister, not so much by the presence of supernatural entities or ghosts in the colloquial sense of the term, but more by the presences torn from the past, the memories that haunt the present, missing persons, those silhouettes of what has already gone or been erased, but continue to imprint themselves like the endless echo of some sound. Spectrology would then speak to us of a mechanism that is both psychological and social and not merely ontological or medial, insofar as it is not limited to things that refuse to leave but to those that we refuse to forget, approaching a little to what Reynolds calls “Retromania,” an obsession, more or less healthy, with what is leaving; a delirium, more or less sensible, to keep memories alive, even as haunted things that give rise to others over time. In the end, no present remains, and, contrary to that, it is built between futures and pasts, all wandering in the same tangle of ghosts.

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