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Ghostly Matters

Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination

Avery F. Gordon
Foreword by Janice Radway
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition, Second
Pages: 280
  • Book Info
    Ghostly Matters
    Book Description:

    Written with a power to match its subject, Ghostly Matters demonstrates that past or haunting social forces control present life in different and more complicated ways than most social analysts presume. Avery Gordon’s influential work has advanced the way we look at the complex intersections of race, gender, and class as they traverse our lives in sharp relief and shadowy manifestations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6500-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Janice Radway

    It must have been a challenge for Avery Gordon and her editors at the University of Minnesota Press to settle on a subtitle forGhostly Matters.How do you encapsulate a book whose intellectually expansive introduction begins by claimingtheoreticalsignificance for the banal commonplace that “life is complicated”? In fact, Gordon’s claim is even more provocative. She asserts not merely that the proposition that life is complicated is “perhaps the most important theoretical statement of our time” (3) but that sociologists and social analysts specifically have failed to grasp the true significance of the claim. Her reader has to...

  4. Introduction to the New Edition
    (pp. xv-1)

    It has been enormously rewarding and also surprising thatGhostly Mattershas found enough readers to warrant republication. What the book has meant to those who have gainfully read it, what it will mean to you coming to it anew, I cannot say and feel sure that I would get it wrong if I presumed. It’s difficult and often meddlesome for authors to account for why something they have made touches or instructs or inspires or goads its readers. I remain, nonetheless, honored by the respect and attention the book has received, because while there are indeed some books that...

  5. 1 her shape and his hand
    (pp. 3-29)

    That life is complicated may seem a banal expression of the obvious, but it is nonetheless a profound theoretical statement—perhaps the most important theoretical statement of our time. Yet despite the best intentions of sociologists and other social analysts, this theoretical statement has not been grasped in its widest significance. There are at least two dimensions to such a theoretical statement. The first is that power relations that characterize any historically embedded society are never as transparently clear as the names we give to them imply.Power can be invisible, it can be fantastic, it can be dull and routine....

  6. 2 distractions
    (pp. 31-61)

    Official suppositions give him away; Freud is not sure. After all, he is trying to explain uncanny experiences and the haunted homes that they are.² Haunted houses, frightening familiarities, animated doubles, words and thoughts magically materialized into brute things, the effacement of reality and imagination, involuntary repetitions. Freud is supposedly an educated man. And that is why he will stick with all these ghostly matters, elaborating them with keen precision and knowing, almost intuitively, that the experience of the uncanny is not simply “intellectual uncertainty.” It is what I call being haunted, a state, I will emphasize over and over...

  7. 3 the other door, it’s floods of tears with consolation enclosed
    (pp. 63-135)

    To confront those who becomedesaparecido(disappeared) under the auspices of state-sponsored terror in Argentina, within what Michael Taussig (1992) calls the Nervous System, or, as we will see in chapter 4, to confront those who were lost on their way to North America in the flow of a juridically enforced international trade in human property, is to contemplate ghosts and haunting at the level of the making and unmaking of world historical events.¹ Yet if there is one point to be learned from the investigation of ghostly matters, it is that you cannot encounter this kind of disappearance as...

  8. 4 not only the footprints but the water too and what is down there
    (pp. 137-191)

    She is coming into their yard uninvited. In a fine dress, brooch at the neck, those smooth white shoulders holding up a coiffed head ghostly white against the blurred brown face of the slave woman standing behind her, she is coming into their yard uninvited. At the edge of the picture’s frame, a gate separates the big white house from their yard, and even that big tree that seems to mark a divide and yet shades and spreads indiscriminately does not prevent her from coming into their yard uninvited. But nobody flies even though that ax is lying on the...

  9. 5 there are crossroads
    (pp. 193-208)

    We began with the analytic importance of life’s complications, with the complexities of power and personhood, with the meddlesome fictive, with the impositions of the barely visible, and with our own affective involvement in these matters and in the knowledge we create about them. We end with haunting in our contemporary world, which is also where we began, and about which I will have a few final words to offer. These are the bookends because when I started writing this book I knew without question, a sign of an important advance in scholarly knowledge, that domination and resistance are basic...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 209-224)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-242)
  12. Index
    (pp. 243-252)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-253)