• Colin Sterling

Becoming Hauntologists: Heritage Making in Natureculture Landscapes

Talk at the Royal Geographical Society conference, 28-30 August 2019. Part of a session on

'More-than-human Haunted Landscapes: Trace-Ing Binaries of Hope/Desolation '


It is thirty years now since Félix Guattari mapped out the ‘three ecologies’ of human subjectivity, the environment and social relations: praxes he hoped might be recomposed to aid emancipatory struggles in a way we would now call ‘intersectional’. A major objective of Guattari’s project focused on targeting ‘the modes of production of subjectivity, that is, of knowledge, culture, sensibility and sociability that come under an incorporeal value system at the root of the new productive assemblages’ (1989, 33). This paper tracks recent developments in one such area of production: namely the grounded curatorial work of heritage management and interpretation. As Caitlin DeSilvey argues in Curated Decay (2017), in some heritage settings rigid concepts of material stasis are slowly giving way to a recognition that processes of change and creative transformation can be productive and positive. More-than-human ecologies of decay and decomposition are vital to this thinking, combined with a close attention to alternative forms of care and storytelling. Against this backdrop – and presenting initial findings from a newly launched research project – my talk will focus on the hauntological dimensions of curating and experiencing natureculture environments. To what extent are ‘historic’ landscapes and protected buildings caught up in a dialogue of hope and desolation? Do they allow us to live with ghosts justly, as Derrida insists, or do they enact a form of historical occlusion and forgetting? If the latter, what modes of aesthetic experience and curatorial knowledge making might reverse these polarities? Drawing on specific empirical examples, this paper thus locates heritage as an ‘experiment of de-familiarisation’ in which we might try to ‘think to infinity, against the horror of the void, in the wilderness of non-human mental landscapes, with the shadow of death dangling in front of our eyes’ (Braidotti 2013, 134).

More details on the conference available at the RGS website.

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