Rodanthi Tzanelli's Weblog

In this weblog I post updates on my teaching, research and publications, as well as other relevant academic activities.

Public and private ghosts

A while ago I was intimated by someone that you should not play with ghosts in some countries. Pop fiction teaches that there are ghosts creeping out of houses, possessing people with no warning and articulating collective fears with no remorse. A friend of mine who is a seasoned South Asian traveller pointed that Thai ghost stories have now made it to the cyberspace, acquiring personal websites and spreading stories in as elaborate classifications as those one encounters in the world’s scariest bureaucracies. Likening ghosts to bureaucracy seems to be a surrealist pursuit but there are similarities between phantasms and bureaucrats: both fit a culture’s specificity into neat boxes for identification purposes. There is no ghost without home and no home without rooms designated to different people and social functions. But ghosts somehow manage to dominate the house and cast their shadow or their light upon everybody. Hence my likening of phantoms to bureaucracy: both are pursuers of impressions for mass consumption and they use classification and surveillance of humans and environs to achieve this effect.

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