Word: HauntologyThe study of cultural ghosts.

Word: HauntologyThe study of cultural ghosts.

  • Words Alex Anderson
  • Photograph László Moholy-Nagy. Courtesy of Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau / Image by Google

Etymology: A neologism attributed to the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, “hauntology” is an Anglicized version of the French term hantologie, which was a central concept in Derrida’s 1993 book, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International. It combines the French verb hanter, to haunt, with the Greek suffix –logie, which refers to any logical discourse. It is crucial to recognize Derrida’s play on words here: In French, hantologie, with its silent “h,” sounds very much like ontologie, to which it is closely related.

Meaning: If ontology is the philosophical study of being, hauntology focuses on being as inflected by what does not exist. Logic suggests that reality encompasses all that is perceptible, measurable and present in the...


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