First Nations Phantoms and Aboriginal Spectres: The Function of Ghosts in Settler-Invader Cultures
The New Black
In Specters of Marx Derrida urges us to recognise the phantoms that haunt the literary, the political, the social, the corporate, insisting that '[h]aunting belongs to the structure of every hegemony'.2 Faced with the recognition of the heavily haunted landscape that we invariably inhabit, we have been compelled to seek out appropriate metaphors to represent such phenomena. Captured through the figure of the ghost, the vampire, the monstrous and the uncanny, the spectral is the new black - we all see dead people! The problem is, of course, that they are not necessarily the same people - or if they are, they mean different things to different folk. Where once these phantoms might have been seen to exist at the limit of the imaginary, they are now recognised as imbuing and infiltrating the very marrow of our being, both troubling and constituting the stories that we tell, the films that we make, the theses that we write.
The research for this paper was made possible by a Faculty Research Program grant awarded by the Government of Canada, through the International Council for Canadian Studies. The grant allowed research to be undertaken in Canada generally including at the National Library of Canada, and it also made it possible to attend the Congress of Learned Societies in Saskatoon 2007. This paper brings together two Keynote addresses, one for ACLAWACQL and the other at the Post-colonial Ghosts Conference in Montpellier. I am grateful to the participants at both conferences for feedback that greatly improved this study, in particular Albert Braz and Armand Ruffo.
2 Derrida Jacques, Specters of Marx: the State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning,and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (NY: Routledge, 1994): 37.
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Turcotte, G. (2010). First nations phantoms and aboriginal spectres: The function of ghosts in settler-invader cultures. In M. Joseph-Vilain & Mishrah-Barak (Eds.). Postcolonial Ghosts: Fantômes Post-Coloniaux (pp. 87–112). Montpellier, France: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée.