[8 April 2015] The Nearness of the Dead: ghosts, affect and the more-than-immanent past, a talk by Dr. John Harries

Dr. John Harries
Social Anthropology
The University of Edinburgh

50 George Square – Project Room – first floor – 5.30 pm – 8 April 2015

CMH and Beothuk 347

Abstract: ‘My talk will concern a question that has preoccupied me over the last few years: how may we understand the influence of those who are dead and gone upon the unfolding present? This is concern with the presence of the past and how we may theorise the nearness of those who are absent without wholly drawing them within our conventional ontologies of presence which emphasise immanence and the generative creativity of those living in the here and now.
As an anthropologist, my engagement with these questions emerges from an ongoing ethnographic study. In this case it is a study into the ways in which the Beothuk, an indigenous people generally thought to be extinct (or exterminated), are remembered within the contemporary culture of Newfoundland, Canada. The starting point for my more theoretical excursion is ghosts, or more accurately the feeling of spectral presence that some people have sensed when alone in woods or on the water. My suggestion is that these experiences of haunting require an account the agency of the dead that does not devolve either into a logic of causality or constructivism, but proceeds from a theorisation of affect beyond immanence.’



30 people were present, among which 75% belonged to the university (students or staff) and 25% were from the general public.

We gathered 10 feedback sheets with the following information

1 – The idea that they would like to remember: losing the pastness of the past, different perceptions of time, pragmatist angle on the change of perception, no distinction between historical and personal past, memory of the past, creation of reality and identity in virtual worlds, cultures of public memory, identity as failed exorcism, entering the phenomenological mode, editing as reality making

2 – the level of interest: most said ‘high or ‘good’, or even fascination

3 – Relation to the university

4 – Expectation from the Crag in the future: more interdisciplinary talks, a talk on mathematics, on the ever-present and perceptions of self and time, a talk about crealism, a talk on music, languages

Posted in Crag seminar, News and Events.


  1. Hello, I am very! interested in Dr Harrie’s talk yesterday but sadly was unable to attend. Was it recorded at all and/or Is there a way I might access it online.
    thanks so much,
    Anna Stewart

    • Hello, no problem, we will shortly display here the entire session (audio) and an edited video. Sign up for our newsletter to get updated! Thanks – The Crag Team

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