Summoning

Summoning Ghosts: Mutant Sensibilities and the Politics of Haunting

I am going to devote this writing to claiming the existence of instances and procedures of summoning. People summon certain discourses in order to establish the narrative of everydayness. I offer this term, summoning, as defining the evocation, mobilization, or materialization of the past. Different actors conduct such evocations with a goal, whether conscious or not, of influencing the present and changing the delineation of the future. For instance, the state summons a “glorious past” to create a sense and feel of national unity at the face of some threat, oftentimes fictional. An example of such threat might serve a foreign influence which seeks to corrupt Russia through imposing the politics of acceptance of “homosexual body” (Somerville, 1994). An ethnographic center of this essay will be a case of “mutant sensibilities” in Bratsk, to which we will arrive shortly. This episode will be analyzed in connection to a sci-fi novelette by Ivan Yefremov “Nur-i-Desht Observatory,” first published in 1944 in the Noviy Mir literary journal and then republished several times; it was also translated. In this short story, a group of scientists, including an archeologist, a geologist, and a “professor,” are working on the remnants of an ancient observatory. There, people feel an unusual rise of energy in them; the ruins make them happy. Soon they find an explanation for their joy. Radium used in the details of ornamentations is what impacts the organisms in a positive manner and makes humans feel good. At the time, it was unclear whether the influence of radiation on humans is positive or negative. These “mutant sensibilities” summoned suddenly in 2017, are the examples of the use of a certain narrative that people create and uphold, for them to work around the pollution of the atmosphere. The literary story functions as an example and a counterpoint, providing a historical context to this particular way of summoning.

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