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Ghosting her dead body


Bronfen, Elisabeth; Violi, Alessandra (2019). Ghosting her dead body. Women: A Cultural Review, 30(4):411-439.

Abstract

The essay explores the afterlife of Elisabeth Bronfen’s feminist insights in Over Her Dead Body (1992) by crossmapping it with the photographic archives of two women, Italian artist Linda Fregni Nagler’s installation Hidden Mothers (2006–2013), and Turkish photographer Maryam Shahinynan’s photocollection from the 1940s. Today that feminism is often consigned to history, we probe the political force of archives in keeping its ghost alive from the past and still operative in the future, working along the lines of Mieke Bal’s preposterous form of historical reading. At issue in the article is the question of the (female/feminist) ghost as both an uncanny return from the past and as a virtuality still to be accomplished in the future. Both chosen archives perform this issue self-reflexively. Fregni Nagler’s collection brings back to life the previously unknown nineteenth-century genre of ‘hidden mothers’, where women’s erasure and self-ghosting was displayed in the photographic image. As Nagler’s archival gesture reanimates these dead bodies from the past, their haunting calls for our affective and ethical reading in the present, soliciting our responsibility to take on the debt of the ghost. Shahinyan’s images of gender performances archive instead a future still to come: produced as a series, the photographer’s heterotopic scenarios perform a proleptic feminist gesture, enacting ghost stories of virtual identities not yet accomplished. Much like Shakespeare’s virtual sister in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, they show the force of ghosts as figments of a political imagination to be enfleshed in the future.

Abstract

The essay explores the afterlife of Elisabeth Bronfen’s feminist insights in Over Her Dead Body (1992) by crossmapping it with the photographic archives of two women, Italian artist Linda Fregni Nagler’s installation Hidden Mothers (2006–2013), and Turkish photographer Maryam Shahinynan’s photocollection from the 1940s. Today that feminism is often consigned to history, we probe the political force of archives in keeping its ghost alive from the past and still operative in the future, working along the lines of Mieke Bal’s preposterous form of historical reading. At issue in the article is the question of the (female/feminist) ghost as both an uncanny return from the past and as a virtuality still to be accomplished in the future. Both chosen archives perform this issue self-reflexively. Fregni Nagler’s collection brings back to life the previously unknown nineteenth-century genre of ‘hidden mothers’, where women’s erasure and self-ghosting was displayed in the photographic image. As Nagler’s archival gesture reanimates these dead bodies from the past, their haunting calls for our affective and ethical reading in the present, soliciting our responsibility to take on the debt of the ghost. Shahinyan’s images of gender performances archive instead a future still to come: produced as a series, the photographer’s heterotopic scenarios perform a proleptic feminist gesture, enacting ghost stories of virtual identities not yet accomplished. Much like Shakespeare’s virtual sister in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, they show the force of ghosts as figments of a political imagination to be enfleshed in the future.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Uncontrolled Keywords:uncanny, ghosts, Aby Warburg’s pathos formulae, archives, gender performance, photography
Language:English
Date:6 December 2019
Deposited On:13 Jan 2020 10:18
Last Modified:13 Jan 2020 10:23
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0957-4042
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/09574042.2019.1676583

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