Haunting, Virtuality, and Other Archival Materialities

The problem of describing the place where social media content originates can be productively understood as parallel to complex matters of ownership and participation in African American culture. Riding the instability between “to,” “from,” or “for” is also a way of characterizing the haunted nature of Black life—as a way of articulating what it means to experience other people’s memories with the affective impact of personal, firsthand experience. Much as we often use the word ‘ghost’ as a catchall for that which is generated in the breaks between the evidential and ephemeral, thinking about haunting as a kind of digital experience helps us get at the circulation of memory, pain, and affect on social media platforms. Drawing on the work of W.E.B. DuBois, Achille Mbembe, Claudia Rankine, and Teju Cole, this talk develops “social media embodiment” as a kind of textuality at the intersection between memory, technology, and performance.

This part of the Still Life project was delivered as a keynote address at the  2017 Society for Textual Scholarship Annual Conference. This presentation will be updated with article and citations in Summer 2017.

Many thanks to the Society for Textual Scholarship for this invitation, to Matt Kirschenbaum for the generous introduction, and to Trevor Muñoz for reminding us why we all must do this work.