Faithful Departed

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Haunted Houses and Liminality: from the Deserted Homes of the “Faithful Departed” to the Social Desert of Schismogenesis
Kieran Keohane,

School of Sociology & Philosophy

University College Cork, Ireland.

This paper begins with a review of Ghosts of the Faithful Departed, a collection of photographs of houses abandoned by emigrants in the Irish countryside. These beautiful and haunting images are interpreted, drawing from Heidegger, Jung and other sources, in order to identify and redeem some of the elementary forms that give meaning and substance to the idea of the home and what it means to be and to feel “at home”. This identification and redemption will locate a deep meaning of home that transcends the particularity of the Irish case and reaches out to a universal human experience. The empty house is interpreted as the liminal space of metempsychosis wherein one can see the waning spirit of the maternal goddess of the hearth, Hestia, and the ascendance of Hermes, spirit of the free market. The old, ruined house in the modern Irish landscape is a memento mori, an image of history as eternal recurrence (after Vico & Joyce) and a portent of a coming apocalypse (after Benjamin & Yeats). The new, contemporary house is “haunted” in a thoroughly modern sense; it is disenchanted, cold, empty, “haunted by the ghosts of dead religious beliefs” (Weber); and “haunted by a lack of ghosts” (Frye). Drawing from Lacan and Beckett, the paper will give a glimpse of the tragi-comic and absurd barren desert landscape that is emerging in the wake of the “property crash”. Finally, drawing from the work of Bateson and Mauss, the paper will explore the possibility of reversing the downward spiral toward catastrophe through the gift of social housing.

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