WORKING WITH SOCIAL HAUNTING:
PAST AND PRESENT MAKING IN TWO "COMMUNITIES OF VALUE"
The project developed an original investigation into how affective dimensions of culture and social life are re-shaping communal being-ness in communities in de-industrialised areas of the North, working in partnership with the Manchester-based The Co-operative College and the South Yorkshire branch of Unite Community.
The research took place in ‘Ghost Labs’, which lead academic Dr Geoff Bright calls “a participatory process space: a semi-improvised, horizontal, community/activist/arts ‘event space’ (Massumi, 2005)”. This first project drew on scholarship around spatialities of feeling, memory and identity from within Cultural Studies, History, Architecture, Creative Arts Practice, and Social Theory. Specifically, however, we aimed to develop the conceptual framework of a “social haunting” formulated by Professor Avery Gordon (see Gordon, 1997) in order to investigate how contested pasts carry affective meanings which, while they reside only at the “cusp of semantic availability” (Williams, 1977: 134), nevertheless powerfully mould, and are themselves (re)moulded by, the present.
Avery Gordon developed a hybrid inter-disciplinary inquiry directed toward the “blind field” of social inquiry as it manifests in the troublingly absent presence within the present, of closed-down pasts. By developing the notion of a social haunting in light of the ‘new material’ turn in arts practice (Barrett and Bolt, 2013) and investigating it through co-produced community research, our aim was to contribute to Gordon’s approach.
“I did not forsee the rather extraordinary uses to which [Dr Geoff Bright] put an idea I developed in a book entitled ‘Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination’. With a keen understanding of the core questions and purpose of my work, Bright has developed an original methodology in the Ghost Labs, which have made accessible to ordinary communities sophisticated theoretical and historical knowledge without sacrificing any complexity. The result has been a model of community engaged participatory research.” Professor Avery Gordon
Read the project’s full bid to the AHRC Connected Communities programme here
"The Ghost Lab is intentionally, then, something of a theoretical and practical rag-bag." This section notes the key currents that feed in to our inquiry in to ‘living knowledge’, through projects that began with an attempt to operationalise Avery Gordon’s notion of ‘social haunting’.
Academics, partners and creative practitioners reflect on the qualities that make the ‘Ghost Lab’ significant, analysis of the contributions of participants, how ‘social haunting’ was operationalised, and the tensions between instinctively “getting it” and the work’s complexities.
*Coming Soon* online access to data from this project, via Manchester Metropolitan University
N. Geoffrey Bright, Feeling, Re-imagined in Common: Working with Social Haunting in the English Coalfields
in ‘The Routledge Handbook of Working Class Studies’ editors Michele Fazio, Christie Launius, Tim Strangleman (Routledge, forthcoming)
This forthcoming book chapter discusses the body of work I’ve brought together that focuses on the entanglement of affect and imagination in working-class experience and how it has played out in the UK at key moments of a thirty-year period of de-industrialisation.
Comic art by Jim Medway
A RADIO PRODUCTION BY MAX MUNDAY
A SOUND PIECE BY DANNY BRIGHT
PI – Dr Geoff Bright
Co-Is- Dr Angela Connelly, Andrew McMillan (poet), Dr Sarah McNicol, Dr Toby Pillatt
Community Co-Is Cilla Ross (The Co-operative College), John Taylor (Unite Community)
Creative Practitioners Danny Bright (sonic artist), Jim Medway (comic artist), Max Munday (community broadcaster)
Community Partners Unite Community, The Co-operative College, Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival
Advisory Group Prof Carl Bagley, Dr Tim Edensor, Tamar Millen, Sue Moffat, Prof Kate Pahl, Prof Amanda Ravetz