Accepted Paper:

Haunting absences: femicide and the spectrality of death in Highland Mexico  
Catherine Whittaker (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main)

Paper short abstract:

Starting from the case of a missing girl, this paper follows haunting as an embodied trace, characterised by absence and the agonistic encounter of multiple realities, such as in the context of fieldwork or colonialism, opening a window onto the current politics of gender and death in Mexico.

Paper long abstract:

My fieldwork on the southern border of Mexico City was haunted by the case of Teresa, a girl who disappeared at the age of 17 without a trace. A terrible possibility haunting my friends' and my imagination was that Teresa could have been trafficked, as she fit the profile of so many other young disappeared women and indigenous people in Mexico. Haunting is an embodied trace, characterised by absence and the agonistic encounter of multiple realities, such as in the context of fieldwork or colonialism. In Teresa's case, it was a trace of the current politics of gender, death, and forced disappearance in Mexico. Yet for my friends, death is not the end of life, but a liminal state, or more precisely, the beginning of a journey: No longer human, the seres queridos, the beloved dead, retrace their steps by visiting all the places they have been to during life, and finally travel to the otherworld. They return on the Day of the Dead. Only social death marks the end of existence. Depending on one's viewpoint, Teresa could have been clinically dead but socially alive. A photograph resolved the mystery, yet the haunting did not end there. To become a "participant observer", I straddled being both self and other when distancing myself analytically whilst being fully immersed in "the field". As a result, I found myself always leaving something behind - both in "the field" and after. Eventually, I surrendered to "being affected" (Favret-Saada 2015), or rather, to being haunted.

Panel P044
Revealing Histories of Violence: The Representational Politics of Trace