Recent decades have witnessed a rise in the political-historical significance of bodies and remains of the dead, with corpses unearthed and reburied, with graves desecrated and restored. Among many different and important examples of this phenomenon can be mentioned reopened graves in the former Eastern Europe and the struggle among formerly colonized indigenous populations around the world to recover the remains of their dead. This has led to a deepened interest, especially among anthropologists and historians, to understand the underlying logic of the role of the dead in the constitution and transformation of societies. The lecture recalls some examples of this phenomenon and of the recent literature and places them in a broader context of what it means to be-with-the-dead as a phenomenological-existential category. ‘Necropolitics’ is presented as a way to think the constitution of the political as such, encompassing both the living and the dead, as figures, also, for the present and the past. Pointing beyond Weber’s canonical distinction between enchanted and disenchanted times, it shows how it is only within the framework of an expanded ethical-practical understanding of what it means to exist historically that we can begin to understand the political function and significance of the dead.
Hans Ruin teaches in the Södertörn University philosophy department, which he founded in 1999. He is also the co-founder and current President of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology. From 2010-2015, he directed the multidisciplinary six-year research program ‘Time, Memory, and Representation – Recent Developments in Historical Consciousness’. He has published the following monographs: Enigmatic Origins. Tracing the Theme of Historicity Through Heideggers Works (1994), A Commentary to the Heraclitean Fragments (in Swedish, 1997), and has co-edited, among others: Metaphysics, Facticity, and Interpretation (with D. Zahavi and S. Heinämaa, 2003), The Past´s Presence. Essays on the Historicity of Philosophical Thought, (with M. Sá Cavalcante, 2006), and Re-Thinking Time: Essays on History, Memory and Representation (with A. Ers, 2011). His current book project carries the preliminary title ‘Being-with-the-dead: Burial, Ancestrality, and the Origin of Historical Consciousness’.
The lecture is part of the current ICI Lecture Series ERRANS, in Time. Ideas of physical, social, revolutionary time, internal time consciousness, or historical experience are far from settled in their respective discourses and practices. Yet attempts to harmonize or correlate the understanding of time and temporal phenomena generated in different disciplines all-too quickly resort to normative, if not teleological ideas of progress, efficiency, or experiential plenitude. Can the heterogenous relations between discordant conceptions of time and temporality be understood as being ‘erratically’ structured, that is, as marked by inherent misapprehensions, a dissonance that defies regulation, and an unexpected variability?
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