Recently, there has been considerable interest in the concept of the ancestral or ‘ancestrality’ to designate the force of the past and those who went before in the lives of contemporary subjects. In some cases, the term merely refers to forebears, and does the work of memory and mourning. In other cases, it is intended to recognize the continuing effectivity and affective (sometimes magical) force of the dead in life. In this lecture, Morris considers the nature of the call from the ancestors among those who recognize them in southern Africa as that which they must face and as that which summons action, hence as a force that orients them toward a future. Arguing that people’s relationships to ancestors are rarely limited to pious submission—entailing criticism, disputation and longing for recognition as well as obedience--she argues that the ancestral is not a matter of the persistence or force of the past only but a specific structure of address in which the past is that which moves people forward.
This talk will be in a workshop format with a pre-circulated paper. The paper will be available one week before the talk.
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