Derrida’s concept of hauntology, coined in his 1993 book Spectres of Marx, is based on the French word hantise. As a verb hantise is used much the same way as the English ‘haunting’ but it also expresses the return of the revenants, their comings and goings with the caveat that the act of return is originary: it begins by coming back.
The Derridean term, concerned with the state of simultaneous being and not-being, has more recently been applied to music instead of politics, to describe new compositions that make use of forgotten techniques or sound effects to create a ‘spectral’ sense of the past in the present.
In particular to recreate sounds that were, when first invented, an attempt to be ‘futuristic.’ At its simplest, then, hauntology is another form of nostalgia, a nostalgia for ideas of the future that have been rendered obsolete by the march of time and the quote-unquote “End of History”.
But hauntology is not simply about revisiting the past, it has a very specific tenor, a feeling of supernatural revenant, as if the sound or idea in question really has ‘come back from the dead’ or lingered on between heaven and earth, refusing to die. At the heart of the musical micro-genre of hauntology is the sense of atemporality that underpins our present culture.
Mark Fisher popularised the use of Jacques Derrida's concept of hauntology to describe a pervasive sense in which contemporary culture is haunted by the "lost futures" of modernity, which failed to occur or were cancelled by postmodernity and neoliberalism. In contrast to the nostalgia and ironic pastiche of postmodern culture, Fisher defined hauntological art and culture as typified by a "refusal to give up on the desire for the future.”
Fisher traces his grounding of hauntology to jungle, in particular to Rufige Kru’s “Ghosts of My Life.” Fisher titled his 2014 book on hauntology after Goldie’s album, which he described as “about the implosion of linear chronology.” His published collected writings took shape based on “how the tracks were auto-theorisations of the way in which sampling and time-stretching engineer a fatal time in which things repeat.”