The Gaols of Guyana: Hauntology and Trauma in the soundscape of Prison

Tammy Ayres, Dylan Kerrigan


Using Hauntology, this paper illustrates how the supposed demise of a socio-political and economic system – colonialism – still impacts on and has something to offer contemporary political analysis in Guyana’s gaols. Drawing on Fiddler’s spatio-hauntology alongside the work of Derrida and Gordon this paper shows how hauntology provides an alternative theoretical framework to look at the intergenerational transmission of trauma, which can be traced back to colonialism and slavery. It acknowledges the impact structural violence has on the collective imaginary and how this – consciously and unconsciously – shapes the psychosocial material underpinning contemporary Guyanese identities, desires, experiences, social action, and systems of punishment which includes prisons – its buildings, space, regimes, processes, sounds, laws and rationale. Guyana’s prisons contain phantoms of the past. Only by acknowledging Guyana’s ghosts and the phantasm of past trauma is it that we can begin to understand contemporary Guyana and Guyanese society, which includes their jails.

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