It’s difficult to imagine being haunted in a public space. Regarded from outside, public spaces usually evoke the gathering of large numbers of people; regarded from within, their occupants often do not recognize the space as anything special at all. However, consider public space in post-Soviet contexts, where it continues to be haunted by the machinations of totalitarianism and is always already haunted by histories of surveillance and violent state power, despite nearly three decades of democracy.
“It’s creepy, don’t you think?” It’s the day after Christmas and I’m walking with my sister-in-law Mette through the woods of Central Jutland, Denmark. She described how, just the other day, she had been speaking with friends about their new dog. Now she keeps seeing targeted advertising from pet food companies on her Facebook feed.
Anthropology is no stranger to political attacks. In the United States in 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott argued that there was no need for more anthropologists in the state. He said he wanted to spend taxpayers’ dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. Ironically, his own daughter studied anthropology. We remember too well the closing of the anthropology departments at Howard University and before that at Allegheny College. Both budget cuts and shutting down individual departments are painful, and often harmful to anthropology, but erasing the whole discipline?