Ghostly Testaments: The Stories Hostels Tell - Sneha Krishnan


Friday, April 15, 2016, 5:00pm


William James Hall, Room 105

Women’s hostels – or university residence halls – in Chennai are full of ghosts who cry in the corner, play pranks on students, and occasionally tell scandalous stories that contradict and render unfamiliar the official histories of the buildings they inhabit. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in women’s colleges in Chennai, my talk will look at the ghostly stories that animate everyday life in a women’s hostel. Examining them not as alternative or subaltern histories waiting to be recovered, I instead ask what these encounters might tell us about young womanhood as a site of erasure and risk. Engaging the ethical tension of these ghostly ‘untruths’, I show that young women experience the hostel as an ambiguous site in which the teleology of maturity is made unstable. The hostel’s ghostly memories – housed in the enduring dwelling place of a transitory youth – attune its residents to an economy of rumour and scandal through which to make collective sense of individual vulnerabilities.