The Weight of Absence: Musings on Hauntology and Spouses in the Field

by Margaret Rowley

I’ll start this little article lightly, with a discussion of a funny academic quirk-gone-hashtag: often in post-Malinowski anthropology, (female) spouses have accompanied their (male) spouses into the field. This was especially true before the mid-1980s, when the field was primarily dominated by men. These wives of anthropologists have frequently performed work like typing manuscripts, performing and translating interviews, running and maintaining recording equipment, and gaining perspectives unavailable to their anthropologist partners because of gender – all this in addition to the historically gendered work of gathering and preparing food and raising children. For all this they are often briefly acknowledged in the forward of many academic tomes, sometimes referred to simply as “my wife.” The trope of the brief acknowledgement of the wives of academics (not limited to anthropology) is frequent enough that it inspired the recent Twitter hashtag #ThanksForTyping. Some of the acknowledgements include tagged with #ThanksForTyping include:

My wife types badly and her spelling, punctuation, and proofreading are unreliable; but she persuaded me to pursue the subject in the first place, let few of my paragraphs escape revision, and wrote the passages I like most.”

“Finally, I should like to thank my wife and Miss Margaret Burton for their help in the preparation of my typescript.”

My wife transcribed the first draft of the manuscript, working from the Black Letter type, sixteenth-century spelling, and wondrous punctuation of the original publications.”


These unnamed women are, for the most part, silent participants in the creation of the text; if the reader were to skip the acknowledgements, she would miss the mention completely. Despite this, the fingerprints of the wives are all over the books. They typed, proofed, researched, interviewed, and even wrote portions of these manuscripts. We could easily say that they are haunting their husbands’ writing.


Jacques Derrida, possibly accidentally and definitely in French, coined the recent fad-literary-criticism term hauntology. “To haunt does not mean to be present,” writes Jacques Derrida, “and it is necessary to introduce haunting into the very construction of a concept. Of every concept, beginning with the concepts of being and time. That is what we would be calling here a hauntology.” (Derrida, 1994, 202) He was talking about Marxism and the specter of Marx, but this concept could just as easily be applied to things like Beethoven’s shadow. The clever portmanteau (in both English and French) suggests the ontology of a haunting – the being of a being that isn’t.


I recently completed a fieldwork project on my husband’s music classroom. I wore two hats while working with him: I was both his spouse (a familiar figure; an insider) and an ethnographer (a stranger). Our interactions took on a certain formality, when I asked him questions about his classroom, when I interviewed him, or when I asked him to participate in some dialogic editing of what I had written about him. (1)

Our ethnographic interactions were haunted, I am convinced, by the persistent specter of the future academic reader of the ethnography I would produce. Ethnomusicologist Deborah Wong, who was in a similar situation when she started a project on Asian American heritage and her involvement with a Taiko drumming group, noted “I wrote for an academic reader though I could feel my relatives reading over my shoulder.” (From the ethnomusicology text Shadows in the Field, 83) My interlocutor-husband, as if acting out her text, literally read my ethnographic prose over my shoulder, even as I was not writing it for him. The future “academic reader” of the ethnography haunted my fieldwork relationship just as she haunted the real-time construction of the text.

For us ethnographers, hauntology is a handy concept because it allows us to process the effect that non-presence has on the field. We can account for the presence of nonexistence, the weight of absence. We can feel hauntology in the field, among our interlocutors, in ourselves, in our writing. For me, even the concept of hauntology also has the tendency to haunt.


I am interested in how hauntology can be applied more broadly, to the role of the relationship between an ethnographer and her spouse. Just as Derrida’s hauntology was applied to both the specter of a person (Marx) and to the specter of a non-person “thing” (Marxism), I would like to suggest that in many cases the “thing” haunting ethnographies are the quiet, private relationships maintained in the field.

hauntology 3.jpg

An example of what I am suggesting might be found in Clifford Geertz’s well-known article from 1972, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.” We learn that, “early in April of 1958, my wife and I arrived, malarial and diffident, in a Balinese village we intended, as anthropologists, to study.”  Geertz notes the presence of his “wife” throughout the article, but she remains nameless, faceless, and exhibiting no independent action. “We moved,” writes Geertz, “we ventured,” “we ran.” Geertz separately describes actions that he alone undertakes, and his wife’s actions always parallel his. We don’t know, from this article, if she is an anthropologist, what (if any) post-secondary education she has had, or if she has any interest in being in Bali at all. She exists only in the un-elaborated idea of “wife,” as absent from the ethnography as she is present.

In actuality, Clifford Geertz’s wife was the Radcliffe-trained anthropologist Hildred Storey Geertz. The Geertz’s marriage ended in the early 1980s, and Clifford Geertz died in 2006. The ethnography seems, forty years later, to be haunted twice: once by the specter of Clifford Geertz and once by the relationship between him and his then-spouse. The hauntology I am suggesting can be found in the ‘we’ of “we moved; we ventured; we ran.” The ‘we’ in Clifford Geertz’s ethnography has outlived the relationship between the Geertzes, and continues to haunt the ethnography. At the time of publication, Hildred Storey Geertz already appeared ephemeral in “Deep Play,” nameless and faceless; after their divorce, even her identity in the article as “my wife” to Clifford Geertz is rendered ghostlike.


During the Spring semester, the anthropology department graciously allowed me to participate in their proseminar for their PhD students. In that seminar, I read Renato Rosaldo’s “Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage” – a well-known piece in the anthropology world, but one to which I had not previously been exposed. The chapter chronicled events that transpired while Renato Rosaldo was carrying out fieldwork among the Ilongot headhunters with his wife, American anthropologist Michelle Rosaldo.

hauntology 4

Renato Rosaldo begins by describing his and Michelle’s fieldwork with the Ilongot community. Unlike many anthropologists in 1981, Renato uses Michelle’s full name multiple times and even invites her voice into his writing by using her own description of a “tense conversation” between himself and Ilongot friends. (Rosaldo:169) From the beginning of the article, I clearly understood that Michelle Rosaldo was also an anthropologist, carrying out her own research in the same field. In the chapter, both spouses work together to understand the rage that accompanies grief in Ilongot society, but Renato admits that “[the] force of the dilemma faced by the Ilongots eluded me at the time. Even when I correctly recorded their statements about grieving and the need to throw away their anger, I simply did not grasp the weight of their words.” (Rosaldo:168)

Essentially the grief-rage of the Ilongot headhunters is such that, when they are deeply grieving, especially when a loved one dies, their grief manifests in the form of a rage that causes them to hunt and behead other humans. “If you ask an older Ilongot man of northern Luzon, Philippines, why he cuts off human heads, his answer is brief, and one on which no anthropologist can readily elaborate,” notes Renato. “He says that rage, born of grief, impels him to kill his fellow human beings. He claims that he needs a place ‘‘to carry his anger.’’ The act of severing and tossing away the victim’s head enables him, he says, to vent and, he hopes, throw away the anger of his bereavement. To him, grief, rage, and headhunting go together in a self- evident manner.” (Rosaldo:167) Renato Rosaldo cannot seem to wrap his head around why Ilongot grief manifests this way – not with what the Western world understands as grief (sadness, despondence, mourning), but instead with palpable, actionable rage.

Thus far, this is a tale of an anthropologist in the field with his wife, struggling to understand a socio-culturally located concept that is difficult to grasp. Everything changes midway through the chapter: shortly after joining her husband to perform her own fieldwork, Michelle Rosaldo lost her footing on a slippery mountain trail, falling down a cliff and into a swollen river. The guide with whom she was walking had to inform Renato of her death.

At this point, Renato places his own emotional reaction in the center of the chapter, exploring it with a depth that may have even been uncomfortable to an anthropological audience in the 1980s:

Immediately on finding her body I became enraged. How could she abandon me? How could she have been so stupid as to fall? I tried to cry. I sobbed, but rage blocked the tears. Less than a month later I described this moment in my journal: ‘‘I felt like in a nightmare, the whole world around me expanding and contracting, visually and viscerally heaving. Going down I find a group of men, maybe seven or eight, standing still, silent, and I heave and sob, but no tears.’’ An earlier experience, on the fourth anniversary of my brother’s death, had taught me to recognize heaving sobs without tears as a form of anger. This anger, in a number of forms, has swept over me on many occasions since then, lasting hours and even days at a time.” (Rosaldo:171)

Michelle’s death has the unanticipated effect of helping Renato to grasp the grief-rage of his interlocutors more fully. He deftly sidesteps any suggestion that his grief is the same as the Ilongot grief-rage: “Ilongot anger and my own overlap, rather like two circles, partially overlaid and partially separate. They are not identical.” (Rosaldo:171) Regardless, as an anthropologist seeking to understand his interlocutors, he has made a step toward an understanding of the people he studies: Michelle, her life and her absence, have made this step possible.

Renato Rosaldo comments that “[introducing] myself into this account requires a certain hesitation both because of the discipline’s taboo and because of its increasingly frequent violation by essays laced with trendy amalgams of continental philosophy and autobiographical snippets,” suggesting that including oneself in an ethnography runs the risk of “the self-absorbed Self [losing] sight altogether of the culturally different Other.”  While there is much to say here, I will limit myself to the suggestion that the ethnographer’s partner is an Other, both Other than the ethnographer (and able to see and access things that the ethnographer may not), and Other than the subject of the ethnography. As an Other, Michelle Rosaldo played a pivotal role in her husband’s ethnography, accompanying him into the field, and providing a perspective outside of his own. Her presence, her hauntology, eventually provided a clearer understanding for her husband of the Ilongot grieving process.

In this ethnography, the death of Michelle Rosaldo is the articulating moment between a past where she was present and when Renato Rosaldo did not understand Ilongot rage, and a present where it is her absence which creates a stronger presence, allowing her husband to step closer to understanding the grief-rage of the Ilongot headhunters.


Elizabeth Freeman, in her book Time Binds, suggests that Derrida’s concept of hauntology is actually drawn from Marxism: “Marx, Derrida argues, theorizes an ethics of responsibility toward the other across time – toward the dead or toward that which was impossible in a given historical moment, each understood as calls for a different future to which we cannot but answer with imperfect and incomplete reparations.” (Freeman:9)

I would suggest that we could extend responsibility toward the Other, not only across time, but also across the boundaries of personhood. The spouses of ethnographers, named or not, haunt the manuscripts to which they contributed, which they made possible. The relationships the anthropology wives had with their author-spouses similarly haunt the text, even if those relationships eventually ended. I would dare to wager that most of us have our own special trove of specters that haunt us, made up of people both living and gone.

We can, in other words, be haunted by someone who exists in this time, but in another place; we can be haunted by someone (or something) that never actually existed at all. It seems an obvious suggestion, though, that humanity is often affected by the weight of absence. I am reticent to draw a grand-scale conclusion because I don’t wish to overpower the quiet ether of hauntology. Rather, I will suggest that perhaps one of the many things that bind us in our humanity is the specters of others, removed from us in time or space; the past, or future, or alternate present; the solid, substantial, immovable weight of absence.


Deborah Wong, “Moving,” in Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology, Gregory Barz and Timothy Cooley, eds, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International (New York: Routledge, 1994).

Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010).

Clifford Geertz,  “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” (Daedalus 134, no. 4, 2005: 56-86).

​Renato ​Rosaldo, “Introduction: Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage​,​” i​n Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993:​167-178).


  1.  At first I neglected to name my spouse with some ironic intent. Later, I was concerned that my lack of naming him might result in my replicating what I am criticizing, with respect to mid-century anthropology and the hauntological contributions of spouses. But, when I asked him whether he would like to be named in this little piece, he demurred, citing concerns about privacy in the classroom. For this reason, I’ll replicate the sins of my forebears and refer to him only by his relationship to me.







54 responses to “The Weight of Absence: Musings on Hauntology and Spouses in the Field”

  1. davidlduffy

    I was reminded of Evelyn Waugh’s A Bachelor Abroad – a travelogue that neglects to mention that his wife was accompanying him but their marriage broke down halfway through the trip.

    Hauntology appears related to introjection – the Gestalt psychologists talk bout toxic introjects (eg your internalised hated parent that causes you to make bad decisions).

  2. Thanks for this thought provoking, dare I say haunting, essay.

    As I began to read it I immediately thought of a piece I had read some time back on Einsteins wife. It seems she may have had non-trivial and unrecognized influence on his greatest works.

    There will inevitably always be influences behind our achievements that we take for granted or fail to recognize when there is no accountability at stake for us when we fail to fully acknowledge them. This is likely especially true when the acknowledgement would detract from the personal/professional credit we might receive and makes the failure to consciously recognize easy and convenient. It is important to recognize this dynamic and aim to maintain our self-awareness and integrity by regularly reflecting on the important sources that provide us support and contribute to our works and capacities.

  3. I find your concluding remarks much more interesting than the snarky hashtag campaign mentioned at the beginning which just seems like more of the tired old grievance industry. If anthropologists aren’t progressive enough for people, then they are going to be sorely disappointed in what they find in the world.

    Also, has that beheading tribe survived? I would think that the people around them would rather resent their … er … overreaction to grief and make short work of such a socially dysfunctional group.

  4. davidlduffy: Waugh is probably in my top 5 favorite authors, despite his shortcomings.

  5. Margaret

    Very stylish piece. But don’t get me started on Derrida!

    I’ve often noticed those wives in prefaces, etc.. The strangest haunting I have ever encountered was not by a wife but by an older sister. I am thinking of Renan’s Life of Jesus. She died while they were traveling together, doing research for the book, which he dedicated to her in a spooky, spiritual, totally-over-the-top, late-Romantic sort of way. No doubt the feelings were genuine.

    My own instincts are more in line with the headhunters of Luzon – and the marvellous J.M. Synge. His poem “A Question” (based on an actual exchange with Molly Allgood) has always stuck in my mind…

    I asked if I got sick and died, would you,
    With my black funeral go, walking too,
    If you’d stand close to hear them talk or pray
    While I’m let down in that steep bank of clay.

    And, No, you said, for if you saw a crew
    Of living idiots pressing round that new
    Oak coffin – they alive, I dead beneath
    That board – you’d rave and rend them with your teeth.

  6. @davidlduffy: I will add that to my reading list. Thank you for the connection!

    @sethleon2015: I’ve heard that about Einstein’s wife. In musicology, there are similar questions about Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn, to name two big ones. Lest this essay seem like it’s only about silent (or silenced) wives, I should clarify that I think there are an abundance of factors that contribute to hauntology- the only requirement, if I’m understanding Derrida correctly, is that we are present and affected by something or someone who is not present.

    @Dan K- I’m not sure what about the hashtag campaign is “snarky”: can you clarify? Other than, of course, the snark that accompanies the vast majority of what’s on Twitter… For myself, I was surprised and pleased to see this #ThanksForTyping commentary enter the public consciousness- so much of what we do in the humanities is literary criticism (which I would suggest largely seeks to continually better that which is already fairly well-thought-out), and the fact that so, so many anthropologists, literary figures, scientists, etc. relied on their spouses so heavily without an author credit seems like an area worthy of a small critique. I’m also unclear on what the difference is between the “grievance industry” and a warranted, merited critique- if there is no difference, then large swathes of the humanities over the last three centuries (at least in musicology) would seem to be a bunch of whiners.

    I’m not sure what it means to be “progressive enough.” Is there a threshold that one must pass? And “progressive enough” for what, or whom? Does it matter if the surroundings change? I would suggest that this topic has come up more than once when I’ve observed the comment section- that things are “better than they’ve ever been” and therefore the semblance of the idea that we should rest on our laurels, or at least be happy with what we have. I would heartily suggest that this is not the purpose of the humanities, to decide when things are good enough (and for whom they are good enough), and then call a cessation to progress.

    The tribe has indeed survived, but the practice of headhunting was outlawed right around the time the Rosaldos were doing their fieldwork in the early 1980s. If I remember right, headhunting was forbidden on penalty of – ironically and no less brutally – death.

  7. @Mark English – Oooh! What an excellent little snippet of poetry. Another direction one could go with this information is into all the different expressions of grief. Rather than hauntology, one could go back into the expression of those present -about- those not present. I suspect this is closer to where Renato Rosaldo wanted to take his piece, that the ways we express emotion are significant and valuable and (sometimes) terrifying, and that they are occasionally difficult to understand across socio-cultural lines.

  8. Margaret: My point regarding progressivism was something like the following:

    We all have to share the world with one another. That means compromise. And compromise means accepting that victory may mean getting most of, but not all of what one wants. Therein lies maturity and wisdom.

    As for the point regarding snark, it’s hard for me to get very worked up about someone being referred to as “my such-and-such.” Happens to me all the time, when *my* wife — Nancy — talks to her students, at Kickapoo, and I don’t mind it one bit.

    Like many of these sorts of things it strikes me as getting upset over trivialities. Especially considering the appalling conditions people suffer elsewhere. A bit “First World Problems-ish.”

  9. The last paragraph, as I said, is magnificent and loaded with many potentially interesting things to pursue and think about.

  10. @Dan K: I agree with what you’re saying. I think, though, that the Twitter users are pointing out more than someone casually referring to a spouse as “my wife” or “my husband” – as I obviously also did in this piece. They are pointing out that these spouses typed, translated, interviewed- basically they were co-authors, and certainly they were anthropologists in practice. That’s a slightly different thing than me explaining to a friend that “my husband is cooking dinner tonight.” It’s more along the lines of “my husband straight-up co-wrote my book but all I gave him was a tiny by-line in the acknowledgements where I didn’t even use his name.”

    To be clear, I wasn’t picking apart relational pronouns in this piece. I quite like them, and use them all the time. What I was saying, though, is that each of us writes (or thinks or acts) with a plethora of “ghosts” behind us. It’s just that sometimes the ghosts are editing, and translating, and bouncing ideas, and interviewing half the tribe, living with us, raising the kids, etc., and in those cases, maybe the ghosts deserve some further scrutiny, like Renato Rosaldo gave us.

    I also struggle with the “first world problems”… half the time, I agree that such minute things are not worth our time (although then again, why go into the humanities, arguably the most first-world of fields?). The other half of the time… that’s a bit trickier. There has to be a way to keep in perspective the wide circumference of human suffering without having to dismiss immediately everything which is not imminently human suffering… or if there’s not a way, then we all should probably quit higher education and go join Doctors Without Borders.

  11. … and thank you. 🙂 I think ghosts/hauntings/non-presence/absence is a fascinating way to look at the complexity of human life. I’d be very interested to hear how others relate to this.

  12. Oh, I loved the ghost aspect of the piece. I was only talking about the Twitter thing at the beginning.

    It’s worth pointing out that the humanities and even some of the social sciences have come to be held in about the greatest contempt with which they’ve ever been held, today, because they are perceived as having become obsessed with every variety of “ism.” Indeed, they may not survive in the university another generation, if they continue going on this way.

  13. labnut

    In the early hours of the morning I woke up to find your essay had just been posted. Yay, I thought, and got up to make a cup of tea, settled down and read your essay. I loved it, and as I snuggled down to return to sleep, I was haunted by all the perceptive replies I might make. The trouble with hauntings is that they lie at the edge of our consciousness, not quite there and not quite in our reach. So alas, they will never be told. This is what gives them power to shadow our consciousness. They lie beyond the reach of thought so cannot be tested and examined.

    They defy retelling unless you are Ben Okri, an author I love.

  14. labnut

    As for grief, one can only wonder at the bizarrely dysfunctional coping mechanisms of the Ilongot. But how does one cope with the immensity of grief when the fierce blizzards of the winter enter the soul and possess it?

    Because it is our duty
    to obey winter,
    to let the wind grow
    within you as well,
    until the snow falls,
    until this day and every day are one,
    the wind and the past,
    the cold falls,
    finally we are alone,
    and finally we will be silent.

    Pablo Nuera, Returning

  15. labnut

    I will give Pablo Nuera the last word.

    Someone will ask later, sometimes
    searching for a name, his own or someone else’s
    why I neglected his sadness or his love
    or his reason or his delirium or his hardships:
    and he’ll be right: it was my duty to name you,
    you, someone far away and someone close by,

    Pablo Nuera, For All to Know

  16. labnut

    Oops, Pablo Nuera should be Pablo Neruda

  17. I think that the ghosts I feel the most strongly are from the past. Not just people who have died, but people with whom I no longer have contact. But even weirder, my own earlier self — especially my child and adolescent self.

  18. I sometimes wonder if my own little troupe of ghosts is what makes me an individual- this is maybe not the right way to say it. I’ll try again: those closest to me know many things about how I am, and how I act in the present, but they don’t know much (if anything) about my hauntology, partly because it’s so difficult to talk about (as labnut pointed out). When I’m alone, I’m alone with my ghosts; rather, when I’m with my ghosts, I’m alone.

  19. labnut

    Who is to know where and what the ghosts are? One experience shattered all my certainties. This is the account of that experience, that I wrote many years ago..

    Mountain hiking is my obsession and I have always pushed the boundaries of the possible. One peak, Peak Formosa in the Tsitsikamma Mountains is the highest and most challenging in my locality. Climbing it from the North is a moderate challenge but climbing it from the South is a severe challenge. If you could climb it in two days from the south you gained entrance to the company of a select few. To climb it one day from the south was regarded as near impossible, but has been done. So I climbed it in two days, then one day and finally crossed over from the south to descend on the north side in one day and crossed back over the peak the next day, never done before.

    That is the background. Now I resolved to do the crossover, there and back in 24 hours, alone, like the other trips. More than impossible. So accordingly I trained very, very hard and, stacking the odds in my favour, chose a day with good weather forecast and full moon.

    With eager trepidation, absolutely determined to do what cannot be done, I set out and at quarter to midnight parked at the Mountain Club parking spot deep in the Tsitsikamma forest. To my astonishment I saw a VW Camper parked there and four young guys squatting next to a fire on the grassed parking area. The Camper was decorated with the flowers strongly reminiscent of the ’60s flower power era. The young guys were typical surfing dudes. They were on their way to Jefferies Bay, a surfing paradise further down the coast. I squatted next to the fire to warm myself and chatted to them briefly. They thought I was from the Forestry Department and immediately apologised for being there, explaining that they had driven deep into the forests to better see the sunset over the mountains. No, I was not from Forestry so they asked what I was doing in the forested mountain range at midnight. See that peak in the moonlight? Yes. I’m on my way to climb it. Oh, good luck then. Very casual and unsurprised, as I said, surfing dudes.

    So I set off on my long, hard and dangerous climb. As I steadily toiled up the mountain ridges in the moonlight I thought about them with dismay. The Forestry Department would find the traces of fire and we in the Mountain Club would be blamed. Too bad, nothing to be done now. And so I struggled up the steep slopes until disaster struck; heavy cloud rolled over the mountains bringing cold, wet, misty weather. With zero visibility I stopped, knowing that to continue would be inviting a sticky end. I curled up under some straggly bushes in the dripping rain and slept as best I could. The next morning I struggled back down the mountain slopes in bitter disappointment at my failed attempt.

    I got back to the parking area and saw that my surfing dudes had left. Concerned about our Club’s reputation I thought that I better try to remove all traces of the previous night’s fire.
    Now I searched, and searched and searched and searched again. There was no trace of fire. All I found was lovely pristine virgin grass that had never been disturbed. Impossible, so I searched again. But there was not the slightest trace, not even tire indentations in the grass. Confused and disbelieving, I went down on my hands and knees to crawl across the area, looking for signs of the fire. But there was nothing. I crawled across again in stupefied amazement, but still there was nothing.

    Now I was confronted with a contradiction, an impossibility. Something had happened that was plausible, consistent and left me with clear, tactile and detailed memories. And yet there was not the slightest trace it had ever happened. An impossibility. A deeply troubling experience since I am a rationalist[*] who rejects any suggestion of the ‘supernatural’ together with their coterie of suggestible, excitable and mendacious followers.

    So what had happened? Was I exploring the boundaries between reality, hallucination, imagination and something else? Well, at the minimum, an event had taken place in my brain that was sufficiently detailed, intense, vivid and consistent that it was indistinguishable from reality (whatever that might be). But then, if that was the case, how much of my experience of reality was real? What could I trust and why should I trust it?

    [*] Amusingly, this was written well before my conversion to Catholicism 🙂

  20. Diana Trilling was such a ghost. She was a much better writer than
    Lionel and was able to cast his scholarly flatness into readable prose.
    Matthew Arnold which made his name was largely rewritten by her.
    She was not shy about claiming this but was met with disbelief. Read
    his later The Liberal Imagination and compare the two. When he
    died she looked for the emended drafts among his papers. To her dismay
    she found that he had destroyed them all. To alter the title of one of
    Lionel’s favorite writers these could be called ‘The Asper Papers’.

  21. labnut

    I have mentioned twice before the simple and remarkable insight of Noah Hariri, in his book, Homo Sapiens. He pointed out that all of our culture, history, etc was a fiction. It had no real existence. What existed was particles and fields, arranged in many ways, acting blindly and inexorably according to the laws of nature.

    Alex Rosenberg expressed this point of view strongly and clearly in his essay
    The Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality

    Where Rosenberg went wrong was that he discounted the power and importance of this fiction. He did not credit the fact that what made our species so remarkable was that it could create and sustain elaborate fictions that would harness and direct our collective energies. They were so powerful that these fictions might just as well be real.

    What made the fictions so powerful was that they freed us from reality and this is a surprising, counter-intuitive result. We were no longer tied to what is. Instead we could consider what might be. Before we were tied to the present moment but now we found ourselves in a present where we were continually falling into a future, discovering what might be.

    But what might be is a matter of uncertainty and that uncertainty about what might be haunts our imagination. From that moment we became a haunted species. We have reacted to this haunting uncertainty by trying to create a future with less uncertainty. We are fleeing from our haunted imagination.

    This haunting uncertainty about the future has been a powerful force that transformed the way our species live. The strange thing, though, is that we discovered we are haunted by more than the possibilities/uncertainties in the future. We are haunted by something even more ephemeral, unreal, that has no necessity, and is not demanded by the future, nor even by reality.

    We are haunted by the strange presence of the transcendentals, the True, the Good and the Beautiful. Why should this be so? They have no place in reality, they have no necessity. They are the purest fictions or inventions of our mind. But we are universally are drawn to them, strive towards them and cling to them. Their power is such that they have the force of reality but they cannot be found in reality.

    It is in the haunting presence of these strange fictions that we realise what is best in us(or perhaps they define what is best in us). Is it possible that these haunting fictions derive their power from a deeper background reality? What other explanation could there be? Why should they have such power?

    However there is something troubling on the horizon. It is our very success in reducing uncertainty about the future that has freed us from the fear of falling into the future. With that has come a more intense focus on present reality and that weakens our communal fictions. We are becoming less haunted. When that happens we may longer feel, in the same way, the haunting power of the True, the Good and the Beautiful, the strangest fictions of all. That cannot be good.

  22. labnut

    I said
    When that happens we may longer feel, in the same way, the haunting power of the True, the Good and the Beautiful, the strangest fictions of all.

    That should read
    When that happens we may no longer feel, in the same way, the haunting power of the True, the Good and the Beautiful, the strangest fictions of all.

  23. Speaking of ghosts, I’ve been having a lot of dreams lately in which I find myself back in high school, but with my current consciousness. Almost as if my present self was transported back into my teen body. Inevitably, at some point, I come upon someone else to whom the same thing has happened. In last night’s version, when I finally came upon such a person and confronted him, he told me to keep my voice down or people would find out. I said to him. “What did you do? Sell your soul to the devil?” He looked at me and laughed and said, “How the hell do you think *you* got here?”

  24. labnut

    Ah, that was what I needed, a really good chuckle. So you’ve discovered you have a soul! I am impressed, that is real progress. I wonder what Wittgenstein would have to say about that?

  25. Hey, it was just my unconscious talking!

  26. labnut

    Respect your unconscious, it knows a thing or two. In other circles it is known as your guardian angel.

  27. @Dan K, I’ve been thinking about your comment regarding being haunted by past versions of the self. I don’t have anything insightful to add except that I’ve often thought about that as well- that’s a particularly singular ghost, too, although maybe parents can be haunted by past versions of their children.

    Also, the only way I would ever go back to high-school is if I could keep my current consciousness!

  28. alandtapper1950

    Margaret: Thanks for your interesting essay. It brought to mind for me the Australian anthropologists, Catherine and Ronald Berndt. Lifetime partners and full co-authors.

    Such academic partnerships seem to be rare.

    In your comments you say “They are pointing out that these spouses typed, translated, interviewed – basically they were co-authors, and certainly they were anthropologists in practice.” This is going too far in correcting a wrong, I think. In my academic context it would be strictly unethical to count those contributions as co-authorship.


  29. Interesting article.
    We are indeed often haunted by what we should have said, or people we thought we knew, or places we should have visited. Or enterprises of great pitch and moment that lost the name of action. But the narrowness of our view and limitations of our time makes all this inevitable.

  30. labnut

    Haunting is the shadow of the should.

    Every present moment is that precipitate pause before we fall into the future with all its uncertainties and unknowableness. It is a moment pregnant, indeed saturated with a sense of the should. How should we act in the face of that uncertainty? How should we meet this future? Our experience of the should is our emotional awareness of an uncertain future.

    This emotional awareness of the future, this sense of should is like a veil, sometimes clear, sometimes clouded and sometimes dark. The awareness sits firmly in the forefront of our cognition, dominating it, but its roots extend downwards into the multi-layered depths of our intuitions, that we mistakenly call our unconscious or subconscious.

    Our intuitions are constantly feeding into our cognition from the templates that are the sum of our experience of life. These intuitions are the rapid response team of our mind and often the crisis response team. They quickly gather observations and signals, select the best available template that match the signals, and present them to our cognition. ‘Aha’, is the reply of the mind, or perhaps ‘quick, duck!’

    Our rapid response team, our intuition, is extraordinarily good at quickly making sense of partial, vague and fast changing signals. It will detect patterns that are before us but our cognition does not recognise. This is the moment of haunting as the shadow of the should falls across our mind. It is a haunting because the intuition is weak and it has no visible connection with what you consciously experience.

  31. Hi Margaret, this introduces an interesting expansion on the concept of haunting. Got me thinking about how to look at the world with that kind of filter (or at least books and such that have been dedicated to someone).

    The more common concept of being haunted by people in one’s past, or less common by a person that is still with you but no longer really there, was caught pretty well (for me) by Evanscence’s “My Immortal”, it has plenty of good lyrics about someone haunted by a person they love, though it vacillates whether that person is still around or not. And really which situation is more tragic?

    One short lyric, which seems to be the reveal, goes:

    I’ve tried so hard
    to tell myself
    that you’re gone
    But though you’re still with me
    I’ve been alone
    all along

    Perhaps some the people you discussed felt that very thing, long before they split up.


    Then there is the concept of ghosts and hauntings in film. To me one of the best horror movies ever made was the 1963 classic “The Haunting”, which was an adaptation of the equally well written “The Haunting of Hill House”.

    There’s a lot of haunting going on, whether it is the people by events in their past, or the house by those that have lived there before, the wonder of the movie is that it is all unseen. Almost everything off camera. Implied. Fitting with the concept here. A haunting requires an absence, so strong that is itself a presence.

    Then they went and fucking remade the movie in 1999 with heavy CGI to show the ghosts the GHOSTS THE GHOSTS! It was like someone thought the original movie’s director didn’t show anything because he had lacked the budget for effects.

    With such a visible presence, the “haunting” was totally absent.


    Finally, some people claim that no haunting has ever been captured on camera.

    Those people have never seen “Sherman’s March.”

    As someone into anthropology, if you haven’t seen it, you might like it.

    It’s a documentary by Ross McElwee about the shadow General Sherman’s brutal march through the confederate south during the Civil War still casts over the people in the region…

    Except it’s not.

    See, Ross’s girlfriend breaks up with him right as he was set to begin his trip to make the documentary. So he ends up documenting himself trying to make his documentary about people being haunted by the spectre of the past, while he himself is haunted by relationships in the past, the present, and possibilities for having another in the future.

    Yeah, it has a slow pace and not much action. Much like 1963’s “The Haunting”.

    But the ghosts are everywhere, and you can tell by the people responding to their very absence.

  32. Margaret:

    Another context in which the idea of an unacknowledged spouse has received some attention is that of Judaism. My former boss at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where I used to work — Shuly Rubin Schwartz — published a book devoted to exploring the role of the Rebbetzin — i.e. the Rabbi’s wife — in traditional Jewish communities, and it turns out the this role was substantial.

    = = =

    On the one hand, there is the obviously objectionable dimension of being unacknowledged in this way, and thus, the subject fits easily into a feminist critique. But a part of me wonders whether this might also be something in which we may not know exactly what it is we are asking for. Very abstractly — and since the idea is just the wisp of a thought, I couldn’t put it any other way — I wonder whether bringing all the invisible, unacknowledged influences up to the forefront, may not necessarily bear better fruit. It seems to me that I can think of any number of instances in which a public figure plus his/her silent and invisible confidant/adviser would be more effective and distinctive than two public figures.

  33. @Dan K: I’m really interested in reading this source- I’ve been interested in the role of the Rebbetzin for a long time. My nameless husband’s advisor – and my mentor – Ellen Koskoff wrote about women’s music in the Lubavicher community: She originally went to do her fieldwork, if I remember her story correctly, on the music/intonation in the synagogue, but found that there were too many obstacles in the way of a woman performing fieldwork on what was, in this community, male music-making. She found, instead, that there was a large amount of music being made by the women, which had never been studied before, presumably because male ethnographers ran into similar gender-related roadblocks. I hope I’m remembering that story correctly, but it has stuck with me because of its nuance.

    I wholeheartedly agree that “bringing all the invisible, unacknowledged influences up to the forefront, may not necessarily bear better fruit.” I wonder, though, if the operative word is “all.” I’ll address that, in the small feminist sphere of my argument (which certainly isn’t the bulk of this piece, but does make up a small portion):

    Structural anthropology (and indeed, most of popular culture) teaches a series of functional dichotomies: male/female, culture/nature, public/private, big/little, breadwinner/homemaker, etc. Often, they can be stacked just in that order, where men and maleness are to culture as women and femaleness are to nature, male:public female:private, and so on. My argument is definitely not that all of these private roles (or hauntings) be somehow erased or disallowed. Rather, what I’m arguing against is the rule. Certainly the post-structuralists did a great deal of work toward problematizing these categories by asking questions like “what do we mean when we say that women are “natural” and men are “cultural?”” Prior to that, though, and in the era of the vast majority of what’s coming up on Twitter under the hashtag I mentioned, women were by and large relegated to private life, while men were by and large allowed to move in the public sphere.

    There is so much value in these private roles. I will staunchly argue, for example, for the incredible worth and versatility of stay-at-home mothers – this “job” (more like a CEO-ship) requires long hours, is incredibly difficult, requires a skill set that exceeds most of what one would find in the corporate world, etc. Women (like my own mother) who successfully home-school four children simultaneously could probably command entire armies without breaking a sweat. My argument, instead, is that women shouldn’t be *required* to remain in the private sphere, neither should men be barred from it or shamed for wanting to enter it. I would suggest that “equality” would mean that women and men would be free to move about, to choose between public/private, author/specter, as they please, and not to be pushed into one or the other because of sex.

    There are many places where this is already the case, or is quickly becoming the case. Here, I’ve written a piece under my own name where my male spouse (admittedly by his own request) is an unnamed specter. At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, there has been progress: in this case, I was able to choose what I wanted, which is the public sphere. I would neither expect nor want every woman or man to make the same choice if they don’t feel it is right for them. For me, this is one of the main tenets of feminism.

  34. We certainly have no disagreement with regard to requirement, Margaret. Such roles should never be required. I would only point out that many, many of those involved take the mere fact of statistical disparity as evidence that people *are* being required. And that strikes me as grounded on a fallacious assumption: namely, that people are largely generic, with respect to their interests and desires and even more, that interests and desires have nothing to do with biological sex. Empirical research is increasingly showing that this simply is not the case.

  35. I also thank you for the reading link. I will definitely check it out.

    One more thing on the last point. While I certainly thought of it in the context of the feminist critique of invisible wives, I think it is just as interesting in a non-gendered context: i.e. the extent to which it is important that there *be* behind-the-scenes people and that they remain behind-the-scenes. That could be another essay in itself, almost with an opposite valence to the one you’ve written. Indeed, I would suspect that both are true, simultaneously: one of those things that shows just how non-bivalent and complex social phenomena are.

  36. @dbholmes- thank you for the reference! It’s going on my list.

    @ejwinner- “But the narrowness of our view and limitations of our time makes all this inevitable.” I agree- it reminds me of something we talk about in the musicologies, namely that we can only intake visual images from one direction (unlike, say, geese who have eyes on either side of their head) but we can hear from multiple directions. Haunting is usually described as visually centered, when something is audible and not visible… so the specter can be heard, but what makes it eerie is that it cannot be seen. This is a different direction entirely (and I like it), but I wonder about specters that can be seen but not heard.

    As another aside, I’ve heard that the silent installation at the Guggenheim is only bearable for a few minutes, although I’m interested to try it out for myself:

    @alandtapper1950- You wrote “In your comments you say “They are pointing out that these spouses typed, translated, interviewed – basically they were co-authors, and certainly they were anthropologists in practice.” This is going too far in correcting a wrong, I think. In my academic context it would be strictly unethical to count those contributions as co-authorship.”

    I would suggest that it depends on the level of spousal contribution. Often we aren’t actually sure how much came from the specter-spouse because it’s not formally acknowledged. In the humanities, where co-authorship is often frowned upon informally, we place a great deal of emphasis on that trope of the lone scholar, therefore there are understandable stakes to not acknowledging outside contribution, from a spouse or otherwise.

    In my own situation, if my spouse were to bounce ideas around with me, and then I wrote a paper and published it, I would not feel like he needs co-author credit (and neither would he), although I would likely thank him heartily in the introduction. On the other hand, if he translated for me, interviewed with me, wrote half the interview questions, secured relationships with interlocutors, wrote parts of chapters… then perhaps I would feel that it would be unethical to *not* acknowledge the depth of his contribution.

  37. labnut

    I think there is something being missed here. In my experience I refer to my wife as Jenny when talking to people who know her. I use the expression, my wife when dealing with people who don’t know her. Obviously they don’t know who Jenny is. Moreover, using her first name, Jenny, presumes a certain degree of familiarity between her and the person being spoken to. This is a problem in languages such as German and Dutch. In these cases, referring to her as Mrs Smith is pompous and excessively formal.

    There is another angle to this. The terms my [wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend] often carry a certain cachet of pride. It signifies a kind of status and belonging.

    Finally, the lives of two people can be depicted as a Venn diagram and their relationship as the intersection of two sets, not the union of two sets. By depicting it as an intersection we are acknowledging that portions of their lives are private and distinct. My own observations of married life is that an intersection is healthier than a union of sets.

  38. @Dan K: you wrote “And that strikes me as grounded on a fallacious assumption: namely, that people are largely generic, with respect to their interests and desires and even more, that interests and desires have nothing to do with biological sex. Empirical research is increasingly showing that this simply is not the case.”

    I would be interested to read the research, and still more interested in how researchers manage to separate biological sex from enculturation… I’m not suggesting that it *can’t* be done, just that it would be tremendously difficult, and brings with it a plethora of difficult questions: If I want to be a stay-at-home mom, is it because my internal organs are compelling me, or because I was raised by a SAHM? The answer would be difficult, if not impossible, to know. If you are referencing biological connection to offspring, I’m aware that there’s evidence there, but there is also a plethora of societal factors encouraging people of both sexes to “be” a certain way with children. It’s sticky, to be sure.

    I know it’s not the same, but I think it’s related: it reminds me of the (many, many… many) conversations I’ve been compelled to have about the color of my hair, with people suggesting that I have that “redheaded temper.” Maybe, or maybe I have a temper and it has nothing to do with my hair color. Maybe my “temper” is more noticeable *because* of my hair color, and there would be no perception that I have a “temper” if I were a brunette. Maybe, by all standards, I don’t have “a temper” at all. Maybe I have been socially conditioned to have “a temper” and subtly told all my life that it was okay to have one because of my hair color. There are all of these possibilities, and this is without even raising the question of what it means, in different contexts, to “have a temper.” Does it mean to get angry quickly? Justifiably? Without justification? Etc. What does it do to the red-haired person to have justifiable anger brushed off as “that red-headed temper flaring up?” Does it cause more of a “temper?”

    After all of these questions, and unless we are willing to participate in some truly unethical experiments with raising children outside of any social setting, how do we separate biology from culture?

  39. Margaret, I am not a biologist, so I can only go on what biologists tell me. That said, intuitively, it would seem highly strange to think that sex differences and all that they entail, would have no social valence. Indeed, it would be very surprising if that were the case.

    That said, I am the least reductionist person around and pretty much reject almost every effort to explain complex social phenomena in physicalistic terms. That also said, it remains, nonetheless, wildly fallacious to infer from a statistical disparity that there is discrimination. After all, men are underrepresented in any number of academic fields — substantially underrepresented — and no on infers that it is because of discrimination. The inference strikes me as almost entirely political, rather than scientific.

  40. labnut

    and still more interested in how researchers manage to separate biological sex from enculturation…

    Does it even matter. Society needs a variety of roles and enculturation prepares us for those roles. Enculturation mostly has a natural biological starting point. We are usually happiest in our encultured roles but they need not be binding.

  41. @Dan K, I certainly would not make the argument that biological sex has *no* effect on our cultural interaction, any more than I would argue that it has *all* the effect, and I was not trying to make that argument above. What I am consistently arguing, though, is that we just don’t and/or can’t know. I’ll admit that it’s a difficult position, because in a sea of “yes” or “no,” I am answering “maybe/neither/both.”

    I have to apologize for using the word “culture” so much. It’s sometimes the best option ethnography has, but it remains a problematic term.

    “After all, men are underrepresented in any number of academic fields — substantially underrepresented — and no on infers that it is because of discrimination.” I’m surprised to hear this, as I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard that a woman got an academic job because she was a “diversity hire.” In several conversations that I’ve had in the last year or so, there was not even a question of whether the woman hired was qualified, over-qualified, or was doing a good job in the position (regardless of whether she was). She was, at the end of the day, considered a “diversity hire.” I should add that these conversations revolve around mostly east-coast universities, and I suspect there is a regional difference.

    “That also said, it remains, nonetheless, wildly fallacious to infer from a statistical disparity that there is discrimination.” I certainly wouldn’t want to do that either. If I’m inferring (although I’ve tried not to directly infer at all), it’s from history. I’d suggest that not only statistics and current “culture” count, but also the history of “our” (Western, European) civilization – culture across time. Maybe this is our cultural hauntology.

    If all is equal, even for the last 98 years since women in the U.S. got the vote, even since the late 1960s, what are the statistical odds that we have had forty-five sets of male presidents and vice-presidents in a row? Certainly we shouldn’t automatically assume discrimination, but would we not be remiss to automatically discount it?

  42. Fields in which men are significantly statistically underrepresented:

    English literature

    There are more: these are just the ones I know off the top of my head.

    Of course I am not suggesting that “all is equal.” Simply that statistical disparities alone don’t demonstrate discrimination, which you seem to agree with. I also agree that history is one of the relevant disambiguators.

    I didn’t mean to get off on this line of thought so much, though. The thing I really was interested in hearing your views on was this part of my comment:

    I think it is just as interesting in a non-gendered context: i.e. the extent to which it is important that there *be* behind-the-scenes people and that they remain behind-the-scenes. That could be another essay in itself, almost with an opposite valence to the one you’ve written. Indeed, I would suspect that both are true, simultaneously: one of those things that shows just how non-bivalent and complex social phenomena are.

  43. Thank you for these studies, some of which I’ve seen and others of which I haven’t.

    The first one makes an argument than infant boys are attracted to a truck and infant girls are attracted to a doll, but it could be instead that infant boys are attracted to blue and infant girls pink. This is a major flaw in this study. The second one you mentions rests on a bevy of research that used enculturated adults in Western society, but without the admission that (for example) women’s increased verbal fluency might have been societally reinforced. The conclusion of the third is “Both theories provide insight into why there are sex differences, and knowing the explanation will enable people to understand one another better,” which is pretty close to my own stance on it.

    The fourth is built on the same stance as a number of other biological anthropology writings, which argue (when it’s convenient) that people function the same way as animals. We ran into this in our combined bio/cultural anthropology proseminar this past semester. Biologically, the only ways to study these social functions are either to study animals (which are often substantially different, and so we run the risk of making an argument of convenience) or hunter-gatherer societies (which are increasingly rare, and most if not all have been heavily touched by Western enculturation).

    Again, I’m not suggesting that there is -no- biological difference between men and women; there certainly is. I am saying, though, that much of what’s out there can and should be read critically in a continual effort to untangle, or just to see the tangles of, biology and socialization.

    As an aside, our biological anthropology contingent in the recent seminar was completely disinterested in discussing race as a biological trait, because the department at BU does not view race in this way. Across the river, and not so many years ago, though, this was not the case:

  44. I think the case for race being entirely socially constructed is much stronger than gender, personally.

    Unlike you, I don’t believe I am sufficiently educated in science to be able to evaluate the merits or demerits of these studies. I simply posted them as examples of people claiming a connection between biological sex and social gender.

  45. Sorry for my own de-railing!

    “… the extent to which it is important that there *be* behind-the-scenes people and that they remain behind-the-scenes.”

    Absolutely. This is a fascinating topic to me, and was something that I was trying to eke out in this piece, although it certainly could use more attention than this little piece. In music, I’m especially fascinated with anonymous composers (particularly those that are anonymous by choice). (Although it doesn’t totally fit, I’m thinking particularly in popular music of Burial, a DJ who performed in a mask, and who was only identified after he’d released two albums!)

    In trying to come up with other specific examples in a functioning society, I feel flooded with possibilities. I might even suggest that our society would cease to function in a recognizable way without these behind-the-scenes people- right? Like having a play where the lighting techs get an equal on-stage role to the detriment of the lighting itself…

  46. The Bags, an LA punk band, used to perform with paper bags over their heads.

  47. This might be my new favorite band. 🙂

  48. They were part of the early development of the LA punk scene. I didn’t know about them myself, until I read the new book on the scene, edited by John Doe of X.

    They are mentioned in virtually every essay as an essential roots band, and as LA punk is my favorite of all the versions of first wave punk — which is the only real kind, in my view — I took particular interest.

    The book is outstanding and highly recommended. I probably will do a review of it, here.

  49. @labnut: “There is another angle to this. The terms my [wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend] often carry a certain cachet of pride. It signifies a kind of status and belonging.”

    I agree, and like I said somewhere up there in the comments, I’m not here to pick apart pronouns. Saying “my husband” informally does several things at once: it clarifies his gender as well as his relationship to me, and it also might explain (through the proximity of said relationship) why I’m bringing him up in the conversation. Brief, and useful.

    Formally and professionally, though, we both strive to remain [firstname lastname]. This is just us, and may not be as stringent for couples in other circumstances, but we are both professionals in related fields. It applies when I do ethnographic research on his school, or if we were to co-publish (as I hope we someday will). We are co-teaching a workshop this summer and into next year, and we actually struggled with whether to disclose our relationship in the introductory email- we have different last names and so it’s not immediately apparent that we are married, in a traditional sense. We decided not to, because we’re both qualified and the fact that we’re married has nothing to do with why or how we teach. Again, this is just our relationship, but we’ve found that it has worked well for us individually and as a couple.

  50. @Dan K- it looks like another book for my summer reading list! I find punk’s ideologies completely fascinating, but my reading so far has been totally limited to D.C. punk. I’m looking forward to digging into the west coast, and am adding this book to my Google doc to-read.

  51. alandtapper1950

    Hi Margaret: You reply to that

    “In my own situation, if my spouse were to bounce ideas around with me, and then I wrote a paper and published it, I would not feel like he needs co-author credit (and neither would he), although I would likely thank him heartily in the introduction. On the other hand, if he translated for me, interviewed with me, wrote half the interview questions, secured relationships with interlocutors, wrote parts of chapters… then perhaps I would feel that it would be unethical to *not* acknowledge the depth of his contribution.”

    My claim that co-authorship can be ascribed unethically is to do with the question of what a person might put on their CV and use in job applications. It’s a bigger issue in the sciences where many-authored papers must mean that some so-called author contributions are quite minor, leading to dilution of the status of authorship.

    If a spouse did all of what you describe then certainly that is co-authorship. But if he only translated and interviewed, he’d be wrong to claim co-authorship, and to be able to compete for jobs on that basis, I think. Writing and thinking are necessary conditions of authorship.

    I’m not aware of bias against joint authorship in the humanities.

    Incidentally, I was a father-at-home for quite a long stretch (about 10 years), so I was delighted when you said you “will staunchly argue … for the incredible worth and versatility of stay-at-home mothers – this “job” (more like a CEO-ship) requires long hours, is incredibly difficult, requires a skill set that exceeds most of what one would find in the corporate world, etc.” That’s what I used to think, but it was not easy to convey that to people who had not played the role.