Kassandra Spooner-Lockyer is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, studying the ghostly landscapes of deindustrialized Cape Breton. She has co-authored articles like “10 Things About Ghosts”, and “Walking with a Ghost River: Unsettling Place in the Anthropocene” and collaborated to construct a ghostly story map with the Concordia Ethnography Lab.
Current Project: Ghostly Atmospheres and the Specters of Capital: Labours of Living in Cape Breton
When the independent senator for Nova Scotia, Daniel Christmas, warned that “Cape Breton/Unama’ki is slowly bleeding to death” (Christmas 2019), he was commenting on a long and fragmented history of colonial and capitalist modes of expansion and withdrawal which have culminated in a current state of deindustrialization, mass outmigration, and rising unemployment rates. Paired with these stark economic and social realities is the ongoing memorialization of certain pasts on the island, primarily Cape Breton’s industrial and Gaelic histories. This tendency to cultivate particular pasts was primarily capitalized on and propagated by the tourist industry throughout the 20th century, which now stands as the island’s primary industry of employment. As a result, contemporary Cape Breton now appears haunted by the residual and emergent forces of colonial and economic dispossession. Many of these specters have materialized into actual ghosts and settled into the popular imaginary in film and literature, all the while paranormal investigative teams like Haunts from the Cape seek out and respond to local concerns of ghostly manifestations. This project thus seeks to ethnographically explore the material and social traces of past processes of colonialism and capitalism in present-day Cape Breton, such as those made manifest by the island’s many ghosts. My project asks; What pasts come to inhabit the present in Cape Breton and what social atmospheres do they in turn produce? What forms do these pasts take and how are they in turn acknowledged, ignored, managed, silenced, made sense of, expressed and memorialized?