Haunting Ruins in a Western Ghost Town: Authentic Violence and Recursive Gaze at Bodie, California

Publication Date

January 2020

Document Type


Publication Title

Western Journal of Communication




This essay examines Bodie, a California ghost town, as a “modern ruin.” Working from a hauntological framework, I first investigate how Bodie enacts a rhetoric of authenticity by inviting personal encounters with the mortality of the town’s missing inhabitants. I then complicate Bodie’s brand of authenticity by identifying how efforts to rouse the ghosts of the past destabilize the ontological security of its present viewers. I ultimately argue that tourists transform the town’s ontological instability into a performance of recursive gaze whose pleasures enable a perceptual management of overlapping temporalities, particularly as visitors imagine themselves among the ghosts of Bodie.


Authenticity, Hauntology, Memory, Ruins, Tourism

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