“The dead” names a category, not of personhood, but of memory. It constitutes the manner in which the trace of their absence is held and re-composed, made to signify as the other who is always near, yet irreparably distant.
Thinking of the dead this way enables us to pose the messianic as an intervention in the construction and reception of memory. It offers a way to name the dead as an order of belonging that cannot be hijacked by ideology, but maintains the power to speak allegorically (as strangely otherwise) from a location outside cultural structures for regulating memory. The dead are not only sheltered within, but provide a touchstone for the singularity of experience itself.
Moreover, as a category that mixes or confuses exile with continuity, the dead can be seen as paralogical ruptures of historical, institutional time brought about by the invasions of singular memory (the forgotten, the repressed, the unpresentable) – in a word, hauntings.
The dead are a form of the sublime.