Horcruxology: Distributed Identities and Post-mortem life

Name of applicant

Niels Wilde Langballe


Aarhus University


DKK 1,158,923



Type of grant

Reintegration Fellowships


When Tywin Lannister explains to Arya Stark what legacy means, namely that which remains of you after you are dead, it suggests a notion of post-mortem life. When we gather and remember someone who passed away or when we sense the presence of past lives in haunted places, it suggests that something, whatever it is, lives on. The same idea is present in the current debate on climate change. What do we leave behind in the rocks for future generations to find? In order to answer that, we need to ask: What does it take for something to live on? How can objects receive the distributed identities of others and store them even after the donor itself has passed? This project is an investigation into this very question.


The project provides a conceptual framework for thinking post-mortem life. Both the Anglo-Saxon and Continental tradition makes a strong case for mortality as the very constitution of being human in contrast to the idea of the immortal soul. The steam of latter idea seems to have burned out in our secular age. But there is a scale in-between the two which is important to explore. We need a fully fledged theory of different object's capacity to receive and preserve a fragment of another object's distributed identity (what I with a term borrowed from J.K. Rowling calls "horcruxes"), if we want to make sense of our impact on the Earth system on a long timescale. The project sheds new light on identity, death and the relation between objects, humans and non-humans alike.


The project will be carried out at the University of Stavanger in close collaboration with professor Dolly Jørgensen. As a visiting scholar with the Greenhouse environmental humanities research group of the University of Stavanger, I will be surrounded by an interdisciplinary group of environmental humanities scholars who will support me with the project. I will have access to the Greenhouse Library, one of the few dedicated environmental humanities library collections globally. I will also draw on my year-long association with colleagues at Aarhus University and participate in activities organised by the local research groups when relevant. In this sense, I will be able to establish a network of peers for development of the current project and future ones across disciplines.

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