The Murmur of Ruins


What is the difference between a ruin and a badly maintained building? The question can hardly be answered, for what defines ruins is not material decay in itself, but a specific understanding of it. Today, the message of ruins appears obvious: Ruins are predictably fascinating, romantic and picturesque. This romanticism is not timeless but has its own cultural history. The murmur of ruins is the speech of modernity and the modern conception of time and history. It is about the development of a thoroughly modern subjectivity, centred on the emotionally competent individual, and the ethical values associated with this kind of personality and personal authenticity.

How to Cite

Eriksen, A., (2007) “The Murmur of Ruins”, Ethnologia Europaea 36(1), p.5-21. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.



Anne Eriksen (University of Oslo)



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