What is the link between mimetic contagion and viral contagion? Building on a diagnostic insight that called attention to the danger of “contemporary pandemics that, every year, threaten to contaminate an increasingly globalized, permeable, and precarious world,” and, already in 2016, warned that “the shadow of epidemics looms large on the horizon” (chapter on “The Cooperative Community: Surviving Epidemics in The Shadow-Line“), the HOM project continues the diagnostic in the context of COVID-19 in a series of interviews and posts.
Given the rapid global spread of coronavirus, it is increasingly essential to distinguish between viral contagion based on medical facts, and emotional reactions based on mimetic reflexes. In this radio interview, Nidesh Lawtoo cautions against mimetic affects, like panic, but also distinguishes between ideologically-driven forms of mimetic contagion and empirical viral contagion. If (new) fascist politicians spread lies about COVID-19, the latter should not be downplayed for economic reasons. It should rather lead citizens to listen to scientists and become aware of (and restrain) unconscious mimetic reflexes and habits (e.g., large assemblages, shaking hands etc.). Full radio interview (in Italian) with RSI, Rete 1 here ; written interview for LaRegione here.
Wojciech Kaftanski follows up on the diagnostic with a piece on mimetic contagion and COVID-19 for ABC that shows “how deeply we influence one another: from fights over toilet paper to declarations of war.” Article available here. Nidesh continues with a genealogy of mimesis–via Plato, Nietzsche and The Matrix–to face viral contagion in the Anthropocene in a piece for Fatamorgana. And in an interview for MSU Press’s Podcast, Nidesh discusses his new book (New) Fascism: Contagion, Comunity, Myth (MSU P 2019)in the context of the current pandemic crisis. You can listen to the podcast here.
Daniel Villegas Velez takes a forthcoming HOM interview with Jean-Luc Nancy as a starting point to reflect on the “Allegories of Contagion” that take COVID-19 as a “magnifying mirror” to reflect on (new) fascism. And in Lawtoo’s “The Mimetic Virus“ all these threads are woven together to “rethinking mimesis in the age of COVID-19” in The Contemporary Condition.
In this third episode of HOM Videos, French sociologist, philosopher and founder of complexity theory, Edgar Morin discusses the complexity of mimesis: from the anthropology of the double to cinematic identifications, ethics to politics, mimicry to the birth of art, homo mimeticus turns out to be constitutive of Morin’s complex view of human nature. Trailer here.
Since the publication of Gunter Gebauer and Christoph Wulf’s seminal book, Mimesis: Culture- Art-Society in 1992, the realization that mimesis is constitutive of the human condition has become central to the humanities, the arts, the social sciences, stretching to inform the hard sciences as well. Furthering Gebauer and Wulf’s call to examining the productive aspect of mimesis as a “human condition,” the ERC-funded Homo Mimeticus: Theory and Criticism (HOM) project convokes a two-day transdisciplinary workshop at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, to explore the afterlives of the mimetic condition in the twenty-first century.
December 5-6, 2019,Room S, Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven (Belgium) Keynote:Prof. Gunter Gebauer (Free University of Berlin) “Worldmaking of the Hand: The Mimetic Creation of Human Culture”
In this Inaugural Lecture, PI of ERC-funded HOM Project Nidesh Lawtoo revisits the legendary 1966 Johns Hopkins Conference, “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man,” an event which was meant to introduce structuralism in the US, yet ended up inaugurating what became known as poststructuralism instead. At one remove, replaying mimesis in the company of Derrida and Girard half a century later still provides a genealogical starting point to rethink the all too human tendency to imitate characteristic of Homo Mimeticus.
November 7, 2019, Institute of Philosophy, Kardinaal Mercierzaal, 5-7pm (followed by reception).
In conversation with Wojciech Kaftanski, Nidesh Lawtoo presents his last book, (New) Fascism (MSU P 2019) at the Institute of Philosophy (Husserl Archives, KU Leuven, October 2019). A diagnostic of crowd behavior, mythic identifications, and mimetic contagion constitutive of the growing shadow of fascism.
In this new book, part of the ERC-funded HOM Project, Nidesh Lawtoo confronts the rise of (new) fascist leaders, both in Europe and the US, via a diagnostic of the contagious, communal and mythic powers mimetic leaders convoke to shape mass/public opinion.
Dr. Wojciech Kaftanski presents (New) Fascism and opens the conversation with the author on Friday 27 September, 3-4pm, Salons, Institute of Philosophy, Kardinaal Mercierplein 2, 3000 Leuven. Reception to follow.
Fascism tends to be relegated to a dark chapter of European history, but what if new forms of fascism are currently returning to the forefront of the political scene? In (New) Fascism: Contagion, Community, Myth (August 1, 2019) Nidesh Lawtoo diagnoses the case of Trump to illustrate the (un)timeliness of Nietzsche’s claim that, one day, “‘actors,’ all kinds of actors, will be the real masters.” Preview and order here.
“The book is a testament to the power of reasoning to unmask and resist cruel forms of affective contagion, even as it opens the door to the project of composing generous and laudable admixtures of pathos and logos. A bracing and elegant book very much worth reading.”
—JANE BENNETT, Professor, Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University, and author of Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
In this second episode of HOM Videos, Nidesh interviews the literary critic and theorist J. Hillis Miller (Emeritus Professor, U of California at Irvine) on Deer Isle (Maine, USA, 2018) to discuss the relation between mimesis and literature, literary criticism/theory, deconstruction, reading in the digital age, new media, videogames, and contemporary politics. Trailer.
The HOM Project started a series of video interviews on the contemporary relevance of imitation (mimesis). Join us for the screening of “The Critic as Mime: J. Hillis Miller” Friday 24 May, 4 pm, Justus Lipsius room (08.16), Erasmushuis, Blijde-Inkomstraat 21, Leuven. You can see a trailer here.
In this interview with EU Research, Nidesh Lawtoo explains the main aspects of the HOM project by outlining, in broad and accessible strokes, the good and bad effects of unconscious mimesis investigated by the HOM team in areas as diverse as philosophy, the arts, and politics. He argues that the power of mimesis to transform subjectivity is “not only a scholarly problem, but a human, all too human problem.” Full interview available here.