COVID-19: Viral Contagion / Mimetic Contagion

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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 shadows of epidemics looms large on the horizon” (chapter on “The Cooperative Comunity: Surviving Epidemics in The Shadow Line available here), 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. More recently 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.

(New) Fascism: Contagion, Community, Myth

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.

Review

“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

EU Research Interview: The Philosophy of Imitation in Focus

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.