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. And in “The Mimetic Virus” all these threads are woven together to “rethinking mimesis in the age of COVID-19” in a piece for 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 “Plato and the Simulacrum,” Deleuze distinguishes between two types of mimetic images: the icon, which is based on the model-copy relation, and the simulacrum, which is “a copy without a model.” In this article, Daniel Villegas Velez argues that behind this well-known distinction, however, lies a previously unexplored distinction between the simulacrum and the phantasm. Full article available here.
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 this lecture co-sponsored by the English Literature Research Seminar, RIPPLE, the Husserl Archives and the HOM project, political theorist William E. Connolly (Johns Hopkins Univesity) focuses on three diverse thinkers – Sophocles, Mary Shelley, and Bernard Williams. Writing in different times and places they advanced overlapping insights that, if widely absorbed in major Eurocentric theories, may have advanced insights sooner into the unruliness of the earth.
Thursday October 10, 5 pm, Kardinaal Mercierzaal, Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven. Reception to follow. More details here.
The lecture is followed by a workshop on “Mimetic Politics: Swarms and Crowds” Friday, October 11, 10-12pm. Radzaal, Institute of Philosophy. All welcome. Details and readings here.
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.
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.
In this interview for the Leuven Philosophy Newsletter, HOM team member Niki Hadikoesoemo asks Nidesh Lawtoo to sketch the main outlines of the Homo Mimeticus project and to discuss the relevance of mimesis for contemporary philosophy, politics, education, the unconscious, as well as for forging interdisciplinary connections within and beyond the humanities. You can read the full interview here.
Mimesis is one of the most influential concepts in Western thought. Originally invoked to define humans as the “most imitative” creatures in classical antiquity, mimēsis (imitation) has recently been at the center of theoretical debates in the humanities, social sciences, and the neurosciences concerning the role of “mimicry,” “identification,” “contagion,” and “mirror neurons” in the formation of subjectivity. And yet, despite the growing confirmations that imitation is constitutive of human behavior, mimesis still tends to be confined to the sphere of realistic representation.
The ERC Starting Grant HOM project, hosted by the Institute of Philosophy at KU Leuven, combines approaches that are usually split in different areas of disciplinary specialization to provide a correction to this tendency. In the process its aim is to contribute to bringing discourses on imitation up-to-date with the fast-changing transformations of Homo mimeticus in the twenty-first century.
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement n°716181.