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 interview (in Italian) with RSI, Rete 1 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.
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.
We all know that TV satirical news shows play an essential role in unmasking political lies, promoting critical thinking, and fighting for free speech in an age under the spell of (new) fascist leaders. But did you know that by focusing so much media attention on apprentice presidents the same comics might also paradoxically (and against their best intentions) play in favor of the comic fascism they critique? If you read this article, you will know.
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 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 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 talk, Prof. Jeffrey Hanson argues that liturgical language used by Vigilius Haufniensis in Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety is of critical significance to his account of earnestness, which in turn is at the heart of his theory of selfhood. Tuesday, September 17, 4:30-6 pm, Raadzaal, Institute of Philosophy (reception to follow). More details here:
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