The Mimetic Turn: Final International Conference on Homo Mimeticus (ERC)

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M.C. Escher, Drawing Hands

The ERC-funded project Homo Mimeticus: Theory and Criticism (HOM) hosted by the Institute of Philosophy and the Faculty of Arts at KU Leuven, Belgium, is pleased to announce its final international conference titled The Mimetic Turn (April 20-22, 2022; online; in-person option tbd). Keynotes and Invited Speakers include Rosi Braidotti, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Vittorio Gallese, Jane Bennett, among other international figures. The deadline for submission is January 15th, 2022. CfP available here.

HOM Videos 6, Feminist Politics of Mimesis: Adriana Cavarero

In the sixth episode of HOM Videos, Nidesh Lawtoo (KU Leuven) meets the Italian feminist philosopher and political theorist Adriana Cavarero (U of Verona). From Plato to Arendt, Cavarero discusses the relational ontology that inclines the subject toward the other, the dangers of mass behavior, and the possibilities for a new feminist ethics. The city of Verona provides a background to Cavarero’s reflections on mimetic inclinations at play in a feminist politics of mimesis.

The Human Chameleon: Zelig, Nietzsche, and the Banality of Evil

Filmmuseum - Detail
Woody Allen, Zelig, 1983

In this OA article for Film-Philosophy Nidesh Lawtoo revisits the case of Woody Allen’s mockumentary Zelig (1983) via Nietzsche’s diagnostic of mimicry and Arendt’s analysis of the banality of eivl. It argues that the case of the “human chameleon” remains contemporary for both philosophical and political reasons for it reveals the centrality of mirroring reflexes in the rise of old and new fascisms.

Nietzsche on Mimetic Metamorphoses Part II


For Nietzsche philosophy was a diagnostic activity that entailed looking at sickness from the perspective of health (and vice versa) to propose cures. In Part 2 of this talk, shot in Sils Maria, Switzerland, Nidesh Lawtoo considers the role of mimesis that leads Nietzsche to turn personal sickness or pathology into a diagnostic critique of mimetic pathos, or patho-logy. Drawing on concepts articulated in The Phantom of the Ego (2013), Nietzsche turns out to be at the origins of the concepts of mimetic pathos, pathos of distance, and patho(-)logies internal to HOM Theory.

Nietzsche on Mimetic Metamorphoses

For Nietzsche philosophy was an embodied activity that should lead to a metamorphosis of the spirit. In Part 1 of this talk, shot in Sils Maria, Switzerland, Nidesh Lawtoo situates Nietzsche’s “Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit” that open Thus Spoke Zarathustra against the Alpine summits and paths that inspired Nietzsche’s meditations in the first place. In the process, mimesis turns out to be central for Nietzsche’s reevaluation of morality, subjectivity, as well as to concepts such as the “overman” and the “eternal return of the same.”

Adieu, Jean-Luc Nancy

HOM Workshop with Nancy, HIW KU Leuven 2018.

The French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy (1940-2021) sadly passed away on August 23, 2021, at the age of 81. One of the last giants of the structuralist and poststructuralist generation, Nancy authored over 200 books on subjects as diverse as German idealism and psychoanalysis, aesthetics and politics, subjectivity and community–devoting one of his last books to An All-Too -Human Virus (2021).

Nancy last visited the HIW in 2018 at the invitation of the HOM Project and gave a series of inspiring talks, seminars and interviews on mimesis, politics, and community. He will be much missed, but his philosophical traces remain to be followed up.

You can rewatch two video interviews at the HIW on HOM Videos, including one for VETO. More recently, in a written dialogue with Nidesh Lawtoo, Jean-Luc Nancy takes the recent return of attention to mimesis, the mimetic turn, as a starting point for considering the relationship between philosophy and literature. Reflecting on his lifelong philosophical project, Nancy stresses the centrality of mimesis at play in the linguistic turn, deconstruction, community, and sharing during and beyond Covid-19. Interview available here.

HOM Theory: Mimetic Patho(-)logies in the Age of Covid-19 (N. Lawtoo / LMU)

In this public lecture for the LMU Doctoral Program on Mimesis Final Conference, Nidesh Lawtoo (KU Leuven) articulates the relevance of HOM Theory to account for the mimetic patho(-)logies in the Age of Covid-19: from affective contagion to viral contagion, conspiracy theories to therapeutic imitations, Lawtoo argues that rethinking mimesis beyond representation is central to account for the patho(-)logies of contagion in periods of pandemic crisis.

On Empathy & Mimesis (Stuk, Leuven 21 June)

Empathy is often restricted to a moral feeling, but what if the human ability to “feel into” others goes to the palpitating heart of aesthetic and, perhaps, life experiences in general? Prof. Nidesh Lawtoo (KU Leuven) takes the Wired for Empathy exhibition (Curator: Karen Verschooren; STUK/Artefact June 2021) as a timely occasion to reconsider a human propensity for mimetic/empathic experiences that are increasingly recognized as central to aesthetics (from aisthēsis, “sensation”).

HOM Videos 6, Feminist Politics of Mimesis: Adriana Cavarero

In the sixth episode of HOM Videos, Italian feminist philosopher and political theorist Adriana Cavarero (U of Verona) discusses the relational ontology that inclines the subject toward the other, the dangers of mass behavior, and the possibilities for a new feminist ethics. The city of Verona provides a background to Cavarero’s reflections.