Concurrent Sessions with Abstracts

Thursday, July 11, Afternoon 14:30-16:00: Concurrent Sessions I

I A: Systematic and historical views on migration (Dekanatssitzungssaal = DSS – KRP 1, Room No. 104)

Chair: Mathias Moosbrugger

1) Jean-Marc Bourdin: All of us are migrants

Argument: The migrant seems to us the most distant foreigner. But he is also the one who looks like us most: he indeed tightens us a magnifying mirror of our "insufficiency of being". In Deceit, Desire and the Novel, "the desire according to the Other one is always the desire to be another one". The novel’s character "wants to become the other one while remaining himself". Isn't it the definition of any migratory desire? Its logic is of a pascalian wager: if the migrant loses a life of assured poverty, he loses nothing, even he releases himself from hopeless perspectives; if he wins the bank of the North, the one who shows him democracy and wealth, he believes to win all the possibilities of obtaining otherwise for him, at least for his progeny, a fullness of being. Certainly paradise is not assured in the North, but in the South, hell seems inevitable.

2) Miguel Rolland: Migration and Identity Appropriation in Ancient Mesoamerica

How human beings imagine and image or represent groups of “Other(s)” who venture forth into "foreign" territories is an encounter seldom experienced without tension, and often-times, historically, occurs with a great deal of conflict and violence. This is as much true of the ancient past as it is in our day. In ancient Mesoamerica, ethnic groups on the move over many epochs and generations eventually came to share important social and cultural "traits" and social similarities. The fraught social dynamics of exclusion and imitative desire that fed on the tensions surrounding the migrations in Mesoamerica were due in large part to the power of appropriation, both as threat to standing or established ethnic identity but also because it brought the opportunity for identity transformations (becoming the 'other').This paper explores two important migrations for Pre-Columbian Mexico and Guatemala: The first tracks a movement of people from the North to the South who eventually form the short-lived but most powerful and extensive Aztec empire in Mexico; the second examines an important movement of the K'iche' Maya of Guatemala — whose transformative experiences are documented in part through the depictions of the Popol Vuh, their Sacred Book celebrating the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings. Their sojourn in the lowlands of the Yucatan Peninsula's eastern shores precipitates an unforgettable encounter with an 'Other' that ultimately transforms their cultural world "back home" in the highlands of south-central Guatemala. These two migrations should remind us that human migration is as much global as it is local, and that movements of peoples are often characterized by distress as they constantly interact with multiple challenges from both distinct and similar ideations related to political economy, ecology, and religious convictions.

3) Camila Esguerra / Roberto Solarte: Sharks, Angels or others like us

This paper seeks to offer a global view of the problem of migration in the view of mimetic theory, but begins by approaching Colombian particular situation. The perspective to address this problem will be a discussion of the most relevant data on migration, which are read by various social sciences, with the ethical and political reflections of Anzaldúa, Zizek and Girard. We hope that this interaction of data, theoretical bodies that analyze it and the mimetic theory will open a horizon so that we can address questions about the fate of minors, women and LGTB people, the pauperization of migrants' work and the inadequacy of public policies. Last but not least, to help us get out of the extreme vision of the other as an enemy and as a threat.

Colombia has never been a country open to migration, but it has been a country affected by internal displacement due to violence, and by a strong migration for political and economic reasons. However, in recent years, the crisis in Venezuela has resulted in the mass expulsion of its population. In the last two years, more than three million people have left Venezuela, and nearly one million of them stayed in Colombia. As Colombians, we live in double tension: we live in a country that has not resolved its great crisis of human mobility due to its own violence, but which now faces the massive emigration of people from Venezuela.

It is from our concrete situation that we want to invite reflection on migration on a global scale. We want to enter into a reflective dialogue with the migratory processes in other countries of Latin America, with the dramatic situation of the southern border of the United States, with the problems of the Mediterranean Sea and the European reception of African migrants and the Middle East, with Migration that affects India and Australia. There are three dimensions of the problem: a) Politics, referring to the scope and limits of national states and human rights that are overwhelmed and questioned by the paradoxes generated by migration. b) Economic, referred to the global dynamics of the economy, because, although there is migration that seeks to live better in other countries, it cannot be ignored that the production and concentration of wealth affects countries and mobilizes large masses of people, associated in many cases with wars and environmental damage. It could be interpreted as an economic cycle that replicates a mimetic dynamic of violence on a global scale. c) Ethics, which deals with our ability to treat this others like other human beings. Here the tension can be expressed as the question: How could we stop considering those others as sharks that will attack and destroy us?

I B: Mimetic Theory, Politics, and the Apocalypse (Seminarraum I = SR I – KRP 1, Room No. 048)

Chair: Stephen McKenna

1) Carmen Dell`Aversano: Two notes on terminology and one on point of view: new Girardian perspectives on othering

The purpose of this paper is to show how clarifying some apparently abstract points of Girard’s theory of mimetic desire may contribute to an analysis of political, social and psychological aspects of the construction of the “other”, and thus of prejudice and discrimination.

In Deceit, Desire and the Novel, Girard defines the differences among types and experiences of mediation through the combination of two parameters: a) the distance between the mediator and the subject, and b) the feelings of the subject towards the mediator. It might be interesting to observe that the combined action of these two parameters generates a taxonomy which includes four possible categories; however, Girard’s model only accounts for two of them, under the names, respectively, of internal and external mediation.

The first part of my paper will focus on the two reaming slots of the taxonomy: the one in which subject and mediator find themselves on the same ontological plane, but the subject entertains feelings of veneration towards the mediator; and the one in which the ontological planes of subject and mediator are separate, but the subject has negative feelings towards the mediator. I will argue that by doing so it becomes possible to account in Girardian terms for two important emotional, existential and relational realities: masochism and bad faith. I will subsequently spell out the relevance of these two descriptive categories to the understanding of psychological and social processes of othering, exclusion, and oppression.

In the second part of my paper I will examine some of Girard’s core assumptions about the position of the mediator. Girard attributes the initiative in the relationship between subject and mediator entirely to the subject, who is free in his (conscious or unconscious) choice of mediator, so much so indeed that the mediator can be, and remain, unaware of his role. As a consequence, the subject’s relationship with the mediator is born of, and shaped by, the needs of the subject, whereas the mediator does not seek out a relationship with the subject, and no needs of his are met by such a relationship once it develops. (The exception being, of course, the empirically far from infrequent, but theoretically marginal, case in which the structurally distinct functions of subject and mediator overlap in the same actors)

I will analyze a number of social and political situations which could be modeled in Girardian terms as instances of the imposition of a mediator on an initially uninterested, if not downright reluctant, subject; these cases all point to the possibility that the would-be mediator aims, among other things, to enjoy the heightened ontological status which is only available by being regarded as worthy of being imitated, as a credible object of metaphysical desire, and thus as the summit of an ontological pyramid which can only exist if a subject can be found who is willing to serve as its base. In order to maintain his own ontological security, the mediator needs to have access to an unending supply of subjects who are willing to endow him with the contradictory (but ultimately coincident) ontological prerogatives both of shaping their desires, and of barring them from ever fulfilling these same desires. Mimetic theory should thus begin to acknowledge, and to account for, situations in which mimetic desire is found to be the result of fraudulent manipulation of the subject by the mediator: a manipulation which carves out for the subject the position of “other”, which will determine both his unending desire for the being of the mediator, and his perpetual exclusion. I will argue that precisely this sort of manipulation is a major, though largely unacknowledged, factor, in social and political processes of othering.

2) Brian W. Nail: Unanimity, Precarity, and Mutuality: The Biopolitics of Sacrifice and the Future of Girardian Discourse

Girard’s theory of violent unanimity, the experience of social harmonization that is produced through the practice of scapegoating, provides a crucial theoretical perspective for interpreting the recent emergence of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee political movements in Europe and the United States. Many of these movements present themselves as defending a Christian ethnoreligious national identity against the dual threat of so-called “Islamization” and “radical Islam,” threats which are putatively posed by the arrival of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries. Notably, such movements have arisen at time of widespread socioeconomic precarity, and their efforts to scapegoat refugees and immigrants invoke certain “theologies of belonging” that serve to construct not only cultural but more importantly political and social boundaries between groups that may be regarded as economic rivals. Numerous scholars argue that the political conflicts that have led to the mass displacement of people throughout the Middle East are in fact symptomatic of a global phenomenon of forced migration that is being fueled by climate change. They speculate that the twenty-first century will witness hitherto unprecedented mass movements of people which will pose significant political, cultural, and economic challenges to countries that have historically associated themselves with the so-called Christian West. While Girard’s theory of sacrifice elucidates the logic of scapegoating at work within certain overtly racist anti-refugee movements, his theologico-anthropoligical emphasis upon the unique status of the Crucifixion as the revelation of the scapegoating mechanism raises important questions about the exceptional position that Christianity occupies within mimetic theory and Girardian discourse. Following the work of scholars such as Michael Kirwan and Robert J. Daly, who have sought to address the question of Girard’s Christian exceptionalism from the standpoint of theology and religious studies, this presentation will seek to expand upon the existing dialogue on this issue, specifically as it comes to bear upon the political and cultural challenges posed by the ongoing refugee crisis and the concomitant rise of anti-immigrant ethnoreligious nationalism. To that end, the following two questions will be posed and briefly answered: How can mimetic theory elucidate the socioeconomic and political conflicts that have emerged in the wake of the recent European refugee crisis? How could a biopolitical interpretation, as opposed to a strictly theological interpretation, of Jesus’s crucifixion mitigate the tendency toward Christian exceptionalism within Girardian discourse? Finally, this presentation will argue that in order to apply Girardian discourse to the political and cultural challenges posed by the coming age of mass of displacement, an idealization of Jesus's sacrifice as the “end of scapegoating” might productively give way to a biopolitical understanding of sacrifice that is capable of elucidating our shared burden of onto-biological mutuality. Acknowledging the sacrificial costs of human existence may prove crucial to challenging and demystifying the logic of scapegoating at stake within the emerging ethnoreligious movements that have come to define our contemporary political landscape.

3) Stephen Gardner: The End of the Post-War Era and the Apocalypse of Man

According to René Girard, Christianity essentially created the modern world—and now is in the process of destroying it. The triumph of Christian revelation of the truth of violence entails the violence of truth. The secular modern world to which it gave birth must destroy itself at the very height of its success, undermined by the very principles on which it is founded. Only, Girard suggests, this is not simple the standard terminus of any civilization, but one that, because of its universal principles and global reach, contains an apocalyptic potential, in a Christian eschatological sense. To understand this proposition, especially its second half, is the aim of this paper.

Girard and Girardians understand this to mean that Christianity destroyed the mythological innocence of sacrificial religion, the traditional form or essence of society, and unleashed secular democracy as a result, together with the rise of the individual as an absolute value beyond the mere uses of society. This may have taken two millennia, but it has happened. As it has done so, though, it has also removed the great “restrainer,” St. Paul’s Katechon, the leviathan of order keeping the powers of chaos in check. At its high mark, democracy inevitably relapses into the primeval origins of order, a “mimetic” war of all against all, that humanity has only been able to resolve through the spontaneous and unconscious creation of myth and religion in the disguise of blood sacrifice. In default of myth, humanity has insufficient moral and political resources to contain conflict and violence. Thanks to his “mimetic” nature, man must end by destroying himself, his species or at least his civilization, in history. Girard’s historicizes and secularizes Christian apocalyptic as the Wirkungsgeschichte of Christianity itself. History ends with the triumph of evil, which human beings are powerless to stop. Evidently this takes the form of the empire of “desire” in a globalized economy (aptly symbolized by the humansized locusts with the heads of men and the tails of scorpions in the symbolism of John of Patmos). This gives a Christian inversion to a tradition that earlier is represented by such anti-Christian figures as Gibbon and Nietzsche.

Christianity plays a more active role in bringing on an “apocalyptic” crisis, one that could potentially engulf the globe, I argue. It is the apocalyptic motherlode of Western utopianism, which cannot simply be ascribed to its Gnostic enemy brother, as Voegelin wants to do. Secularism is not just a negation of classical Christianity; it is also in some sense its realization (as numerous thinkers have suggested). The latter cannot simply emerge from the withdrawal of sacrificial props to social order. It arises from positive elements of Christian culture operating as a dynamic catalyst of Western societies since the Fall of Rome and rendering its historicality different in kind from that of other world civilizations. Western civilization is apocalyptic to its core.

I C: Constructions of the Other in Jihadism, the Need for Common Norms and a Biblical Persoective (Seminarraum III = SR III – KRP 1, Room No. 217)

Chair: Nikolaus Wandinger

 1) Joel Hodge: Militant Jihadism: Indiscriminate violence on behalf of the victim

In this paper, I analyse the way in which militant jihadism, as a form of totalitarianism, justifies indiscriminate violence against the enemy/other in the name of God (the divine Other). I show how militant jihadism attempts to justify civilian causalities, including Muslim civilians, within Islamic categories, though their attempts display “the triumph of battlefield logic over theology” (Kazimi). I draw on statements by militant jihadists, studies of ex-jihadists, and the work of those scholars who have analysed jihadist thought. This work presents how Islamic concepts are consistently applied by jihadists to justify extreme and indiscriminate violence.

I argue that militant jihadism justifies indiscriminate violence in a kind of apocalyptic logic. This logic is a manifestation of the “escalation to extremes” in which absolute rivalry (or the absolute concept of war) is increasingly being realised. In this way, militant jihadism is following the modern trajectory of violence identified by Girard, as a form of totalitarianism that seeks to re-sacralise violence in the name of God. This re-sacralised violence is a distortion of and assault on the Abrahamic traditions, which reveal the innocence of the victim, in what Jean-Pierre Dupuy calls “the revenge of the scapegoating logic”. Militant jihadism takes possession of the consciousness of the victim and uses it for rivalrous purposes, which becomes identified with the struggle of Muslims in jihad. In this view, for example, suicide bombers and jihadist combatants are transformed to become semi-divine martyr-victims who fight unjust persecutors. They give transcendent motivation to a renewed sense of the violent sacred identified with the semi-divine Islamist state and ideology. Jihadism’s sacred violence, moreover, twists the sense of the divine Other – implicit in mimetic relations – to justify a sacred totalitarian order.

 2) Wilhelm Guggenberger: Interpersonal encounter and common norms in times of migration

In these days the necessity of common values or generally accepted norms is claimed time and again. They seem to be precondition as well as guaranty for coping with migration in receiving societies. But common norms are not only a matter of theoretical discourse. According to the German sociologist Hans Joas even human rights appeared from specific historical experiences intertwined with religious and ethical traditions. Therefore interpersonal encounter is an indispensable aspect of coming to common norms / values.

Starting with a reflection of recognizing a famous work of art I want to illustrate how imageries – taking images of images more serious than reality may hinder interpersonal encounter, which is all the more important as imageries are for the most part a result of mimetic behavior and therefore omnipresent. In a second step I want to argue in favor of permanent development of concepts of normativity starting with the concept of Rawl’s idea of “overlapping consensus” but refining it by using the approach of Joas. Finally I will underline the importance of a dialogue of live since it demands more recognition of the other beyond all established imageries and may therefore lead to a vivid consensus which is more than a least common denominator.

3) Bong Deock Lee: Diachrony in the Bible (via skype)

 The Levinasian theory of diachrony is the key to understand the Girardian theory of revelation because, without diachrony, there would be no revelation. According to Levinas, in Judaism, time never enters the present, but only bypasses the present and entirely fleets away to the irrevocable past. The Judaic time, Levinas calls diachrony, the lapse of time, or the loss of time, in that, in Judaism, time never gathers itself into being, but always loses itself to the irrevocable past. Here, the word “diachrony,” which Levinas adopts for the Judaic time, comes from the compound word, diachronic (dia+chronos, passing time). The Judaic time or diachrony can be identified in the Girardian reading of the Bible as well. According to Girard, in the Bible, violence is neither covered up nor assimilated into human culture, but gradually revealed as it is until violence itself reaches its limit and turns into the kingdom of non-violence. The way, in which violence is revealed in the Bible, is through the victim because, in the Bible, the victim is the one who reveals violence until violence reaches its limit and turns into the kingdom of non-violence. The biblical victim, who reveals violence, cannot be a phenomenal victim affected by vision, but a fleeting victim, because the only way for the victim to reveal violence is to fleet away to the irrevocable past before he/she is offered to vision and exalted to the sacred gatherable to human culture. The fleeting victim introduces diachrony or the lapse of time because, when the victim fleets away to the irrevocable past, the moments, in which the victim lives with his/her material substances, such as blood and flesh, also fleet away or lapse to the irrevocable past. Diachrony or lapse of time, which is identified in the Girardian reading of the Bible, is the key to understand the Girardian theory of revelation because, without diachrony in the Bible, there would be neither the fleeting victim, who reveals violence nor the kingdom of non-violence, but only violence and the sacred.


I D: Migration in Film (Hörsaal I = HS 1 – KRP 3, Room No. E09)

Chair: Martha Reineke

 1) Marina Ludwigs: ‘Beings’ telling refusal of themselves as a whole’: A Phenomenology of Encounter in Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us. (45 min)

In my presentation, I will examine the ethical implications of turning away, both in a direct and metaphorical sense, as portrayed in The Wind Will Carry Us, an Iranian film from 1999 by the celebrated director Abbas Kiarostami. The film tells the story of a journalist, who visits a remote Kurdish village in order to record an archaic death rite. As the dying woman, about whom he was tipped off, clings on to life, the protagonist has nothing left to do but wait, passing time by wandering aimlessly around the village and trying to engage its inhabitants in conversations, who, despite being polite and open, remain, on some deep level, inscrutable. I will focus on the key scene, in which the protagonist is reciting a poem to a 16-year-old girl, who refuses to turn and show her face to him, and, consequently, to the viewer. This emotionally poignant moment captures one of the main themes of the film, that of human encounter, understood as something elusive, mysterious, and intimate. I will use Martin Heidegger’s analysis of the three stages of boredom, developed by him in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, glossing the moment of encounter as the third, most profound, stage of boredom, which, paradoxically, no longer feels like boredom but rather like entrancement, in which the truth of other beings is revealed. But this truth can only be encountered by allowing these beings to turn away and refuse themselves as a whole. Connecting these considerations to mimetic theory, I will theorize the act of turning away as a refusal to be assimilated by the possessor of the gaze, which is, ultimately, a refusal to be drawn into a situation of mimetic rivalry, and thus a genuine possibility of an ethical encounter. For Heidegger, this ultimate moment of stillness and suspension highlights the state of absolute repose, with “no further possibility of acting,” and, as such, no susceptibility to mimetic contagion. I will also contrast this situation to Emmanuel Levinas’s idea of the face, which, when turned toward one, invites an ethical response. These two views seem to contradict each other, and I will therefore try to build a nuanced argument about different types of engagement with the gaze of the other, which would explain that Levinas and Kiarostami present different cases.

2) Matthew Packer: Migration and Mimesis in Contemporary Fiction and Film: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, and Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow. (45 min)

Fiction and film have followed the international migrant crisis, and this paper examines three of these scenes. Pulitzer-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen writes in The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives, that “refugees are...unseen until they are seen everywhere,” much as mimetic desires are often misrecognized till they too are discovered everywhere. “We who do the ignoring and forgetting,” Nguyen writes, “oftentimes do not perceive it to be violence, because we do not know we do it. But sometimes we deliberately ignore and forget others. When we do, we are surely aware we are inflicting violence, whether that is on the schoolyard as children or at the level of the nation.” These scapegoating tendencies are writ large in Nguyen’s brilliant novel The Sympathizer, about a North Vietnamese communist spy who emigrates to California after the Vietnam War, and it is a book that reveals the doublemindedness of mimetic rivalries during that conflict and its aftermath. The psychological effects of displacement are also on display in Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s marvelous work of magical realism Exit West, about an exodus of Middle Eastern refugees heading to Europe. Hamid’s use of magical black doors that teleport migrants from war-torn homelands into European capitals, eclipses the physical hardship of the journey to emphasize how alienated the travelers feel, how “we are all migrants through time,” and how crucial models and stories are to our identities. These conclusions are finally reflected upon in scenes from around the world in Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s breathtaking documentary film on the crisis, Human Flow.


I E: Theology, Migration & Politics (Madonnensaal = MS – KRP 3, Room No. 201)

Chair: Thérèse Onderdenwijngaard

1) Michael Kirwan: The Nightingale and the Paraclete: to honour Friedrich Spee

The paper explores the legacy of the German Jesuit priest, Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld (15911635), in the light of René Girard’s dictum that ‘the scientific spirit cannot come first’. As Girard argues in the final chapter of The Scapegoat, only when a certain mode of causality is rejected the search for someone to blame, the ‘scapegoat’ are we freed up to investigate the world rationally. The cessation of witch-hunting gives rise to science, not the other way round. This transformation is the historical work of the Holy Spirit, the 'Paraclete'.

Girard's startling contention will be considered along with the arguments of other theorists of religion in early modernity (Rodney Stark, Charles Taylor), with a view to interpreting the case of Friedrich Spee. Known as the ‘Nightingale of Trier’ for his Baroque poetry and hymns, he is also significant for his role as a confessor and accompanier of (mainly) women accused of witchcraft. His attendance, over twenty years, at the inquisition, condemnation and execution of hundreds of wretched souls led him to write the Cautio Criminalis (1631), in which he told of his experiences, refuted the effectiveness of torture, and argued for due process in the interrogation of suspects.

Spee's legacy will be examined in the context of a new, post-2016 political amorality, in which democratically elected political leaders have implicitly or explicitly embraced the acceptability of torture, and of populist hostility towards vulnerable groups systematically rendered as 'other'. Does Spee's witness support Girard's thesis, or contradict it? Whether explicit or implicit, Spee's witness to the work of the Paraclete in showing the face of the victim is more powerfully relevant and needed than ever.

2) Matthew Tan: The Trauma of Migrants and the Event of Christ

This paper will explore the portrayal of migrants as threats to national integrity. In particular, it will highlight the discourse that seeks to prevent the dislocations and adaptations that the accommodation of migrants presents to the polity. What is more, it will also focus on the discourse of cultural stability as a bulwark against migration flows when it is invoked in the name of the Christian identity of these polities.

Drawing on Girard's notion of rivalry between similarities, the paper argues that the discourse against the hypermobility of migrants elides the insistence on hypermobility demanded by neoliberal economies.

Furthermore, it also preys upon a fiction that polities, like its citizens, are static entities, ever vigilant against the supposed traumas brought about by the renewal of social fabrics. This paper seeks to respond to this by relying on work by James Alison on eschatology, as well as the metaphysics of Aaron Riches and Creston Davis. It will argue that, contrary to the nexus between Christian identity and stability, following the model of Christ is not just the embrace of a way of life without rivals. As an Event, following Christ involves also the embrace of the trauma of constant renewal. The following of Christ as Event then, it is argued, reorients the polity to the Event of mass migration.

3) Felicity McCallum: Mimetic theory, colonial culpability and the ascent to communion. The charred place of response to ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ for dispossessed peoples.

Dispossessed peoples are affronted by a Eucharistic language that images the human engagement with the Divine as being like that of a physical abode receiving a great and holy visitor. Upon being shown the sacrament by the priest in the Communion Rite, immediately before priest and people receive the sacrament, all are required to say, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’ How does a person bereft of home or place, or worse, invaded and misconfigured by European structures and imagination for generations, simply utter the Eucharistic responses to the Catholic mass? Is not the place of invitation to intimacy with God hijacked by a residual violation to do with land and race injustice?

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been imagined as groundless wanderers to advance the ‘Terra nullius’ claims of the European invaders. Locked out of involvement or agency in national debates except as that uncivilised ‘Other’, an exception to the ‘norm’ of the society; the derivative experience of fracture darts deep daily into Australian religious, political and social life.

This paper will use Mimetic Theory to discuss the deep rivalry between black and white Australia that racializes First Australians outside the safety of mainstream culture.

It will explore the plunge of the entire Australian community into sacrificial crisis via the errant structures, institutions and culture by which the Europeans supplant what was already here. The paper will then explore how the Mayem Kadu (Catholic Eucharist) spotlights the urgent issues of colonial culpability in Australia, urging the population forward towards accountability and reconciliation.

I F: Politics & Social Construction (Seminarraum VI = SR VI – KRP 3, Room No. 102)

Chair: Pablo Bandera

1) Gustavo Vasconcelos: Modern criminal penalty: between sacrifice and forgiveness

The paper aims to analyze the criminal penalty phenomenon in the western legal systems according to the mimetic theory. The main hypothesis is that the criminal penalty is a lesser evil, a smaller sacrifice that thwarts a bigger one. That is to say that the penalty is not only a sacrifice but also, and paradoxically, its own denial. For this purpose, we label three different kinds of sacrifices, which are used in the solving of criminal conflicts. First of all, there is the sacrifice as such, or what can be called a regular sacrifice, in which the mere canalization of the violence would ease community violence. Secondly, there is the so-called “ancient’s penalty”. This penalty, as with the previous one, also leads to the death of the scapegoat, but it differs from the regular sacrifice in the extent that it is composed of some unique features – for instance, the absence of randomness and the proportionality between the seriousness of the crime and the severity of the sentence. Finally, there is the “modern’s penalty”, which, if it intends to be some sort of sacrifice, at the same time, it also aims to protect, to some extent, the defendant, since it replaces the pure and simple sacrifice for legal forms and attenuated violence. This implies that the modern criminal penalty can be defined as some sort of Katéchon.

2) Susan Wright: Can anything good come of populism?

“Populism is not new… What is novel today is the intensity and simultaneity of its manifestation in almost all countries ruled by a constitutional democracy. From Carracas to Budapest to Washington to Rome, any understanding of politics needs to take into account a phenomenon that until recently was studied as a subspecies of fascism… and relegated to the margins of the West, essentially Latin America.” Political scientist, Nadia Urbanti, is explicit: populism is not an external threat, it is a form of democracy. Indeed, the populist leader and the populist crowd should be viewed as the teleological products of the West and of democracy itself. If and when they come to power, populist movements pose a serious threat to “the institutions, rule of law, and division of powers that comprise constitutional democracy.” Recognizable within Girard’s framework as one of the defining, negative symptoms of the crisis of modernity, the spread of populism signals that the “self-destruction of democracy” is well underway. Indeed, recent scholarship demonstrates the critical contribution mimetic theory has to offer political and sociological interpretations of populism and charismatic leadership. The resulting preponderance of evidence leaves little doubt, the prognosis for the current global trend is dark. Nevertheless, up against this limit—the end of history, the end of democracy, the end of the West, however you term it—one must ask the question: Can anything good come of this? Without giving way to naive optimism, this paper will explore responses to populism by LaClau, Zizek, and Derrida.

3) Ivan Blecic / Fabio Bacchini / Emanuel Muroni: On Mimetic Hypothesis and the Production of Space

Very little attention has until now been given to the Girardian perspective in the field of urban studies, political geography, and urbanism. Indeed, almost no attempts have been made to explore the possible implications and explanatory power of the hypothesis of mimetic desire and of its “microphysics” on the social production of space.

What if we suppose that places, public spaces, landscape, territory, can, among other things, also become objects of mimetic desire, and thus of rivalry, violence and scapegoating? Does the distinction between needs and desires offer important insights to account, from both anthropological and politico-philosophical point of view, for phenomena such as rivalry, conflicts and violence around spatial objects and goods, attachment to territory, ethno-geographies and territorial rights (Kolers 2009), even landscape aesthetics? Can we find in some practices of production of spaces traces of mimetic rivalry, scapegoating (symbolic and real), and therefore the "mark of the sacred" (Dupuy 2013)?


I G: Girard in Dialogue with Levinas (Seminarraum VII = SR VII – KRP 3, Room No. 103)

Chair: Wolfgang Palaver

1) Tania Checchi: Time, the City and the Other: Girard and Levinas on Babel

Contrary to certain interpretations which find in the biblical episode of Babel a terrible and undeserved divine sanction, several authors of Judeo-Christian affiliation have read this brief story as a denunciation of a totalitarian zeal that already from archaic times has been harshly criticized by the monotheistic tradition. In this same spirit, both Emmanuel Levinas and René Girard’s unsparing criticism against the mythical mentality of closure and totality provides us with a thread that allows us to knit together kindred readings of this episode and compose a critical assessment of an episode in which the non-violent resolution of a simmering mimetic crisis bears the mark of God’s kenosis and constitutes nothing less than the reinstatement of the reality of peace or Menunah in the midst of an acknowledged plurality. So, in spite of the presumed political secularization of our days, we consider that the analysis of the mounting concentrationary situation described in the episode of Babel cannot be abandoned in the name of more fashionable pursuits because what is at stake here is, as Paul Ricouer puts it à propos the adamic myth, the very articulation between ontology and history. Approached thus from this ant mythical standpoint, both the biblical Babel and some of its subsequent versions would teach us ––urban beings that we mostly are now–– unpostponable lessons about the basic coordinates of our worldly dwelling in both its temporal and ethical dimensions.

2) David García-Ramos Gallego: Levinasian reading and Girardian subjects in the case of Nationalism in Spain: Strangers, aliens, foreigners, and other victims and prosecutors.

I want to address in this paper the role of the alien or foreigner in the levinasian thought, specially in Totality and Infinite. His approach to this question is particularly interesting if we applied it to the current Spanish situation, in Catalonia, and with the raising of populist and far right parties. The fluidity of roles, from the foreigner as victim to the foreigner as prosecutor, from the victim as innocent victim to the victim as new prosecutor, suggests that liquid modernity would had already cancelled the subject. Only from a levinasian point of view we can save the subject, but at the price of other’s rights recognition, that is, by recognizing the important role of the other in the constitution of modern subject. In Girardian words, the subject is always interdividual. Bauman and Marion will be also invoked to propose a philosophical solution to the complex relation with others when it implies relation with thirds: are we prepared to host the other not as a host but as other-than-us?

3) Joachim Duyndam / Renée van Riessen: Forgiveness and Mimetic Theory

One of the intriguing parts of mimetic theory is the deification of the scapegoat after his or her being expelled or killed. Why deification? Why elevating the status of what – from the persecutor’s perspective – appears as ‘good riddance’? Bestowing the ousted scapegoat with the status of deity might be motivated by guilt. Following this hypothesis, it may be argued that the deification should restore the balance of guilt in the community that exactly rests on scapegoating. If this assumption on guilt makes sense, it raises the question whether and how the guilt at stake could be redeemed by forgiveness. According to humanistic Jewish and Christian resources, forgiveness is a necessary condition of the deliverance from guilt.

The duo presentation/paper will explore the hypothesis through Hannah Arendt, Levinas, and Derrida. It aims at contributing substantially to mimetic theory, particularly regarding questions on scapegoating, deification, forgiveness, and atonement.

Friday, July 12, Morning 11:00-12:30: Concurrent Session II

II A: Spotlights on Problems of Migration (Dekanatssitzungssaal = DSS – KRP 1, Room No. 104)

Chair: Suzanne Ross

1) Johan Van der Walt: When Time Breaks: The Hiatus of Refugee Status

“In the first place, we don’t like to be called ‘refugees.’ We ourselves call one another ‘newcomers’ or ‘immigrants.’” Already here, in the first sentence of Arendt’s essay “We Refugees,” does the hiatus of refugee status become manifest. A divide already opens up between different habits of reference. Refugees refer to themselves in one way, non-refugees refer to them in another, and so does the projected or desired possibility of one world in which both refugees and non-refugees might find accommodation, split into two very different realities. Consciousness of the split is of course solely that of the refugees, at first. Initially, the hiatus is theirs only. Others – non-refugees – remain soundly oblivious to this fundamental split until such time as it brutally breaks into their world too, for instance, when the corpse of a four-year old child washes up on a beach, and washes up on every doorstep in a succession of media waves. And then the hiatus is suddenly everywhere and no one remains exempted.

As the last sentence of Arendt’s essay contends forcefully, the split begins with the refugee status of some, but it ends with the bigger split of a world that begins to falter and fall apart: “The comity of European peoples went to pieces when, and because, it allowed its weakest member to be excluded and persecuted.” The comity of European peoples shows all signs of going to pieces again today. When the comity of peoples goes to pieces, it is not only common space that cracks up, but also common time, the common time that warrants common space according to Kant’s Schematismuslehre. It is ultimately this breaking of time – the hiatus of time – that Arendt thematises elsewhere with reference to “the desolate aimless wanderings of Israeli tribes in the wilderness and the dangers which befell Aeneas before he reached the Italian shore.” “[T]his hiatus,” she continues, obviously creeps into all-time speculations which deviate from the currently accepted notion of time as a continuous flow.” (Arendt On Revolution, 205)   This paper deals with the specific question of how to imagine and establish a register for the one – the refugee – who arrives as a living incorporation of the hiatus of time that terminates a historical epoch an inaugurates another, one that remains, as yet, incomprehensible from any perspective on offer from within the one that finds itself in the throes of termination.

2) Tomás Guevara Aladino: Forced displacement, stereotypes and responsibility

Migration, as it´s recognized by several experts in the subject, is one of the main topics of the international politics agenda and that is precisely the place it should have given the magnitude of the phenomenon. Within the phase of the development of mimetic desire we are in, our clausewitzian battle to the end, we are witnesses of the results of this battle. What, if not this, is what we see in the massive evacuation of Venezuela to its neighbour countries, even with all the troubles that these neighbours had before the arrival of those who scape? Battling to the end (2010) exposes the way in which the mimetic principle, our very nature, reaches planetary dimensions. Mimetic imitation is universal. However, never, before the revolutions that shook Europe at the dawn of modern age, it had the possibility to connect mimetic tensions at a global scale and accumulate it´s potentials and it´s risks. Girard shows how the course of the development of our imitations has led us to a point of no return in which we no longer can count on the protection of the sacred and, at the same time, we are exposed to a mimesis so volatile that the contagion is practically imminent. There is no doubt that this new scope of the mimetic tensions was the main cause behind the global conflicts that shaped our recent history. There is no doubt that it is still the cause of our conflicts today and of their consequences: massive forced migration all over the world.

This brief essay wants to approach one of the cases of this planetary way of migration. We want to think, with the tools offered by mimetic theory, some aspects of the migration relations stablished between Colombia and Venezuela. To reach our purposes we find it helpful to acquaint ourselves with the way in which some social sciences have engaged with the subject. This approach will help us gain certain vocabulary to think the particularity of the migration in and between Colombia and Venezuela. The main point of this text is to think relations among people and the approach to certain thought traditions and legal frames is dependent of these relations. Therefore, the next step in our argumentation is oriented towards the image that is constructed of the people that arrive to a new place hoping to change and better their lives. The relations with the people that already inhabit those places is largely based on this image of the migrant. The way that politicians deal with these relations and these images is incoherent, is interested, mythological. Nevertheless, all of these qualifiers apply also to the international right that watches over the migrants. We finish this text with a call to responsibility taking an example from a recent investigation in which I participate.

3) Angela Rinaldi: Educational Processes favouring the Human Development of Unaccompanied Minor Migrants: René Girard Mimetic Theory as a key to interpretation

The condition of unaccompanied minor migrants (UMMs) is a sad facet of the phenomenon of forced migration today. Those who live this experience are minors who migrate on their own, without reference to adults. These minors – especially teenagers – are of different nationalities and bring with them very complex stories: they migrate due to poverty, war, discrimination, violence and in order to try to reach Europe with the hope of building a better future.         

Given the ethical and social importance of this topic, it should be studied from different perspectives, in order to contribute to scientific dialogue and possibilities for countries and people to act positively so that these migrations will be free of all forms of violence. Among these ways of reading, Girard’s Mimetic Theory is interesting because here we can find a mode of interpreting the migration experience of UMMs.

The mimetic process assumed by Girard could be found in the several causes of migration: UMMs migrate due to poverty, war, discrimination, violence and in order to try to reach Europe with the hope of building a better future. 

We can assume that the unaccompanied minors, who are on the run from war or different discriminations, imitate their compatriots, who have left before and have said they found in Europe all the possibilities they were looking for. UMMs, who migrate for economic reasons, imitate their parents who have transferred to their children the weight and virtue of the responsibility in providing for the family. UMMs victims of human trafficking could imitate their exploiters’ knowledge and attitude, to learn to exploit the other minors with the aim to gain much more money in order to forgive their debt with the traffickers.      

We can find also a “negative mimesis” of the compatriots or parents who remained in the countries of origin, missing the opportunity to go to Europe. However, we have to look in greater detail at the refusal of these UMMs to stay on in their own country. They do not want to adapt themselves to a wrong system, in which the fundamental rights are not respected in terms of human, familial, and educational security. UMMs decide not to accept the system, in contrast with others – family, friends, compatriots – who remain in their country.          

In Europe, in those places where the integration processes work, there are minors who choose to be respectful of the rules – regarding the obligation to go to school, have regular documents – and do not imitate their compatriots who have accepted to live in bad circles of exploitation in order to get much more money in a short time, instead of going to school and integrating themselves into society.

This mimetic process triggers conflicts among the groups, due to the insufficiency of resources: migration experiences will become much more complicated for the minors such that they will be the real victim of the whole process. We should be attentive to several important points:       

  1. There are the traffickers and exploiters, vying for money and resources to the detriment of minors and vulnerable people.
  2. There are also some organizations built on their own that do not work for the best interest of minors (UN Convention of the Right of Children, New York, November 20, 1989, art. 3) but for their private interests.
  3. Public opinion, often distorted, has a great role because of political campaigns or stereotypes, spreading fear and hate against the foreigners.

Through these three important factors, the idea of the scapegoat is developing, which is tied to the issue of national security, nurturing the idea that fewer migrants increases security. Public opinion is such that people believe that all national security depends on the presence or absence of migrants.  

All this violence, in both physical and social-psychological terms, washes over the UMMs, who are victims of unfair victimization and manipulation given the example of the scapegoat suggested by René Girard, because of a steady vying for money, resources or electoral votes.

Although they experience “accelerated development” – especially at the human and psycho-social level – and are forced to “grow too fast”, they bring with them a physical and social vulnerability that cannot, and must not, go unnoticed. They must be defended, protected, and cared for: it is a responsibility of the whole international community and every individual.

We come to a third part of Girard’s Mimetic Theory: that mimesis is not a passive process, but a deeply human and educational process. UMMs strongly believe in their capacity to leave, to reach their compatriots in Europe and, like them, write their own future, demonstrating to make it through, and to build their own identity based on a migration process that has been successful like that of others. They do not imitate only in order to imitate. They show us that they want to undertake a process for the maturation of their agency, which has enabled them to leave, to build their migration project and making their own decisions for their own future.    It is a creative action through which they demonstrate that they “have a voice” and are be able to determine the potential changes of the social structure in which they are welcomed.

In general, the social structure acts and influences the subjectivity of the youth, through facilitators and constrictors (Archer 2003: 4), which can either facilitate or obstruct the process of constructing one’s own agency. Therefore, even representatives of the state, Church, and civil society can seek to offer facilitators for the development of minors and their accountability. Through good cooperation, based on respect for the roles and abilities of each and therefore on the principle of subsidiarity, such persons can dialogue and act together so that these minors can make their voices heard, aware of their rights and duties with the goal of offering a contribution to the development of the countries that receive them.  

With the awareness of being an integral part of the social structure and as subjects in development, the UMMSs can mature four fundamental properties of human agency (Bandura 2006: 164-165):     

  1. Intentionality: the children leave alone with ideas and strategies for writing their own future; 2. Forethought: traveling to Europe with the goal of arriving and living according to their aspirations;
  2. Self-reactiveness: they react autonomously to what happens to them, choose an itinerary, enter into relationships with different people, unfortunately also with traffickers, and try to shape the course of action as they can;
  3. Self-reflectiveness: based on their own aspirations and results, even in the face of negative experiences such as exploitation, they continue building their own identity by reflecting on themselves and their experiences in order to find solutions and make necessary adjustments.

As a profound human educational process, it is interesting to consider its entirety and completeness. It can enrich Girard’s theory with the principle of the entirety of human development as an ethical support – defined by Paul VI as the “transition from less than human conditions to truly human ones” (Populorum Progressio PP: 20).        

We can study this topic regarding the migration experience, tied to the maturation of UMMs’ agency and identity – “Who have I become? I became myself here and now also by virtue of my migration experience and thanks to the mimesis-imitation process, a deeply formative dynamic”.   

Moving from this ethical principle, we can move to consider what Girard calls the “forgiving lens” of Christianity. In PP 20, we could find the input from which we can move on in order to propose ethical models, which can create a new culture against that of the scapegoat and against a model that leads people to see (and imagine) the other through the “lens of sacrifice”.

II B: Mimesis in Art and Literature (Seminarraum I = SR I – KRP 1, Room No. 048)

Chair: William Johnsen

1) Petra Steinmair-Pösel / Thomas Stuke: Looking Through the Ghostly Veil of the Other

The other – perceived in its “otherness” – often appears to us as terrifying and even “ghostly”. Thus, the big question we are posing, is: How can we look through to the other, so that we can really see him/her behind the veil of the frightening uncanny? We are going to address this question in three steps:

Firstly, we will – from a socio-psychological point of view – offer four transverse sections tracing the notion of the “ghostly” in Marx ("A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter") as well as in Derrida (“the difference between specter and spirit”), in Ridley Scott’s “Alien”-movies (the other within) as well as in Fauser’s psych pedagogical approach to imaginative learning and forming perceptions.

A second step will then confront these socio-psychological findings with enlightening passages from the New Testament: In Mt 14:26 and (Mk 6:49) the disciples mistake Jesus walking on the sea for a ghost (“But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear.), in Lk 24:37 they are terrified thinking the risen Christ is a ghost (“They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”). In general, the risen Christ only shows himself as the contextually expected other (the gardener, the unknown companion on the way to Emmaus, the unknown man standing at the shore etc.). Nevertheless, the biblical stories make it very clear: It is Him – behind this often – uncanny veil of otherness.

The third step will, drawing on the understanding of imagination as a mimetic process (Girard), point out that there is no way of imagining “the other” without facing our own fears, without accepting them, crossing them and being healed from them.

2) Martha J. Reineke: An Ambivalence of the Heart: Rougemont, D’Arcy, and Girard

At the beginning of René Girard’s 1997 D’Arcy Lecture at Oxford, Girard cites the Jesuit priest and philosopher Martin D’Arcy as a key influence on his work: Father D’Arcy has something to do with the ideas I have developed all my life. When I first came to the States, Denis le Rougemont’s book, Love in the Western World, was very popular, and Fr D’Arcy had written a book which was in part a refutation of it. It was a well-known controversy and, in America, you still find the two books side by side in good bookstores. They are books about the role of violence in religion, even though the word ‘violence’ was not yet fashionable.

That Girard describes both books—Rougemont’s a criticism of romantic love in the West and D’arcy’s, in part, a refutation of Rougemont—as works about the origins of violence in religion is fascinating and merits our attention. Yet, to my disappointment, while offering a lucid account in his lecture of main points in his mimetic theory, Girard never qualifies Rougemont’s views on embodied love and erotic desire nor does he allude to the contents of D’Arcy’s book. Girard does describe tensions in interpersonal relationships in which partners develop feelings of hostility toward each other; he also mentions the mimetic love triangle in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. But he does not state from his vantage point in 1997 whether he has accepted any of D’Arcy’s refutation of Rougemont’s theory of erotic desire and love.

In Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, Girard turns to Rougemont to delineate erotic desire from love, commending the conclusion of Rougemont’s book to his reader. Writing that “the god Eros is the slave of death” who “thrusts us into the negation of life,” Rougemont avers that we can be delivered from desire, “the consumer of life,” by Agape. Agape is accessed through fidelity in marriage. A faithful man looks at women in a way “unknown to the world of Eros.” With a “clear-sighted gaze, the faithful man stands above the “irresistible nature of passion,” separating himself from “savage and natural love manifested in rape” and holding to marriage as the “institution in which passion is contained not by morals, but by love.” Rougemont views embodied expressions of love with such skepticism that he valorizes Christian mystics who were not married as models for faithful marriage, especially St. John of the Cross who escapes “even the desire of love,” is “empty of all covetousness,” and treats love with a kind of semi divine indifference.” With Rougemont as his guide, Girard sketches what love will look like after conversion from metaphysical disease. It will be freed of all erotic dimensions as Rougemont has commended: Girard contrasts the askesis of deviated transcendence in erotic desire to mystics’ vertical transcendence who have been given the gift of God’s grace.

To my knowledge, in none of Girard’s works is D’Arcy’s counter to Rougemont explicated. Nor does Girard ever criticize Rougemont’s dualistic and negative views toward sexual desire, reclaiming it at least for partners in marriage. Even as Girard discusses with ever more subtlety the joining of human history and personal story in human violence, the play of embodied desire in love and sex falls from view.

In this presentation, drawing on Girard’s commentary on Rougemont in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel and analyzing D’Arcy’s The Mind and Heart of Love, I will take steps toward answering questions that arise in the wake of Girard’s comments at the D’Arcy Lecture. When Girard states that “Father D’Arcy has something to do with the ideas I have developed all my life,” what does Girard mean? When Girard read D’Arcy side-by-side with Rougemont, how is it that Rougemont came to feature prominently in one of Girard’s most important books while D’Arcy remained invisible?   Finally, given Girard’s expressed ambivalence about erotic desire, which links it with acquisitive rather than positive mimesis, what can we imagine might have changed in Girard’s thought, if D’Arcy’s study of Eros and Agape had informed Girard’s work, rather than Rougemont’s?

3) Joakim Wrethed: “In an Artist’s Studio” by Christina Rossetti as Seeing Without Seeing: Girard, Heidegger, Scotus and Marion

“In an Artist’s Studio” is a Victorian poem that has kept its affective and cognitive brilliance for more than a century. This paper claims that the perennial qualities of the poem partly have to do with the complexity of seeing that it makes manifest. On a superficial level, the poem illustrates the male artist’s predatory gaze appropriating the female figure, in other words, acting as the subject that cannot properly see the Other. This is however problematized by the fact that we have a witness in the studio who comments on what s/he sees. According to Girard’s logic of the contagious mimetic desire, the witness ought to desire the object too. There is certainly a sense of desire involved but it is partly overruled by the word, the sign, language, that makes seeing possible. Drawing on Heidegger and Scotus, the argument will show that the disclosure of the world, the woman or the poem is always already “worded”. It is worded and worlded in the same stroke. The whole of being is reliant upon a primordial, inner word, a verbum interius. In addition to this, a requirement for an empathic seeing is the accompanying affectivity of love with a minimum degree of desire. Jean-Luc Marion’s philosophy on love and the erotic helps illustrate how love holds the poem together. On a metaphorical and allegorical level, the Petrarchan sonnet intimates the agape of the Christian theological tradition.

II C: Mimetic Theory and Social Contexts (Seminarraum III = SR III – KRP 1, Room No. 217)

Chair: Susan Wright

1) Marc Réveillon: The right to poverty

Following René Girard who urged us to a new ethic ("A new ethic is needed in times of disaster, in times when disaster must urgently be integrated into rationality"), we postulate a right to poverty which would be the basis of a radically new approach to Official Development Assistance (ODA). And we question the fundamental antagonisms between apocalyptic thought (Girard and Illich in particular) and the modern ideology of a development (and progress) that would only be possible thanks to an infinite (or indefinite) economic growth already beaten in breach (if not ridiculed) since at least the Meadows report to the Club of Rome, not to mention Illich and his emulators.

The simple question is this: Western models of economic development have brought us to ecological, political and spiritual collapse (which has been going on for a long time but which our Statesmen and other leaders have been (moderately) worrying about only recently); But these are the same models (yet now dressed up in “sustainable development” – see the SDGs –) that we offer to low income countries, and that we support with ODA. With the underlying idea that this development will also limit emigration and therefore immigration to our countries. We (the North American and European minority, but now largely followed by the BRICs) have led humanity to the brink of collapse and low-income countries are being asked to imitate us (what their leaders are eager to do)! We are singularly lacking in imagination. We are dangerous people.

How to explain that the official discourse (the ideology of progress, like an antiphon) of the ODA main international Agencies (the United Nations, the OECD, the World Bank, etc.) are in total contradiction with what did not ceased to be proclaimed for more than 50 years by thinkers such as, among others, Ivan Illich, René Dumont, Jacques Ellul, and René Girard (not to go back to Blaise Pascal)? How to claim now this right to poverty (opposed to misery in all its forms) as the basis of a real cooperation between the so-called "developed" countries and the so-called "developing" countries (and no longer the imperative: " Imitate us” that just leads to humanitarian aid)?

2) Claudio Lanza: Archaeology Violence and Conflict: A Conceptual Case for Mimetic Rivalry

From the early 1990s, despite scholars’ growing interest in rivalries (Azar, 1990; Kriesberg, 1993; Burton, 1990; Goertz and Diehl, 1993), they seem to have failed their main goal: ending the atypical intractability of rivalries, such as the case of Northern Ireland and the Palestinian territories. This paper argues that past approaches have been unable to transcend intractable violence because of their flawed explanation of rivalry emergence. Rivalry is not scarcity based. Therefore, this paper offers an alternative theoretical framework based on the concept of mimetic rivalry. It is based on an interdisciplinary approach informed by René Girard’s Theory of Mimetic Desire (2003), Agamben’s Theory of Signature (2009), and Leon Festinger’s Theory of Social Comparison (1954) Mimetic rivalry has no origin. It emerges out of a complex relational process, characterized by mimetic emulation, high negative reciprocity, and competition by comparison. Eventually, vengeance and retaliation lead to resentful actors, whose relationship is characterized by mistrust, enmity, and identity polarization.

3) Sandor Goodhart: Two Exiles: Sigmund Freud and René Girard

On March 12 of 1938, German National Socialist forces entered Austria in what became known as the “Anschluss.” Ten days later, Nazi storm troopers entered Freud’s home at 19 Berggasse in Vienna seizing his daughter, Anna Freud. The girl was returned home later that evening after several hours of interrogation at Nazi headquarters. A few weeks later, on June 4, 1938, Freud departed Vienna with his wife and daughter for good. After spending the night in Paris at the home of Princess Marie Bonaparte (with the help of the American Ambassador to France, William Bullitt, and his biographer Ernest Jones), Freud and his family arrived in Hempstead, England on June 6 where Freud remained until he died eighteen months later. During those final months, he worked on two books. He finished Moses and Monotheism, adding a third section in which he revised the earlier sections and focused on the murder of the Hebrew lawgiver by fellow Israelites in a story Freud believed was hidden behind the scriptural text. And he worked on an Outline of Psychoanalysis that remained unfinished at his death.

In 1943, René Noël Girard was stopped on the streets of Paris in the Quartier Latin by a member of the gendarmerie who demanded his identity papers (of which there were two competing sets) within eyesight of German soldiers. He later recalled that when he left in 1947 for the United States on a one year fellowship at Indiana University (never to return to France as a permanent resident), it was in part a response to the fears associated with that precarious street encounter. Once in the US, he received his Ph.D. and over the course of sixteen years wrote his three most important works: Romantic Lie and Novelistic Truth, Violence and the Sacred, and Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. In these books, he talked about imitated desire (and its potential for conflict), the control of that borrowed desire in archaic societies through mechanisms of sacrificial scapegoating, and the exposure of those surrogate exclusionary mechanisms in biblical scripture.

One exiled from Austria, the other from France. One motivated by clear potential harm to a family member, the other more by personal fears and memories of war time encounters. One writing about a repetition compulsion, the other about imitative desire. One writing about biblical scripture in ways that tell the story of realities hidden behind that text, the other also writing about biblical scripture in ways that tell the story of real events obscured behind that text—although a somewhat different story. Both writers finally, writing about exclusionary behaviors and scapegoating mechanisms as the founding gestures of the communities in which they continue to own membership. Through their refusal to confess to the murder of God (from a Christian perspective), Freud notes, Jews “have . . . shouldered a tragic guilt. They have been made to suffer severely for it” (176). And if we live in a world in which sacrificial violence occurs on a massive and disastrous scale, Girard writes, it is because we no longer acknowledge the truths conveyed to us by our holy scriptures: that sacrifices no longer work, that there must be an end to sacrifice, and that exclusionary behaviors lead only to more sacrificial violence.

Is there a basis for a genuine comparison between these two more or less forced émigrés? Are there lessons to be learned by comparing their histories that would be less apparent if considered separately? These are some of the questions I would like to explore in this paper.

II D: Mimetic Mechanisms in the Media (Hörsaal I = HS 1 – KRP 3, Room No. E09)

Chair: Dietmar Regensburger

1) Kirstin Breitenfellner: How can we talk about victims in the media?

Victims are omnipresent in the current media discourse, but the use of the term “victim” and the relationship between victims, perpetrators, and self-called saviours, who often become persecutors, are complicated. We live in a society that attaches more importance to victims than any other in history, and with many positive results: the legal protection of victims has been continuously expanded, more and more victims of abuse are coming forward as it is becoming less and less disgraceful to be known as a victim, and it is getting increasingly easier for victims to receive compensation. The negative consequences of this focus on victims result from a strange media scramble to seek out victims who accuse the perpetrators, themselves, or society in general in an effort to appear superior. Thus, an increased awareness of injustice, a heightened sense of humanism, and a political discourse which was once about promoting freedom and emancipation has now been replaced by moralising.

In the media, victims, like perpetrators, are often turned into scapegoats—hounded not only by journalists, but potentially by anyone in this age of social networks. Scandals, allegations of abuse, terror attacks, as well as the refugee crisis of autumn 2015 have produced new narratives of victimhood. Here too, it seems hard to tell victim from perpetrator: war refugees are initially considered to be victims. But what if they do not act as expected in their host country or even become perpetrators? Then the mood turns—and they quickly become new scapegoats.

While the political right wing tends to blame refugees and asylum seekers for all kinds of problems that existed long before the presence of said refugees—unemployment, crime, the plight of education—the left wing has appointed itself to be their saviour, although it does not always seem to be about those needing protection, but sometimes just about quarrelling with one’s political opponent. Thus, the discourse surrounding the immigration debate so far has more to do with mutual accusations and politics of emotion than about the exchange of arguments and the solving of problems.

Is there any way to counter the media’s use of scapegoats? The only option is to inform and educate people. According to René Girard’s theory of mimesis, scapegoats are created by an unconscious act of collective violence. It only works if everyone joins in and no one is consciously aware of their own actions. Therefore, it seems necessary to provide some clarity about the use of the terms victim and perpetrator, as well as the media’s handling of victims and perpetrators: to talk about victims and thus about scapegoats, in a rational and historically aware manner, without manipulation, without generalisations, without mutual condemnations, and without idolising victims or perpetrators.

2) António Machuco Rosa: Mimetic desire, exclusion, polarization in social digital networks

In this communication we analyse how mimetic desire is manifested in the structure and algorithms used in some digital social networks. We begin to recall the basic concepts of mathematical network theory and how it applies to networks such as Facebook. We then show how interactions such as “comments”, “likes “, “following”, etc. relates to mimetic desire and its spread by imitation. We stress how the design of social networks aims to increase interactions and so mimetic desire. We next show that it is also mimetic desire that is at the origin of well-documented phenomena in social networks such as the existence of filters bubbles and echo chambers. A central point of our communication is then to show that digital social networks, and in particular the algorithms that classify the visibility and popularity of pages, e.g. Edge Rank on Facebook, are ways to amplify and accelerate the spread of mimetic desire. They amplify engagement, emotions. They make more visible, and so more popular, particular forms of mimetic rivalry associated with anger, fear, exclusion, polarization and tribalization. Algorithms such as PageRank, Edge Rank, or the algorithms used by YouTube, are based on the principle that "popularity attracts popularity", and so they amplify existing trends and may lead to the suppression of opinions that deviates from the majority of opinions that these algorithms have helped to form. We conclude by a general discussion of how internet based media has profoundly shifted from the original intentions that led to the creation of digital social networks.

3) Kathleen M. Vandenberg: Mimetic Consumption of the “Wild:” Travel and the Contagious Representation of Nature as Other

When the jet age began around 60 years ago, about 25 million international trips were taken. In 2017, there were 1.3 billion. Across the globe, thanks in part to rising affluence, travel is becoming a more widely shared pastime. International trips were already up 6 percent in the first half of this year, surpassing experts’ forecasts. This increase is being attributed to bigger cruise chips, the rise of low-cost airlines, online booking, local reviews, smartphone mapping, home-sharing, and ride-hailing apps

At the same time, conservationists worldwide have become concerned that photographers who geotag their precise locations are putting fragile ecosystems and wild animals at risk. Tasmania has recently had to ask tourists to stop petting and taking selfies with wombats. And South Africa posts signs along safari routes that ask photographers not to share the locations of rhinos, who are targets of poachers. A recent study found that air pollution levels in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier and 29 other national parks differed little from those in the country’s 20 largest metropolitan areas.

Nature, the wilderness, exists, of course, in reality. But it is also culturally constructed as the “Other.” And it is an “Other” that, as Walker Percy argues, is “ almost impossible to confront and experience…because it has been symbolically constructed for us, and it is all but impossible to disentangle ourselves from this construction.”

Not only has it been rhetorically constructed, but, through travel, photography, and social media posts, we continue to rhetorically construct it. We are traveling to see. We are traveling, increasingly, to be seen. To post, to publish, to share. As Ian Dennis notes, “An experience is a possession, of course, and therefore an object of mediated desire… an experience, to attain anything close to its potential value, must be represented.”

We go to see “wilderness,” we go to have an experience, and we photograph that experience in an attempt to manage, represent, and possess it. The irony is that, as Susan Sontag notes, “cameras began duplicating the world at that moment when the human landscape started to undergo a vertiginous rate of change: while an untold number of forms of biological and social life are being destroyed in a brief span of time, a device is available to record what is disappearing.”

To look at these travel images on social media is to see what photographer Teju Cole observes: “People don’t merely go to the same places or take photographs of the same monuments and sites; they take photographs of the same monuments and sites in the same way. This applies to tourist sites, public spaces and ordinary buildings. The same gestures and vantage points and compositions are repeated, and the images come out so uncannily similar that it’s as though everyone were subject to the same set of instructions.”

This paper will examine how “wildlife” sites and “nature” are being increasingly photographed, shared, and promoted on social media platforms that create and sustain contagious enthusiasm for travel, with the result that ever-increasing hordes of viewers are traveling to the same sites repeatedly with serious repercussions for the environment.

I will argue that popular social media representations of travel primarily rhetorically depict tourism as an encounter between self and an increasingly idealized vision of nature as “Other.” In doing so, they deflect attention from the triangular relationship between self, other travelers, and “nature.” These images frequently visually minimize, marginalize, or elide the presence of other tourists and inhabitants, as well as the environment, and thus ignore the ecological impacts of tourist travel, while mimetically encouraging more travel. Mark Wallace observes in “Green Mimesis,” that we will save what we love, and advocates a redirection of our mimetic impulses to a non-rivalrous imitation of the Other, in this, and his case, nature. The challenge is how to redirect the mimetic gaze from the travel images that inflame a metaphysical desire to possess and represent an idealized wilderness to the actual nature that is being violently consumed by this desire.

II E: Theological Anthropology (Madonnensaal = MS – KRP 3, Room No. 201)

Chair: Scott Cowdell

1) Marcia Pally: Mimetic Violence: As old as Cain but not as old as Adam?

This presentation hopes to add to the conversation about Rene Girard’s theory of humanity—his understanding of human nature, the way we have been created and/or evolved to be. I will draw from my introductory and concluding chapters to the volume, Mimesis and Sacrifice: Applying Girard’s Mimetic Theory Across the Disciplines (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, M. Pally (ed); Joel Hodge, Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming, series editors). Central questions of the presentation are: Were human beings always mimetic? If so, was mimesis always a source of competition and thus of aggression? Might competitive violence arise from other sources, and if so, what are the implications for addressing violence today?

These questions inform one of the most foundational matters in philosophy, theology, and theodicy: our understanding of human nature. Just how violent are we created to be? If it is our nature to be not mimetic and competitive but mimetic and co-operative, cooperativity might be more ready-to-hand today than if we never have lived under norms of fairness and giving.

I will explore recent research in evolutionary biology suggesting that hunter-gatherer societies (95 percent of our evolutionary development) were indeed mimetic but show relatively lower levels of competitive aggression, especially intragroup but significantly, intergroup. That is, mimesis—which may be very old, reaching back to the formation of hominids and other mammals—may be uncoupled from competition. Mimesis and relative cooperativity are posited as a possible early human life form. (The new archeological sites at Göbekli Tepe and Çatalhöyük will be discussed in addition to other research.)

N.B., as we have been able to study the first million years of human life only recently, much about this period is unknown and remains an open question with more research needed and being done. Observing recent work in the field, there is reason to consider the hypothesis that hundreds and thousands of years of evolutionary pressures selected for what the biologists call “cooperativity,” the giving and sharing of resources for others and the common good. Even before homo sapiens, the homo erectus—to sustain the cooperation of hunts, group protection, and the care of offspring with long, vulnerable childhoods—evolved “an entirely new level of social organization beyond anything seen in nonhuman primates.” This social organization relied on communal property and fairly equitable distribution of resources within the primary group and to significant degrees “outside” groups. I will also look at work by Sarah Hrdy, Merlin Donald and others on the development of ritual (and the religious and politico-economic institutions that build upon it). Ritual emerged, on this view, from mimesis as it allows for play activities (repeating group games, theatrical representations of the past, projections into the future).

Evolutionary biology and mimetic theory agree in seeing aggression as linked to competition. The biology adds, however, that such competitive aggression may not be foundational to humanity—may not be human nature—but rather arrives with the transition from hunter-gathering to sedentarism (close quarters), agrarianism (more property to value and want), property concentrations, and thus inequality, envy, and the hoarding and grabbing of wealth that are characteristic of the period Girard called archaic.

If this is the case, the biblical Fall may be understood as a metaphor for the shift from Eden, where fruit is gathered up and shared, to the harsh world of subsistence farming, private property, envy, and violence, as we see in the Cain and Abel narrative. Indeed, Girard held that competitive aggression is as old as Cain—but not as old as Adam, not as old as humanity itself. There was a time before competitive aggression.

Rather than concluding that the biology and mimetic theory disagree about the nature of humanity, I will suggest that they describe different episodes in human development. The former may pertain to the long hunter-gatherer period, and mimetic theory, to our later period of “Cain”—agrarianism and property concentrations, where competitive animus may be released through the steam-valve of scapegoating. I will discuss why this view is consistent with mimetic theory.

Thus, it may be not social living or mimesis per se that prod competitive aggression but mimesis under conditions of inequality and the abandonment of the common good. I would propose this as a fruitful arena for future Girardian studies. The implications for today are that addressing competitive aggression requires not the end of sacrifice but rather buttressing forms of sacrifice that contribute to the well-being of society through fair distribution of resources among its members—as we evolved to do. One can readily hear the echo of the donative lessons of the cross, which Girard explored later in life.

2) Dominic Pigneri: Refugees from Eden: Original Sin in Schwager’s Banished from Eden

In the last issue of Contagion (Vol.25, 2018), the Catholic theologian Nathan O’Halloran, in his article “The Pre-Human Biological and Cultural Transmission of the Effects of Originating Sin,” describes a fallen human nature which is both biologically and culturally inherited. One of the goals of this article is to describe the origins of sin in humanity. For this, O’Halloran, relies in part on Girardian thought, especially through the work of James Alison. Ultimately, O’Halloran sees man’s sinfulness as inevitable due to a sinful state of the cosmos brought about by the very first sin committed through the fall of the angels.

With similar goals, Raymund Schwager, a Catholic theologian heavily influenced by Girard, in his book Banished from Eden, works to explain original sin and how it can be understood to be compatible with scientific theories of human evolution. But, unlike O’Halloran, and more traditionally, Schwager attempts to describe the origin of sin through a denial of the transcendent Other by the first human being, and within a social context.

My paper will compare Schwager’s view of original sin based in his book Banished from Eden with O’Halloran’s conception, introducing the merits (as well as pointing out some difficulties) in Schwager’s insightful work. It will highlight more explicitly how Schwager portrays sin as an individual and social-anthropological denial of the transcendent Other, emphasizing the positive offer of transcendence which original sin rejects. This gracious offer is something O’Halloran’s approach fails to deal with adequately, because it sees humanity as inevitably sinful before their existence.

3) Rebecca Pawloski: Christ´s Celibacy as Non-Violent Path

Does maintaining the discipline of priestly celibacy make sense in the wake of the clerical sexual abuse crisis? Following the Vatican’s February 2019 “Sex Abuse Summit”, the question is being asked in more than one milieu, and in March of 2020, the German bishops' conference will hold a synod to study connected questions, including clerical celibacy. René Girard’s “Violence and the Sacred” gives insight into a motivation for the religious practice of celibacy which both contrasts and complements contemporary “sex-positive” theologies of sexual continence. While the latter tend to present celestial imitation as the goal of abstinence, mimetic theory allows for an understanding of human nature that permits a desacralized reading of Christ’s own celibacy as a choice for non-violence. By exploring the connection between celibacy and spirituality in major world religions, one can see the question will not disappear, even after the German Church makes a decision regarding the practicability of priestly celibacy today.

II F: American Democracy in History and Literature (Seminarraum VI = SR VI – KRP 3, Room No. 102)

Chair: Roman Siebenrock

1) Bryan L. Kampbell: Containing the Contagion of Democracy: The Federalist and the Liberal Tradition

During the debate concerning ratification of the United States constitution, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, writing under the alias “Publius,” published a series of essays in newspapers in 17871788 in New York to garner support for ratification. Published together as The Federalist, the essays are considered seminal works of modern political theory with influence ranging far beyond the immediate American context. The Federalist remains an interesting text to study for a variety of reasons, one being that it enacts what Morton Horwitz describes as an “emergent American liberalism.” Interesting from a Girardian perspective is the authors’ pervasive employment of the metaphor of “contagion.” In his insightful analysis of the anti-democratic rhetoric of The Federalist, Jeremy David Engels elucidates how the authors of The Federalist, influenced by 18th century Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, depict human beings as mimetic creatures who are prone to get caught up in political factions when gathered together for democratic deliberation. Factions are even capable of becoming violent, as had been recently illustrated by various rebellions during the 1780s. This endemic human tendency renders democracy inherently unstable. The remedy advocated for, particularly in Federalist #10, is the “extended republic,” which increases the distance between individuals and between levels of government so as to contain the spread of the contagion. This paper examines the contagion and extension metaphors in The Federalist in light of René Girard’s mimetic theory and considers implications of recent popular critiques of Liberalism since the 2016 presidential election.


2) Stephen McKenna: Lincoln's Sacrificial Imagination: Constructions of The Other in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

This paper continues an ongoing project in which I have assayed mimetic dimensions in the rhetoric of Abraham Lincoln—what I call his "sacrificial imagination." In previous papers delivered at COV&R, I have examined this dimension of Lincoln's thought in lesser known, early speeches. This installment turns to a mimetically rivalrous set of rhetorical events, the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, with specific attention to the speakers' respective rhetorical constructions of "the other"—African-American slaves and free persons—not only as unequal but as outsiders threatening incursion across state boundaries. The paper looks at the problem of contagious "popular sovereignty" that, for Lincoln, would bode the ultimate expansion of slavery; the danger of disregarding "universal feeling" about the lower status of blacks; and purported indifference by Douglas regarding states' disposition on slavery as a covert means of perpetuating slavery. Though the debates took place over a century and a half ago, they resonate with contemporary rhetorical constructions of "the other" in our present age of immigration and partisan populism.

3) Andrew McKenna: Mimetic History in Fiction, Fact, and Prophecy: Twain, Douglass, Lincoln

Mimetic history, first named as such by Girard in Battling to the End (2009) is already deployed in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1962) as the passage from external mediation in Europe’s neoclassical age to internal mediation in modern society, as explored in its principle literary genre, the novel. Examples from our Western literary canon are available in Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, in Frederick Douglass’s Narrative in the Life of an American Slave, and in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address. In the first two, pathologies of desire are thematically and emphatically explored in ordinary human interaction, whereby we can see how Douglass’s autobiographical account of slave experience anticipates and confirms Twain’s insights. In Lincoln’s speech, the civil war is thematically and rigorously portrayed as a crisis of difference, much as we find it in the judgment of Solomon; and the crisis is resolved from the point of view of the victim of slavery, this perspective being the cornerstone of Girard’s epistemology. Many works of our canon of literary masterpieces continue biblical revelation’s focus on human relations from this point of view.

II G: Victimization in global hot spots (Seminarraum VII = SR VII – KRP 3, Room No. 103)

Chair: Wilhelm Guggenberger

1) Yaghoob Foroutan: Demographic Derivers of Religious Intolerance and Violence: Australia, Iran and New Zealand in Global Contexts

In this paper, I focus on political demography and present research based evidence to explore the role of demographic determinants on religious intolerance and violence. The demographic driver so-called ‘youth bulge’, for example, has been identified as one of the two main factors that provided a foundation for an Islamic resurgence in the Arab world leading to such events as the 11 September terrorist attack in the United States in 2001; and the most recent terrorist attack in New Zealand’s Christchurch Mosques in 2019 for which the killer was strongly driven by the demographic determinant of higher fertility for Muslims leading to their demographic superiority over Christians’ global population. I will present more examples from throughout the world in this presentation to address how religious intolerance and violence can be explained by demographic determinants.

Moreover, Huntington (1996) argued that western ethnoreligious minorities in the Islamic states are more discriminated and violated against than Islamic minorities in western states. Is he really right? In order to address this key question, I also present research findings from two varying religious contexts. The first part examines the status of Muslim minorities in the non-Islamic and western contexts of Australia and New Zealand that hold a wide range of religious minorities from throughout the world including Muslims, Jewish, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.. The second part of this paper focuses on the status of religious minorities in the Islamic context, the Islamic Republic of Iran, that is a Shi'a dominated context and its religious minorities include Sunni as well as Zoroastrians, Jewish, Christians etc. In sum, the research findings of this presentation will shed further lights on the association between religion, intolerance and violence from demographic perspectives.

2) Johann Rossouw: South Africa’s colonial wound: Girard and the struggle for reconciliation in South Africa

Momentous events such as the British colonization of parts South Africa in the early 19th century, the establishment of the Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State in the 1850s, the discovery of gold and diamonds in the 1860s and 1870s, the Anglo-Boer (a.k.a. South African War) of 1899 to 1902, and the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910 laid the groundwork for a destructive mimetic logic in South African history and politics that has to day not been resolved. In this paper an analysis will be provided of how this mimetic logic was at play in the anti-colonial resistance movements of Afrikaner- and African nationalism, the rise and demise of apartheid, and the ongoing struggle for reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa. Drawing on the work of Girard and other post-colonial writers like Fanon, Memmi and Mishra the conflicts between Brit, Afrikaner and African that have shaped and still shape South Africa with its enduring colonial nature will be analysed in order to make sense of the roots of inter-communal conflict and South Africa – and to consider how inter-communal reconciliation may still come about. 

3) Aleksei Zygmont: The World of Judo Masons and Sodomites: Enemy Images in the Contemporary Russian Orthodoxy

 The paper considers the various enemy images and the nature of such imagery in the contemporary (since the late 80s) Russian Orthodoxy. It is argued to be permeated by these images at each level, from the Moscow Patriarchate official discourse to the nationalistic movements and the eschatological subculture. The author asserts that in many ways they constitute the worldview of the Russian Orthodox believers, setting their intrinsic basic structure of distinction between "us" and "them", where the latest are represented by "satanic forces" featuring "judo-masons", "sodomites", "sectarians" etc. willing to destroy the Holy Rus. At the other hand, these images could vary depending on the "definition of the situation" of each group. They can be generally divided into three major types: "global" enemies such as the "apostatic West", and the forces of the Devil and the Antichrist, who set the basic dualist framework of the cosmic struggle between good and evil; "regular" enemies such as "sodomites" (which means LGBQK), and "sectarians" (for example, Jehovah's Witnesses or Scientologists), with whom the Orthodox should combat in their mundane lives; finally, "eschatological" enemies such as having the Mark of the Beast, whose images express the totality of violence and the complete undifferentiation in the situation of the sacrificial crisis. Thus, the author makes the conclusion that here, victimization of oneself, that is presenting "us" as a collective scapegoat persecuted by others, justifies the alarmist sentiments and violence towards the real scapegoats like LGBTQ or the members of the New Religious Movements, which could be both legal and personal.

Friday, July 12, Afternoon 14:30-16:00: Concurrent Session III

III A: Philosophy and Mimetic Theory (Dekanatssitzungssaal = DSS – KRP 1, Room No. 104)

Chair: Michael Kirwan

1) Jeremiah Alberg: Transcendent Principles and the Violent Sacred

The reason we do not understand Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is because we do not understand the role of violence in it. Neither does Kant make this understanding easy. I will make it easier by stating that the original unconditioned or totality of conditions was the scapegoat victim. There was nothing before the victim, just the synchronic chaos of violence. This violence got mimetically directed and focused on the victim and then everything – all conditions – flowed out of him or her. Reason reaches back for the unconditioned because that it is that out of which it emerged. But reason tries to find its way back to its origin via the very thing that produced it in the first place: violence, in particular the violence of polemics. This simply means that every step towards its origin becomes a step away. The closer we get to the undifferentiated, the more language betrays us in our attempt to express it, since language is designed to express difference. The reciprocal violence of rivalry with its constant negation of any position, leads reason to posit that there is an X that both rivals desire but which neither can have. This is the absolute of human reason or Kant’s “Ideal.” 

2) Anthony D. Traylor: Heidegger on Nature

Given this year’s theme of “Imagining the Other” coupled with the reference to “nature” as a kind of “other,” I would like to submit a presentation that treats Heidegger’s evolving view of nature first set forth in Being and Time and culminating in his account of “physis” as it appears in his later thought. Within the context of Being and Time, nature is generally conceived in terms of Vorhandenheit (presence-at-hand), namely, a scientifically determined projection of the being of beings whereby things are deprived of “worldhood” and envisioned purely objectively such that beings readily lend themselves to mathematical description and calculability. But beyond this Newtonian interpretation of nature, another sense of nature as enthralling, threatening, and uncanny emerges, precisely where Heidegger discusses the connection between anxiety and the disclosure of the worldhood of the world. Despite introducing this alternative sense of nature or presence-at-hand, Being and Time neglects to develop a full-fledged ontology of nature and instead keeps the spotlight on Dasein (the human being), its existential structure, and Dasein’s understanding of being as the transcendental condition for unveiling the being of things. It is not until Basic Problems of Phenomenology that Heidegger seriously contends with the being of nature on its own terms, as having a sense independently of world-disclosure. But even here, nature’s place within the overall question concerning the meaning of being in general goes unanswered. It is not until the mid-1930s that Heidegger draws upon the Greek experience of nature as “physis” and gives nature the kind of phenomenological attention it deserves as something transcendent and playing a central role in the original or “inceptual” encounter with the being of beings at the dawning of Western philosophy. Nature is no longer seen as a one sector of beings among others (capable of being technologically exploited or theoretically determined) but as the very being of beings as such as the latter mysteriously emerge into the open and are explicitly apprehended for the first time. For this reason, nature as physis constitutes the very source of “otherness” and this otherness as such gets reflected in Dasein (the human being) in its unique role as the “guardian of being.” In this respect, talk of the “other” is ontologically grounded in the very being of things. The title of my proposed paper is “Heidegger on Nature.”

3) Sherwood Belangia: Mimetic Desire and the Piety of Socrates

Socrates’ religious peculiarity are not just a quirk of his personality but at the very essence of his vocation and philosophy. At the same time, no person in Western literature is as explicitly committed to interdividual existence and its attendant mimetic features as Socrates. Are these two sides of his character related? I believe so. First, this paper will interpret the sections of Plato’s Republic that deal with mimetic (scandalous) representations of the gods. It will show that the significant passages are not really about suppressing these depictions in fear (as Rene Girard tended to read them). Rather, the passages in question evince a deep understanding of mimetic desire and its pathologies, particularly scandals born of external mediation. The next section will focus on Socrates’ defense against the charge of impiety (asebia) in Plato’s Apology. There, Socrates reveals how his piety (eusebia) unities the knots of scandal caused by internal mediation in an explicitly interdividual way, i.e. elenchic conversation. Finally, the paper will offer a mimetic interpretation of Socrates’ daimon as portrayed in the dialogues of both Plato and Xenophon. In the manner of Oughourlian, this well-attested “occult” phenomenon will be shown to have a mimetic explanation.

III B: Feminist Thinking, Migration, Theology and Mimetic Theory (Seminarraum I = SR I – KRP 1, Room No. 048)

Chair: Petra Steinmair-Pösel

1) Chelsea King: Perspective of An-Other: Girard through a Feminist lens

René Girard has greatly influenced the theological landscape. From theological anthropology to soteriology, his “mimetic theory” has captured the imagination of many theologians in the 20th and 21st centuries. For some, his understanding of “sacrifice” as “self-sacrifice” has been a refreshing change from the God of wrath associated with many “penal substitutionary” theories of atonement. Theologians such as Raymund Schwager, SJ and James Alison have found solace in Girard’s soteriology, for it dispels the “myth” that God needs or demands a sacrifice at all. However, despite this positive appraisal, Girard has faced numerous critiques from another: feminist theologians. While Girard may have successfully avoided attributing violence to God, the very idea of “self-sacrifice” becomes problematic when applied to women. Women, especially women of color, are already prone to live their lives in self-sacrifice, and so the image of “self-sacrifice” is not only damaging from a sociological and psychological viewpoint, but also detrimental to a woman’s full flourishing and salvation in Christ. In this paper, I consider this critique carefully and use it to reimagine Girard’s understanding of sacrifice. Girard himself has developed his soteriology over his lifetime, and it is my contention that a feminist critique of sacrifice will expand and further develop Girard’s central soteriological claims.

2) Annette Edenhofer: Who is coming? Who comes to meet? Migrants, Refugees, host(ile) countries: The Perspectives of Martha Nussbaum and René Girard

“Why do you take note of the mote in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the beam in your eye?” (Mt 7, 3f.)

Increasing number of migrants and refugees is but one of many phenomena associated with globalization’s harsh contentions, sometimes escalating violence. Faced with the danger of self-destruction, Martha Nussbaum advocates the need to cultivate cosmopolitan love within the bounds of patriotism. Accordingly, she believes human progress to be possible. In contrast, Girard, skeptical of the enlightenment notion of self-salvation, cautions against the apocalyptic tension: When peace necessitates the renunciation of domination this challenge, concomitantly, provokes its rejection. Hence, a spiritual conversion is required to transform the pay-back anger that keeps the spiral of violence spinning into something that provides the basis of sustainable peace.

Both Nussbaum and Girard differ in the strategies they deem conducive to furthering peace and their optimism regarding the latter’s success. Yet, their strategies share two key concepts, namely scapegoating and love of enemies. Indeed, they both refer to projection as an obstacle to reconciliation and point to the biblical motif of “mote and beam”. While Nussbaum identifies the beam with fear due to helplessness and the loss of status overcompensated by blaming Girard believes the metaphor to illustrate the binding force of accusations as a mechanism of mimetic rivalry. For both thinkers terms, like ‘waves of refugees’, ‘infiltration by terrorists’ and ‘workplace rivals’, are indicative of a craving for protection in times of insecurity that often reinforces hostility. But it is, in fact, solidarity that might prompt us to go beyond the narrow confines of restricted empathy by regarding the needy as people whose appeal to our generosity subsides in their helplessness – not their baser instincts to deprive us of the goods we enjoy. In examining both Nussbaum’s and Girard’s viewpoints more closely we will develop the theoretical underpinning for the “mote-and-beam” notion of political justice and illustrate the latter by discussing John Hume’s legacy for Brexit.

3) Wiel Eggen: Monadic prelates without the divine rival

That the Western humanist subject relates so badly to strangers is largely due to a 'pious' misreading of God's original challenge, causing a perky rivalry with the transcendent 'Villain' and the rules He allegedly imposed. Even as this satanic flaw gave birth to the priced notions of subjectivity and gender equality, its effect proved very ambivalent. Starting from the liturgy of an episcopal consecration, I will reflect on this ambivalence and propose a Trinitarian reading of the Girardian remedy, rooted in French spiritualism and its link to Leibniz' Augustinian reply to Descartes' dualism. Thus to illustrate Paul's view (a.o. in Eph.2:14) of the Christ bodily terminating the enmity initiated by the first Adam. Prelates, and indeed all faithful, are monads called to partake in that radical anti-Adamic revolt.

III C: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives on Migration (Seminarraum III = SR III – KRP 1, Room No. 217)

Chair: Nikolaus Wandinger

1) Markus Wierschem: Conceptualizing Violentropy: Steps to a Transdisciplinary Concept of Dis | Order

 Taking a syncretic perspective that correlates Mimetic and Systems Theory with Thermodynamics and Information Theory, I will explore fault lines that emerge, firstly, between the association of entropy with the disorder of a system, and secondly, the association of entropy and information. Thirdly and centrally, I examine the connection of both concepts to contributions made in the generative anthropology of René Girard.

 Girard’s theories on the mimetic and reciprocal dynamics of desire, violence, and the ‘scapegoat’ mechanism as the foundation and evolutionary drive of cultural order offer a particular take on the role of difference, its genesis and disappearance, and thus resonate with conceptions of the order of any system – physical, biological, or social – as based on differentiation. Much the same can be said about the role of information – that is, the information-theoretic basis of all communicative processes – which Gregory Bateson once described as “a difference which makes a difference.” In particular, the scapegoat reveals intriguing structural and practical analogies to James Clerk Maxwell’s famous thought experiment, the ordering agent and ‘scientific myth’ known as Maxwell’s Demon, which continues to cast its long shadow on thermodynamics and information theory. These semantic and structural analogies offer the possibility of connecting violence, information, and entropy within a unified concept: Violentropy. In this way, it may become possible to relate, in Andrew McKenna’s words, the operations of signs to the operations of the socius, and to relate both to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: the (Girardian) Apocalypse against the heat-death of the universe.

2) Timon Odeny: Theo-Political Challenges Concerning the Relations of Somali migration in Kenya

This article focuses on the “theo-political” inner core of Somali-Kenya migration. The article has been motivated by Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) soldiers invading Somaliland, but claiming “Linda Inchi,” that they are protecting their borders. This is a response to the socioeconomic situation and the violence initiated by al-Shabab militia group both in Kenyan and Somalia. The volatile situation has forced many Somali to seek refuge in Kenya. With migration has come the “sacralisation of migration” where Kenyans equate the Muslim refugees with militia. Left unchallenged, this equation can lead to scapegoating of Muslims. There has also been “politicization of religion” in Kenya, where politician court and count on the refugee votes. Kenyan and Somalians each have unique cultures, unique political ideologies; they imagine the other differently, and they fear the differences. They each fear more economic instability, and so far as the Kenyans want to give refuge to, and protect, vulnerable Somali refugees they also feel what we might term a “rivalry of desires,” where they want to exploit the refugees. This rivalry can lead group violence against individual victims who become surrogates for all refugee victims. It is important to address this imagining of the other, and its consequent rivalry for their impact on the immigration.

3) Emil Hobi: Impulse aus der mimetischen Theorie für die praktische Seelsorge in Zeiten der Migration (Präsentation given in German)

Das 20-minütige Referat trägt den Titel „Impulse aus der mimetischen Theorie für die praktische Seelsorge in Zeiten der Migration“. Beim Referat würde ich mich primär auf „Das Ende der Gewalt. Analyse eines Menschheitsverhängnisses“ und „Das Ende der Gewalt. Analyse des Menschheitsverhängnisses“ abstützen. Der fremde Mensch erfüllt unter anderen die vom Literaturwissenschaftler Girard erwähnte Opferrolle. Die Anbahnung der Voropferphase zu erahnen und die Gesellschaft gegen den Fremdenhass vorzeitig zu sensibilisieren zählt zum Aufgabenbereich der in der christlichen Seelsorge Tätigen. Dabei empfiehlt es sich die Begrifflichkeit des Fremden – oder noch Fremden – weit zu fassen: Beispielsweise können Neuankömmlinge in einer Gemeinde, selbst aus demselben Kulturkreis, oder jeder Anfänger/jede Anfängerin in einem Arbeitsteam von der bisherigen Mehrheit als „befremdlich“ empfunden werden. Die mimetische Theorie verhilft Arbeits- und Seelsorgeteams ein subtiles Rivalitätsdenken zumindest in Ansätzen besser zu durchschauen und trägt so zu dessen Überwindung bei. Die Aufdeckung des Rivalitätsdenkens und Opfermechanismus aus dem reichen und breit gestreuten Fundus des jüdisch-christlichen Schrifttums im AT und NT sensibilisiert gegenüber versuchten Exklusionen des als fremd empfundenen Mitmenschen. Die christliche Gemeinde erfährt sich nach ihrem Selbstverständnis und gemäss ihren eigenen Ansprüchen, wenn sie die Reich-Gottes-Botschaft Jesu rezipiert und vertieft, als Einheit von Menschen über alle Ethnien und Kulturen hinweg. Indem die SeelsorgerInnen in ihren pastoralen Diensten und Katechesen aufdecken, dass Jesus von Nazaret selbst Opfer einer ansteckend gewalttätigen Mimesis geworden ist, vermögen sie die Angehörigen ihrer Glaubensgemeinschaft vermehrt mit Menschen fremder Herkunft zu identifizieren. Der Zimmermannssohn Jesus von Nazaret wurde aus der Jerusalemer Perspektive in einem weitgefassteren Sinne als Fremdling herabgewürdigt: Er gehörte nicht zu einer etablierten Gruppierung um den Tempel und er war Galiläer. Die christliche Pastoral und Spiritualität identifiziert das Leiden fremder Schutz und Hilfesuchender, mit dem Leiden des Jesus von Nazaret, wenn sie das Fremdsein des Mannes aus Nazaret als Sündenbock konstatiert. Ausserdem verschweigt René Girard nicht jenen Aspekt der kollektiven Selbstbezichtigung gegenüber den Opfern – und damit implizit auch gegenüber Migrantinnen und Migranten –, welchem wir auch in kirchlichen Kreisen begegnen: Um sich selbst zu exkulpieren, werden frühere Generationen oder das eigene Volk mit dem Sündenbockstatus belastet. Nach Girard fokussiert sich jedoch das Christentum auf die eigene persönliche Schuld, was Kollektivverantwortung mit Handlungsbedarf gerade nicht ausschliesst, jedoch nicht auf subtile Weise wieder neue Sündenböcke erzeugen soll. Die Aufdeckung des Sündenbockmechanismus schafft in Bezug auf die Schriften des Alten und Neuen Testamentes eine verstärkte Identifikation zwischen dem leidenden Gottesknecht – Ebed Jahwe/Jesus Christus – zum leidenden Mitmenschen. Christinnen und Christen, welche einfühlsam auf den Gekreuzigten blicken, verhalten sich resistenter gegenüber der vereinnahmenden Stimme des Mobs Fremden gegenüber. Die vom Innsbrucker Theologieprofessor Raymund Schwager erörterte Demutschristologie identifiziert den leidenden Christus mit dem Leiden von MigrantInnen, was Gottes und Nächstenliebe verbindet.

III D: Scapegoating in Film (Hörsaal I = HS 1 – KRP 3, Room No. E09)

Chair: Matthew Packer

1) Alessandro Grilli: Demonizing the Other: witch hunt, cultural theory, and the Girardian scapegoat (45 min)

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the productivity of Girard’s scapegoat theory far beyond the framework of a strictly Girardian anthropo-theology, and to show its fundamental relevance to a culturological interpretation of social dynamics, and to an anthropological understanding of the literary imagination. I will focus on a specific aspect of a major chapter in the history of victimization: through the analysis of contemporary literary and cinematic texts (from Sh. Jackson’s We’ve Always Lived in the Castle to S. King’s Carrie, to R. Egger’s The VVitch. A New-England Folktale ) I will try to show how the process of becoming a witch is culturally constructed as a response to a dynamic of victimization, where the victim is selected and made the object of exclusion and violence in a way that can be completely accounted for by Girard’s scapegoat theory.

I will then show how a number of interesting developments can follow if the Girardian perspective is complemented by key concepts stemming from social constructionism and cultural theory. In this hybrid perspective, the witch’s demonic traits, presented not as intrinsic and originary, but as a reaction to collective violence, can be easily interpreted as a consequence of a cultural process of demonization, whose purpose is to highlight the dangers which would ensue for the whole of society if the victim refused to take up her role in the dynamic described by Girard. The demonic connotation ascribed to the witch therefore works as a sort of cautionary tale: its only purpose is to encode in the group’s shared worldview a subliminal warning against the devastating possibility of a reluctant scapegoat, that is, of a victim who, instead of submitting to her fate shows herself capable of fighting back, and therefore of redirecting the unanimous violence inside, as a divisive force disgregating the community.

III E: Mimetic Theory in Psychology and Education (Madonnensaal = MS – KRP 3, Room No. 201)

Chair: Józef Niewiadomski

1) D. Vincent Riordan: Madness and the Archetypal Scapegoat

This paper considers an application of Girard’s work to the field of evolutionary psychiatry. It discusses two related evolutionary hypotheses which I have recently advanced; The Archetypal Scapegoat Hypothesis on the origins of psychosis (schizophrenia) and the Sacrificial Victim Hypothesis on the origins of suicidality. Whereas previous applications of mimetic theory to psychiatry have tended to focus on psychological traits common to the whole human population, such as mimetic desire and crowd behaviours, these hypotheses postulate that additional specific victim traits also emerged in a small minority of individuals, characterised not by a tendency to avoid victimisation, but rather by a tendency to attract it.

This would have functioned as a type of altruism which, in the case of psychosis, would have provided communities with recourse to individuals about whom unanimous hostility was more likely. Also, as even in the modern world the psychotic are often perceived as being imbued with a quasi-malevolent mystique, I argue that this would have increased the likelihood of misrecognition. In other words, the presence of such “transcendent others” would have optimised the efficacy of the scapegoat mechanism. A similar link between psychosis and religion has been suggested by previous evolutionary hypotheses, and of course Girard made the link between victimisation and religion, but this archetypal scapegoat hypothesis incorporates all three; Victimisation, religion and psychosis.

Similarly, the sacrificial victim hypothesis posits that human sacrificial ritual would have been facilitated by some individuals having a propensity, under certain circumstances, to acquiesce, if not to volunteer, to being victims.

A common type of psychosis, often linked to suicidality, is that of delusions of guilt. Today we invariably recognise the delusional nature of such claims of self-culpability, but it seems reasonable to assume that this is not how an archaic society would have reacted to a member who, during a crisis, volunteered that they were to blame. If the adaptive function of scapegoating relied on unanimous belief in the guilt of the victim, then that function would have been enhanced if even the (deluded) victims themselves believed in their own guilt.

Thus, the uniquely human phenomena of psychosis and suicidality, rather than being “disorders”, or unfortunate by-products of hominization, might instead be thought of as modern manifestations of what were once important and sophisticated functional adaptations. They may even have been the catalysts that facilitated the emergence of the scapegoat mechanism, enabling our ancestors to cross the threshold of hominization.

It is argued that these hypotheses are consistent with how psychosis and suicidality present in the modern “demythologised” world, and that they can account for many hitherto unexplained features of psychosis and suicidality including incidence, prevalence and risk factors. This application of Girard’s ideas might also inform the ongoing debate about the fundamental nature of mental illness, while helping us to better understand and thus counter the persistent tendency to stigmatise and to exclude the mentally ill.

2) Helene Cristini: How can education educate the educators following René Girard’s apocalyptical thinking’

According to René Girard’s apocalyptical thought, the human being, and not God, could be the only one responsible for a possible apocalypse. It is about the most alarming geopolitical threats which are, global warming and religious terrorism. At the origin of these two threats, is the same way of seeing man and nature. This vision, at the source of these problems, is transmitted through education, culture and the mass media. The epistemology and the ontology that took shape with modernity, shaped our western model of thought. When eighteen century thinkers emphasized the individual in order to free him from all the yokes (religious, political or philosophical), they did not know that three centuries later, the individual would be a slave again, but of an all different order: from his or her mimetic models accentuated by its aggravated autonomy. If the modernity evacuated "God" (or the vertical transcendence), it gradually replaced them with its idols that became reason or money. Thus, the old theocentric model was replaced by the anthropocentric model, which today leads to the self-deification of the human being. This evolution has led to all the environmental, societal and cultural abuses we know. Basking in a culture that not only undermines the vertical transcendence, but also the human being and his relationship to the other one and nature, the individual has very few choices: a hedonistic utilitarian life (precipitating us into an ecological crisis because unable to self-censor oneself) or a life full of resentment (going to the nihilistic despair of the terrorists killing strangers, only in retaliation for their lack of being, unable to renounce hatred). Indeed, if the mimetic desire of the human being allows us to escape the animal condition, if we want it; it can, either lower us below the level of the animal or raise us over it. However, this possibility to have access to free will through a truly enlightened education still needs to be provided. This latter aims to allow harmony to take place with the other one and nature. For that purpose, the current educational model of thinking has to give up its idols whatever they are, we shall attempt to analyse henceforth.

3) Curtis Gruenler / Dennis Feaster (via Skype): Modelling Conversion: Positive and Negative Mimesis in Communities of Care for Children with Intellectual Disabilities

This collaboration between a literary theorist and a social worker aims to apply mimetic theory to disability studies and the practice of care for children with intellectual disabilities. Through fieldwork both in China and in our local community of Holland, Michigan, we identified models of relational dynamics illuminated by an understanding of mimetic desire and the scapegoat mechanism. On one hand, there is a “violence loop” that leads to increasing dysfunction and perpetuates the othering of those with disabilities. On the other hand, there is a “conversion spiral” moving toward fully inclusive and supportive communities, in which a crucial role is played by those who model conversion in Girard’s sense of a change of desire that is open to a new, unforeseeable future. The results of this process can be compared to the work of Wolf Wolfensberger and his theory of social role valorization, Jean Vanier and the L’Arche movement, and, most directly, to the disability theory articulated by Tobin Siebers, who was also a scholar of Girard.

We hope that further work in this direction will guide new efforts to improve the capacity for individual and collective self-determination of persons with disabilities in their home communities. Specifically, we hope that mimetic theory will yield new avenues of inquiry and innovative strategies for intervention at individual, family, and community levels. We also anticipate that these interventions may prove applicable not only in a US based context, but, given the universality of Girard’s perspective, in a global context as well.

III F: Scapegoats, Monsters & Literature (Seminarraum VI = SR VI – KRP 3, Room No. 102)

Chair: Andrew McKenna

1) Timothy Long: The Scapegoat in Art / The Scapegoat as Art

Through the centuries, the European art tradition has participated in obscuring the scapegoating mechanism which was revealed on the cross. However, a significant counter-tradition of artists have intuited the sacrificial structure of the artwork and turned its exclusionary power against itself. For this paper, I will look at two European artists of the twentieth century, Georges Rouault (French, 18711958) and Arnulf Rainer (Austrian, born 1929), who have used the image of Christ to connect the scapegoating violence of the cross to the aesthetic operation of the frame, thereby unveiling the artwork’s participation in the collective victimage mechanism on a thematic and structural level. Jacques Derrida in his essay on the nature of frames in painting notes “the parergon is a form which has as its traditional determination not that it stands out but that it disappears, buries itself, effaces itself, melts away at the moment when it deploys its greatest energy” (The Truth in Painting). Read through a Girardian lens, this statement describes in suggestive terms the sacrificial nature of the frame — how the quasi-divine presence of the artwork, its “aura” to use Walter Benjamin’s term, is created through the expulsion of the image from the life world in the functional equivalent of a scapegoating event. Following the analysis of Hans Belting (Likeness and Presence), it is possible to historically locate the origins of this aesthetic sacrificial mechanism by following the series of substitutions that lead back from the modern art work, to the icon, to the cult images of late Antiquity (religious, imperial, and funerary). From there, following Girard’s lead, it is a small leap to pinpoint the origin of the artwork in a founding murder and its mimetic reconstruction in a visual surrogate. According to this schema, the frame represents the mechanism by which the power of sacrificial ritual is transferred to the image. The structure of the artwork is thus invested in the exclusionary practices by which society maintains social cohesion through the collective victimage mechanism. The genius of the work of Rouault and Rainer is to recognize the structural analogy between the frame and the cross. In the paintings and prints of the Passion by Rouault, and in the Kreuz and Christusbilder series of paintings and overpainted photographs by Rainer, the mini-scapegoating event produced by the frame is redirected to position the viewer inside its sacred precincts, thus creating an identification with the victim depicted within. Both artists achieve this by foregrounding the multiple framing devices which mediate the image of Christ, whether the heavy black outline of Rouault or the violent hand-overpainting of Rainer. Held a distance and effaced, the image of the scourged and humiliated Christ paradoxically comes alive as the frames deploy their “greatest energy,” bringing the viewer into contact with suffering flesh of the scapegoat. Significantly, both Rouault and Rainer use this image to respond to the crises brought about by the dehumanizing violence of the First World War (Rouault) and the Second World War (Rainer). As Europe witnesses a rising tide of intolerance and inhumanity in response to the current migration crisis, it is important to reflect on the power of frames to distance and aestheticize the image of Other, but also the potential of artists to break those frames to create an intimate contact with the victim of collective violence.

2) Maura Junius: Man or Monster: The Imagined Other in Five Theatrical Productions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

On the bicentennial of the publication of the first novel in the science fiction genre Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, four Chicago theater companies (Lifeline Theatre, Remy Bumppo, Court Theatre, and Lookingglass Theatre) and the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis presented productions of the story each using scripts by different playwrights. Having attended all of these five productions, I will explore how the thematic focus in each production reflected a different aspect of mimetic theory while all revealed the horror of an imagined other.

3) William Johnsen: Ibsen's Emperor and Galilean & Mimetic History

Ibsen regarded this play as his most important (Hovedwerk/Hauptwerk) yet it has been neglected, partially because of its length, which makes it almost unstageable, but also the sinister associations of its theme.

Julian the Apostate wishes to return the Roman Empire to its pre-Christian period. The mystic Maximus advises him that he is the 'leader' who will deliver humanity to 'the third kingdom' beyond Classical and Christian. Brian Johnston has convinced scholars that Ibsen intended to invoke a Hegelian synthesis in the figure of Julian and his work as a whole.

Readers have not been slow to pick up the play's imagery of the leader and the third kingdom and, while exonerating Ibsen of any real responsibility for future developments, can hardly avoid noticing and free-associating the connection to Nazi culture, such as Steven F Sage, in Ibsen and Hitler (one of the most intellectually dishonest books I have ever read).

Ibsen began researching and planning the play while living in Rome, and finally wrote it while living in Dresden (187173). Achever Clausewitz offers us an opportunity to create a new context for reading this play as an important episode in mimetic history. After the Crucifixion violence can no longer produce peace, can no longer produce anything but itself. The play is more properly understood as Clausewitzian than Hegelian

III G: Mimetic Theory and the Bible (Seminarraum VII = SR VII – KRP 3, Room No. 103)

Chair: Joel Hodge

1) Berry Vorstenbosch: Mimetic Nothingness: A Girardian Reading of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

When employing the word ‘nothingness’ philosophers often conjure up images of empty space or images of absences, like absence of matter. This I would like to call the ontological approach to ‘nothingness’. But there is also a more every day approach which I would like to term mimetic. We are talking about low esteem, status, prestige, regard. When a person says ‘I am just a nothing’ he or she is talking about a very bad moment in the circulation of mimetic/metaphysical desire.

One of the most famous verses employing a term for nothingness (ta mē onta) in the Pauline letters can be found in the first chapter of 1 Corinth: ‘And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothingness things that are.’ 1 Corinth 1:28.’ In recent years this verse has provoked a lot of philosophic commentary (my source here is Paulus en de filosofen by Gert-Jan van der Heiden, discussing Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, Garry Taubes, Slavoj Žižek and Martin Heidegger).

Against these, at times fascinating philosophical excursions, I want to reemphasize the idea that St. Paul is basically voicing his mimetic worries. He is concerned with the way some groups in the early community in Corinth who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, try to experience themselves as superior to others – because they were circumcised (had a Jewish background), because of the authority of the one by whom they were baptized, or because of possessing a ‘gift’ like prophesying or speaking in tongues. Paul rejects all these mimetic developments.

Apart from 1 Corinth 1:28 I will discuss a number of other passages in this letter which employ Greek terms that can be (and are) translated with the word ‘nothingness’. These passages exacerbate the notion that St. Paul’s basic focus is mimetic. Ontological meanings, if they are there at all, always have to be understood as secondary.

The words that are translated with the word ‘nothingness’ are embedded in a mimetic context. So a reading of St. Paul’s letter can be helpful in describing what ‘mimetic nothingness’ could be.

2) Thomas Sojer: Triumph and/or Scandal. Theologia Crucis in René Girard and Simone Weil

Girard laments in Des choses cachées (1978, 268) that Simone Weil never approached the great texts of the Old Testament. This statement is not surprising, because tendentious and arbitrarily produced editions of Simone Weil’s writings conveyed a clear misrepresentation until the launch of Weil’s Oeuvres Complètes in 1988. A comprehensive and critical reading of Weil’s original manuscripts reveals a different picture. Girard excuses Weil and blames Weil’s teacher Émile Chartier, whom Girard stigmatises as a “Hellenizing humanist” (ibid.). However, in 1926 Chartier was the one to invite the 17-year-old Weil to incorporate the Bible into her literary production.

This paper aims to demonstrate that the continuous misjudgement of Weil’s biblical hermeneutics by Girard is not only based on inadequate information. There is a fundamental difference in biblical hermeneutics between both authors. Weil approached the Bible with text-critical editions and practised on a high philological standard what she describes in her philosophy of perception as attente (waiting). She dismantled the text step by step and in a radical diligent way not to interpret anything into the text but only to peel out its hidden layers. Weil concludes that non-biblical myths have an essential hermeneutic value, able to illuminate hidden layers within the Gospel. Girard on the other hand reads the Bible with a clear agenda in light of his Mimetic Theory. For him mythical narratives served exclusively to conceal the victims of collective violence.

Using selective passages from the Bible, the paper aims to discuss the reasons why both authors consider the Bible as anthropology but understand the term ‘anthropology’ as something completely different. In contrast to Girard’s apologetic stenosis regarding the Bible, Weil’s biblical hermeneutics manages to indicate the non-biblical Other within the biblical text. At the same time, also Weil’s sharp criticism of the Mosaic Choseness must be re-contextualised in the light of her biblical hermeneutics of the Otherness.

3) Unai Buil Zamorano: "This last lie would be even worse than the first one" (Mt 27:64): a mimetic reading of the conclusion of the Gospel according to St. Matthew

This paper will try to interpret the ending of Matthew's Gospel in the light of the mimetic theory of Rene Girard; this passage is to be considered as the culmination of the diabolic resistance to accept Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. One of the main claims of my contribution is that the chief priests should have accepted Christ not mainly because of biblical or theological arguments but because they really believed he was the Messiah and, in the end, God. The reason why they wanted to murder him was that they had, little by little, confirmed an intuition they had had since the first time they met him: that he was really God. However, mired, as these priests were, in the scapegoating mechanism, they possessed that knowledge in the fashion of a special meconnaissance. They knew Christ was God but "méconnaissantly". The real subject of that realization was Satan, who acted pulling the strings of the different characters of the Passion to ascertain something who had kept him on tenterhooks since the Temptations in the Desert: if Jesus was the Son of God. Whether the Messiah would be at the same time something like whatever the "Son of God" could mean was a nagging question; indeed, the new notion not merely of a new sacrificed' god' but of a 'Son of God' was looming over him threateningly and could possibly thwart the continuity of his "violence expulsing violence" mechanism.

As time passed and Satan and his servants in the Gospels came to know Jesus more profoundly that suspicion of divine sonship was becoming increasingly more unbearable: Jesus was to be put to death. And that they did. However, Satan and his fellow men were not relaxed even after having killed Jesus; they were intrigued and unsettled: Christ had said that he would come back from the grave. Not only did Satan and his followers know (or, at least, strongly suspect) that Jesus was the Messiah and even God but also that the definitive demonstration of that reality was a real resurrection, unlike the "resurrection" of the gods of the pagan world. And, to prevent the Resurrection from happening, the high priests asked Pilates to send soldiers to the tomb; if, for whatever reason, these soldiers were unable to put Jesus down when he went back to life (which they believed that would really happen), at least, they would be witnesses of a false event which would be announced as true. This false event, which the priests would make up, was that Jesus' disciples took the corpse away. In fact, even after the soldiers told the priests what had really happened, the priests were impervious to the news, and even bribed the soldiers so that they didn't divulge the truth: they expected that Jesus would resurrect, that's why they were not taken aback. So, the priests sent soldiers to the grave for they already knew that Christ would resurrect for real. Thus, having sent soldiers to the tomb and once the Resurrection had occurred, the priests would have false witnesses qualified to testify that Jesus' followers had stolen his cadaver and to deny Christ's Resurrection despite the fact that they suspected that it would happen and, more importantly, despite that the soldiers told them that the Resurrection was real. To sum up: the Resurrection being the culmination of the Revelation of Jesus not only as Messiah but also as Son of God, the high priests, unwilling to accept Jesus, sent soldiers to the tomb not to prevent Jesus' disciples from stealing the corpse but to provide themselves with witnesses who could testify the lie of the corpse's robbery, thus having an evidence to deny what they didn't want anybody to believe in spite of knowing it themselves awfully well: that Christ was really the Messiah and the Son of God, which was completely clear thanks to his Resurrection from the dead.



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Picture 1: "Migrants and refugees queue at a camp near Gevgelija" by Nikolay Doychinov, © AFP
Picture 2: Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference



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