An Introduction to Mimetic Theory

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I compiled the following documentary film on the origin of cultures, in three parts, introducing some major topics of mimetic theory and René Girard’s thinking. Transcription of the videos (in English & Dutch) is available below, beneath PART III.

PART I of the film explores the fundamental role of mimesis (imitation) in human development on several levels (biological, psychological, sociological, cultural). René Girard’s originality lies in his  introduction of a connection between this old philosophical concept and human desire. He speaks of a certain mimetic desire and ascribes to it a vital role in our social interaction. It explains our often competitive and envious tendencies. More specifically, Girard considers mimetic desire as the source for a type of conflict that is foundational to the way human culture originates and develops. In his view the primal cultural institutions are religious. Following a sociologist like Émile Durkheim, Girard first considers religion as a means to organize our social fabric, and to manage violence within communities.

The more specific question the first part of this documentary tries to answer is the following: where do sacrifices, as rituals belonging to the first signs of human culture, originally come from? How can they be explained? Click to watch:

PART II starts off with a summary and then further insists on the fundamental role of the so-called scapegoat mechanism in the origin of religious and cultural phenomena.

PART III explores the world of mythology and human storytelling in the light of Girard’s theory on certain types of culture founding conflicts and scapegoat mechanisms. Girard comes to surprising conclusions regarding storytelling in Judeo-Christian Scripture. 

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~ by erik buys on March 12, 2011.

14 Responses to “An Introduction to Mimetic Theory”

  1. Hi Eric

    Great video information introducing Girard. I would like to correspond with you about some of this if you are amenable.

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  2. zeer leerrijk en leuk om weten :) op aanraden van onze leerkracht mevrouw eeckhout

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  3. Thank you for this wonderful documentary!

    Must be, for now, the only one out there summarizing Girard’s thinking with examples nicely placed.

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  4. Dear Eric, I have prepared a HUNGARIAN subtitle (subtitled version) for the first film, I wanted to make it public but Facebook said I am violating copyrights, please let me know what to do with subtitle to let Hungarians watch the film… Subtitle file is in .srt format
    Honestly: Gabor Lisztes, Budapest

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    • Dear Gabor,

      I don’t really know how to help you. I started this blog because I couldn’t upload the films properly on YouTube, because of the music I used. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but I made a transcription in English. Maybe that could help people already? I’m sorry I can’t really help you out.

      Thanks for your time and effort!

      Erik

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    • Good evening,

      I’m a former student of Mr. Buys, and I volunteered to add Dutch subtitles to these videos. I have the original video files on my pc, so if you could send me your .srt files, I could add those to the video as well as I used them to create the Dutch subtitles. I know it’s a bit late, but if you’re still interested, I bet I can get Mr. Buys to add a Hungarian version to this blog.

      Thanks in advance,
      Matthias Sterckx

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      • Thanks already Matthias for your wonderful work!

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      • Dear Matthias, thanks, I think that would be useful, please send me your e-mail address to attach .srt files.
        Gabor Lisztes (Hungary)
        gaborlisztes@gmail.com

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      • Gabor,

        This is the work Matthias has done, providing the Hungarian subtitles for the first part of on the origin of cultures.

        Thank you very much, Matthias!

        JavaScript required to play on the origin of cultures I (Hungarian Subtitles).

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  5. Hi Eric, thanks for this. Great material. It looks like you’re Dutch as well? :-)

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    • Well Jonathan, you’re welcome :). I’m Belgian, from Flanders.

      Hoe heb je het werk van Girard leren kennen? Wist je dat er een Nederlandse Girard Studiekring is?

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