Imitatio Projects

Imitatio, a project of the Thiel Foundation, supports the development and discussion of René Girard's "mimetic theory" of human behavior and culture.  Mimetic theory is a way to think about how profoundly imitative people are -- from superficial fashions to individuals' deepest desires.  Mimetic theory brings together insights from across disciplinary boundaries, and Imitatio brings together researchers, students, and the wider public to learn from and to further Girard's insights.

Key projects:

TRANSLATIONS: Imitatio supports the translation of key works in mimetic theory so that more readers have access for themselves:

  • More than two dozen titles by René Girard and scholars of mimetic theory have been newly translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil in 2011 and 2012 in publisher É Realizações' Biblioteca René Girard.
  • René Girard's Anorexia and Mimetic Desire, a brilliant essay on the contagious longing to be thin, will be published in English by Michigan State University Press in early 2013 in translation from the original French.

    PUBLICATIONS: Imitatio supports the publication of new work in mimetic theory:

      ARCHIVES: Imitatio supports the preservation and organization of René Girard's writings in an archive at the Bibliothèque nationale de France with digital copies to be made available to major libraries around the world.

      • René Girard's correspondence with Raymund Schwager, celebrated Jesuit theologian of scapegoating. is being transcribed, edited, annotated, translated and published by a team at the University of Innsbruck.

      RESEARCH: Imitatio supports research that aims to answer open questions in mimetic theory and connect findings to wider debates: 

      • Can we better understand economic behavior by starting from imitative dynamics rather than isolated individuals like those supposed by classical theory? Research by André Orléan brilliantly applying a mimetic approach to economics was published in 2011 as L'empire de la valeur by Le Seuil; English translation is forthcoming.
      • How does the study of Hindu sacrifice change mimetic theory, which was originally developed from Judeo-Christian sources and classical anthropology? Research by Brian Collins will be published in 2013 by MSU Press.

      PLATFORMS: Imitatio supports organizations that bring people together to discuss mimetic theory.  Among the many groups around the world helping to continue the conversation:

      EDUCATION: Imitatio supports educational experiments to test out ways of teaching mimetic theory and to make it easier for young writers and researchers to get started in this rich field. We record and disseminate effective approaches, and we bring young scholars together to build relationships and compare ideas.

      SUMMARY: In person at meetings, lectures, and discussions; online at the Imitatio web site; and in print via published articles, new books, and freshly translated works; around the world Imitatio supports research to deepen mimetic theory and public discussion to spread its insights to wider audiences.